More than likely, the most expensive electronics in your home are your TVs, computers and tablets.
Obviously, you want to protect these valuable items from burglars. But have you also taken the proper precautions to protect them during a nasty storm?
Even on an otherwise sunny day, an unexpected power surge can overload unprotected devices, causing them to short out or even catch fire.
What’s That Sound?
One evening, 5-year-old Lizzie Steinmetz was getting ready for bed with her younger brother when she heard a buzzing noise coming from her dresser. She called for her mother, Rebecca, who came into the bedroom to discover flames shooting out of the surge protector sitting on top of Lizzie’s dresser.
The flames stopped as soon as Rebecca unplugged the surge protector. Then she noticed several scorch marks on the top of the dresser.
According to Rebecca, “My immediate thought was, What if they had been asleep? What if this was someone else’s house? What if it was under their bed? What if it was behind their dresser?”
Lizzie’s family was incredibly lucky that little Lizzie was awake — and wise enough to tell her parents about the noise coming from her dresser. If she hadn’t, this story could have easily had a much different outcome.
The surge protector used by the family was an inexpensive model made by Belkin, which is a huge company in the electronic accessories market.
The thing is this specific model was actually pulled from Amazon after multiple people who purchased the product reported similar incidents. Clearly, all surge protectors are not created equal.
Also, people often confuse power strips with surge protectors even though they are completely different products. A power strip is simply an extension cord with multiple outlets. It offers zero additional protection for your devices.
A surge protector protects your electronics from power surges by limiting the voltage that reaches each device. The most important factor to look for in a surge protector is the joule rating. Typically, the higher the rating, the more protection it provides and the longer it will last (they do not last indefinitely).
Protect Your Devices
When choosing a surge protector, be sure to purchase one that offers a warranty on your stuff. In other words, a quality protector should offer some sort of guarantee for the electronics you plug into it.
Lastly, when it comes to what electronics you should use a surge protector with, you always want to err on the side of caution. I recommend using a surge protector with anything expensive. You may not care if a cheap desk lamp gets overloaded, but you probably want to protect your big-screen TV.
As I mentioned earlier, surge protectors don’t last forever. They are rated to handle a specific number of joules. So if you have an older surge protector that’s been through multiple power outages, you should consider buying a new one. Here are my top three:
Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL — This surge protector comes with different outlets that allow you to plug in Ethernet cables, routers or telephone equipment as well as your typical three-pronged plugs. It has a joule rating of over 2,000 and a $150,000 warranty policy in case any of your electronics are damaged. One of the best things about this surge protector is that it has an automatic shutoff feature, which cuts off power to the outlets if the protection circuit is compromised. The 10-outlet model currently sells for $25 on Amazon
APC Surge Protector with USB — This 11-outlet surge protector includes two additional USB charging ports and has a joule rating of 2,880. Plus, it comes with a lifetime product warranty and a $250,000 connected-equipment warranty policy. Another feature of this model is that it has an LED indicator to warn you of overloading or any wiring issues. Even though surge protectors don’t typically last forever, this model includes a lifetime warranty, so the company will replace it if it ever fails. This model sells for $35 on Amazon
Belkin 12-Outlet Advanced Surge Protector — I am confident at this point that Belkin has fixed any safety issues related to their surge protectors. This model comes with a 4,000 joule rating and a $250,000 connected equipment warranty. The surge protector itself is covered by Belkin’s limited lifetime warranty. This includes protection for Ethernet, coaxial and telephone cables to ensure your data connections have safeguards in place as well. This model currently sells for about $25 on Amazon.
Surge protectors aren’t exactly the “sexiest” gadget out there, but it’s become clear over the past few years the U.S. electrical infrastructure is aging and becoming less and less dependable. Plus, it’s no secret that certain countries are targeting our electrical grid, so we will likely see more and more power disruptions.
After a power outage, the last thing you want to deal with is a bunch of burned-up electronics — not to mention the danger they pose to your home. Put protections in place now, before it’s too late and you end up spending thousands on new devices — or watching all your belongings go up in flames.