With the proliferation of electronics in our daily lives, there simply are not enough outlets in our homes. This is particularly true for older homes. As a result, we end up with a number of outlet expanders, more commonly known as power strips.
Power strips are generic and fulfill a simple function. They are inexpensive, and the quality often is on par with the price.
Keep this in mind when shopping for a power strip or a surge protector—the power strip’s more talented cousin.
Before you buy, make sure you know the amperage rating of the outlet into which you are connecting the strip and other equipment. A residential circuit can overload if you are not careful.
When buying a power strip:
- Look for power strips with a built-in circuit breaker. If you connect too many electronics and devices, the strip will kick out the circuit breaker rather than causing the breaker in your electric panel to trip.
- Pay attention to the orientation of the outlets. The typical design is along the length of the strip, facing the bottom or end of the strip.
- Get a smart strip, which is becoming more common and less expensive. With smart strips, one outlet serves as a master, receiving power all the time. The other outlets do not receive power until the master device is turned on. This is ideal for home entertainment setups.
- If you are connecting expensive electronics, consider a surge protector. Price is important because a cheap surge protector can be worse than none at all for two reasons. One, they use cheap, small surge-fighting components. Two, these components can fail and when they do, the strip still may provide power without any indication its protective side is gone.
- As with power strips, key factors should be considered when buying a surge protector:
- Go for a significant joule rating. This is a measure of how much energy the surge protector can withstand.
- Look for cable and internet connection protection for use with your entertainment and computer equipment. Surges can enter via any wired connection. Be sure the protector is designed to handle a digital television. Otherwise, pixilation is likely for devices only designed for analog signals.
- Make sure an indicator light shows if protection has burned out.
- Consider the same outlet orientation as previously mentioned.
- Look for a power conditioning feature, which improves the quality of power delivered to electrical load equipment, such as computers.
Power strips and surge protectors are worth the investment when you follow these simple suggestions. Don’t get burned buying cheap, inefficient strips and protectors.