Anyone will encounter a time in their life when they need a power strip, whether it's in their room, office, garage or school, we can never have enough plugs for the growing number of electronic devices. But people often don't have a clear perception of power strips. Just give me extra plugs to be able to lay down and play with my iPhone while charging, is probably what most people think.
But if you don't make the right choice when shopping for a power strip and buy some junk. You may pay a small price for this. In a good situation a power surge will go through your computer with a junk power strip and you will lose your game archive and maybe a "valuable" video card. In a bad case, a bad power strip can even take your life. According to ESFI, more than 3,300 home fires each year stem from extension cords and power strips. This is not alarming, even if you don't have any combustible materials around your power strip, you wouldn't want your phone or computer to get cooked.
So how do we go about choosing a safety power strip?
- You can find some certification marks on the product packaging, such as UL listed. don't buy any blank power strips! Otherwise you will lose your money or more.
- Confirm what kind of device you will plug into the power strip. Calculate the total number of joules and buy a power strip that can handle the joules required by your equipment, which will reduce the probability of the power strip catching fire.
- Check the power strip has surge protection. It absorbs common household power surges (up to thousands of volts) before they reach your electronics, thus preventing damage and fire. A power strip with surge protection will cost about $10 more than a regular one, but it's definitely worth every penny!
Choose from a wide range of power strip brands, I would definitely recommend the CRST Surge Protector Power Strip.
- Premium 4050 Joules All-In-One Surge Protection & EMI Filter
- 12-Outlet Power Strip with 2 USB Ports
- Built-in Resettable circuit breaker
- 14-AWG heavy duty power cord
- Convenient Design, User Friendly
Care and Maintenance
Whether your surge protectors are old or new, here are some basic guidelines to help you ensure they remain effective.
- Never daisy-chain multiple surge protectors to add outlets, or plug surge protectors into extension cords (PDF). This is an easy way to exceed the current rating of a surge protector or even wall wiring. The best case scenario is that you trip a circuit breaker or blow a fuse. Worst case scenario is something starts to melt. This is the opening salvo of an electrical fire.
- Never plug a surge protector into an ungrounded outlet using a three-pin to two-pin adapter. Bypassing the ground nullifies many of the benefits, as two-thirds of the MOV (component that provides resistance) is usually connected to the ground leg.
- Whenever possible, use a three-prong plug, or a plug with one blade thicker than the other. This reduces the risk of electric shock, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- When you first plug in the surge protector, make sure the status light is not reporting any problems. Most protectors have a ground light to indicate if a ground fault exists. If it indicates one (usually unlit), call an electrician as soon as possible to determine if you have a wiring problem. A ground fault could blow up your equipment, electrocute you, or start a fire.
- Always replace your surge protector after any major event (such as lightning striking the block or multiple consecutive power outages), and if you plug in new equipment, check each outlet for burn marks or any signs of damage.
- If your protector can still supply power even after its MOV has failed, plan to replace it when you make a major electronic upgrade or at least every three to five years.
- In our guide to the best space heaters, we warn against plugging space heaters into extension cords or power strips - this applies to surge protectors as well. To generate heat, space heaters and other appliances with open heating elements (toasters, hair dryers) draw a lot of power, increasing the chance of overloading the outlet. The extra connections and length of wire for surge protectors also add resistance that can cause heat to build up, which can catch fire or otherwise damage equipment. The warning labels and instruction manuals that come with open-heat electronic devices (which many people skip or ignore altogether) often warn against using them with extension cords, power strips or surge protectors. For safety's sake, plug them directly into the wall.
- We know they're not the prettiest things, but you should never cover any part of a surge protector or extension cord with a rug, cushioned bench or other decorative item. This type of direct contact prevents heat from escaping, which could cause a fire.