What’s the Difference Between a Power Strip and a Surge Protector?

November 30, 2021

You’ve probably used both power strips and surge protectors in the past, but do you know the difference between them? Be honest—did you know there was even a difference?

Understanding the power strip vs. surge protector difference is the key to protecting your electronics from electrical power surges in Carlsbad, NM. While it’s easy to assume that these tools are interchangeable, they serve different purposes.

Let’s take a look, and soon you’ll be able to understand which device will best meet your needs.

Power strips vs. surge protectors

Power strips look like a long, plastic, rectangular strip with multiple electrical outlets. They plug into a wall outlet so that you can plug in more devices. They serve a similar purpose as extension cords. Power strips can only handle a predetermined load (usually 1800 watts, the same as the wall outlet in a 120V home). If you overload the power strip, you’re likely to trip the circuit breaker. It could also lead to overheating, damage to your electrical devices and even an electrical fire.

If you use a power strip, be sure that you check how much electricity each device uses. For example, you can’t plug a floor heater into a power strip, since it will draw too much electricity. It’s better to plug larger devices into a wall outlet.

Surge protectors are different. They look a lot like power strips, but they’re designed to protect your devices when there’s a major surge in electricity. Without a surge protector, the excessive electrical flow could burn out delicate devices. Surge protectors protect electronics by diverting excess power into the ground, rather than your electrical accessories. Even small surges can do damage to your devices over time.

Which should I choose?

When deciding between a power strip and a surge protector, consider what you plan to plug in and how often you’ll use it. Power strips are just an easy way to add more outlets to your home—they won’t protect expensive items from power surges. If you’re planning to plug in important things, like your television, smartphone, computer and more, a power strip won’t protect them from burning out. You’d be better off with a surge protector.

Not every item needs a surge protector, however. If you’re planning to plug in several small things, like low-watt lamps, fans and more, you can safely use a power strip. As long as the combined load doesn’t exceed your outlet capacity, you should be perfectly safe.

Typically, surge protectors are a bit more expensive, since they offer additional protection. You should be able to find a good one for under $30. Power strips typically run $10 to $20, depending on the brand and number of outlets.

If you’re not sure whether your wiring can stand up to a power strip or if you’re wondering whether you need a surge protector, call the team at JB Electric LLC. We’ll be happy to inspect your electrical wiring and determine the best way to protect against electrical power surges in Carlsbad, NM.

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