Power Strip vs. Surge Protector: Do You Know the Difference?

Service Today

The argument of power strip vs. surge protector is a common one as both devices can are often found in the home. There’s a lot of similarities on the surface, they both look similar; but they serve very different functions. Knowing the differences between them helps understand what you need, and can have drastically different impacts on electrical safety.


Power Strip VS. Surge Protector

Power Strip vs Surge Protector  

What Does a Power Strip Do?

A power strip is basically a casing with a bunch of outlets built into it. There is a cable on one side that you plug into a wall outlet. Plugs from different devices are inserted into the power strip’s outlets.

While a power strip may have an on/off switch and a small circuit breaker, it offers very little protection. The unit works pretty much like an extension cord. The risks of relying on a power strip include:

  • It can be overloaded by exceeding its rated wattage, which is usually the same as the wall outlet.
  • Plugging in too many devices can overheat the strip, leading to potential electrical failures and fires.
  • High-power devices, such as floor heaters, should never be plugged into a power strip.

Why Use a Power Strip?

It is a convenient and cheap way to connect more electrical devices at home, in an office or store, or at a construction site. Turning the strip on and off disconnects all devices plugged into it at once.

What Does a Surge Protector Do?

Although it usually looks much like a power strip, a surge protector offers more functionality. It plugs into the wall outlet and has electrical sockets. But there are sophisticated built-in electronics designed to prevent power surges.

A surge protector works by redirecting spikes of electricity into the ground. Excess current does not reach the electrical device, so it is not damaged. Such an event can occur when:

  • You turn on a large appliance, like a fridge or washing machine.
  • A nearby electrical transformer is damaged or malfunctions.
  • There is a lightning strike in the area.

Since home electrical devices rely on a constant flow of current, this can be very damaging. Even small surges can cause issues over time (and they happen quite frequently).

How Do I Tell the Difference?

  • A surge protector costs more than a typical power strip.
  • It also lists a joule rating; that’s the maximum amount it can handle before it must be replaced (whether cumulatively or all at once).
  • Power strips are usually under $20; surge protectors are usually a little more expensive.
  • A surge protector usually says “protection” or “suppression” on it or the product label.

How Do I Choose a Surge Protector?

  • Select a joule rating carefully; the larger the devices you connect and the more power they use, the higher the number should be.
  • Invest in more outlets than you need; a couple of extra outlets can come in handy when you decide to add more gear.
  • Purchase a surge protector with more space between some sockets, for larger plug boxes, in addition to standard spaced plug sockets.
  • Get one with connectors for phone and cable lines; surges can come from there as well.
  • If you get a surge protector with USB connections, check the amp rating for each; 2 amps allows for faster charging.
  • Look for warranty protection; it may cover damage to connected devices by transient voltage surges while using the surge protector.

Contact Service Today

The decision to use a power strip vs. surge protector depends on your needs. If you are uncertain about the best choice for your application, Service Today can help. Give us a call at 952-373-8429.