Surge Protector vs Power Strip [Explained]

Power strips and surge protectors are often confused as they look quite similar.

Not all power strips provide surge protection. Surge protectors offer a very unique function, that is protection against voltage surges and spikes that can damage sensitive electronic equipment.

Let’s find out how to tell them apart. 

Both Power Strips and Surge Protectors can provide multiple outlets from a single wall outlet. Whereas, only a surge protector can protect connected devices from voltage surges; a “PROTECTED” light indicator ensures that it is properly functioning, whereas a power strip might simply have an on/off switch. 

What is a Power Strip?

A power strip plugs into your wall outlet and provides you on the other end with multiple outlets so you can plug many more devices than what your single outlet would have allowed. A Power Strip is a simple way to break a bill. 

Why are Power Strips useful and when to use them?

A Power Strip is mainly used to provide electricity to many electronic devices (PC, Printer, Audio Equipment, TV, etc.) where there aren’t enough wall outlets in proximity.

Power strips usually include a circuit breaker that protects connected devices from overcurrent, and short-circuits. Additionally, power strips usually have an on/off button which makes it useful to disconnect all devices at once with a simple press of a button. 

Overloading a Power Strip

Power strips are usually rated at 12 amps which means that they are designed for low power loads (laptop, printer, TV, etc.).

12amps means that the strip can only handle 1,440-watts (12 amps x 120v wall outlet = 1,440 watts). This just shows how weak even the best power strips are! If you were to connect a 1,300-watt toaster and a 1,100-watt coffee maker; this would immediately set fire to your power strip.

So stick to connecting only low-power electronics!

What is a Surge Protector?

A surge protector protects your electronic equipment from voltage surges that may cause hardware damage.

Surge protectors come in two forms. Power Strip setup where you can plug many devices and single outlet setup for a single high amperage appliance (fridge, AC, heater, etc..).

2 types of Surge Protectors

Both of the above are surge protectors.

The first one has a single outlet for high-power loads and the second one is in a power strip form to allow multiple low-power loads.

How can you visually tell the difference between a surge protector and power strip?

A surge protector will be labeled as “Surge Protector” and a decent model should have a light indicator showing that the protection is on and active.

Surge protectors get damaged trying to save your equipment, so the light indicator is very useful to ensure that it is actually still able to protect against voltage surges. A power strip will simply have an on and off switch.

What should be plugged into a surge protector?

Most electric equipment will survive everyday power surges yet as technology becomes part of our everyday life, more electric appliances are starting to contain electronics to run them (microprocessors and control boards).

These electronics are unfortunately very sensitive to voltage surges. So even though your fancy new refrigerator compressor can take a few voltage surge hits, you cannot be too sure with its motherboard. 

Expensive electronic devices like laptops, cellphones, TVs, and gaming consoles should all be plugged into a Surge Protector to avoid shortening their lifespan from daily transient surges and total hardware damage in the case of a voltage spike or surge. 

How do I choose a surge protector?

Click here to read our thorough article on how Surge Protectors work and how to successfully choose one