What is the Difference Between a Surge Protector and a Power Strip?

Power strips and surge protectors—they look the same, but are they? They plug into the wall, they provide extra outlet space, and they’re both more convenient than adding new receptacles to your home. But what is the difference between a surge protector and a power strip? Do they provide the same protection in a storm?

Here’s what to know about the difference between a surge protector and a power strip.

The Difference

Surge protectors and power strips are not the same. Both look alike and provide extra space to plug in, but both don’t provide protection from the dangers of power surges.

Power strips are frequently mistaken for providing protection to electronics and appliances, but to the contrary. Power strips are simply a convenience for providing more space to plug in your devices. But why stop at convenient when you could protect all those pricey devices with a surge protector?

While a surge protector is typically more expensive than a power strip, you can’t put a price on protection. You can’t predict a power surge, and if your thousand-dollar desktop computer gets fried during a storm, you’ll be kicking yourself for not spending a few extra bucks for a surge protector.

How to Tell if You Own a Surge Protector

If you’re wondering if you can tell the difference between a surge protector and a power strip with the ones you already have in your home, you can typically tell with a quick examination. Newer surge protectors often have a “protected” or “protection” light that lights up when they’re plugged in. If yours is an older model, check the back for a sticker or label that mentions protection, suppression, or the phrase “suppressed voltage rating.”

Replacing Surge Protectors

Nothing lasts forever, and so is true of a surge protector’s efficiency. There’s no practical way to gauge if a surge protector is working as efficiently as when you first purchased it, but a good rule of thumb is to replace them every couple of years. While the lifespan of a surge protector isn’t measured in years, it’s measured in joules. For example, a 1000 joule protector can only absorb 1000 joules before it stops shielding your devices from a surge.

When replacing your surge protector, look carefully at the packaging to ensure you are, in fact, buying a surge protector and not a power strip. Check for the joule specifications, and be sure to replace your surge protects every couple of years to lower your risk of loss.

Want to learn more about power surges and surge protection? Check out the rest of our blog for information on guarding your home’s electronics and appliances from the dangers of power surges.