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Understanding Surge Protectors and How to Choose

A surge protector, also known as a spike suppressor, surge suppressor, surge diverter, surge protection device (SPD), or transient voltage surge suppressor (TVSS), is an essential device that every household should have to protect their electrical devices from voltage spikes in alternating current (AC) circuits.

What is a Voltage Spike

Voltage spikes are transient events that can reach over 1,000 volts and typically last 1 to 30 microseconds. These spikes can be caused by events such as lightning strikes, power outages, or even just an overloaded electrical circuit in your home.

How Does a Surge Protector Work

When a voltage spike occurs, it can cause serious damage to your electrical devices, including computers, televisions, and other expensive electronics. And unfortunately, sometimes, it can even start a fire. A surge protector works by detecting excessive voltage and redirecting it through the ground wiring so that the extra volts don’t travel into devices that can’t handle high voltage. This is why all surge protectors have a grounding pin and they must be plugged into a grounded outlet in order to work as intended. The grounding wire is what diverts the excess voltage to the ground, making sure that the devices are protected.

Limitations of Surge Protectors

It’s worth noting that surge protectors are not complete protection for electrical devices and are not able to prevent all types of power surges, but it is still a necessary device to have as they can help in reducing the damage that may occur during a power surge. In fact, it is often compared to insurance, in that it may not be needed all the time, but when it is needed, it can save a lot of money and headaches.

A surge protector with multiple outlets and a power switch, designed to protect electronic devices from voltage spikes and power surges

Different Types of Surge Protectors

There are different types of surge protectors available on the market, each with different features and capabilities. Some surge protectors offer basic protection, while others offer more advanced features such as data line protection, which protects your devices from voltage spikes on phone and cable lines. Some surge protectors also have built-in power outlets, allowing you to plug in multiple devices at once, while others have a master switch that allows you to turn off all of the protected devices at once.

Choosing the Right Surge Protector

When choosing a surge protector, it’s important to consider the number of devices that you need to protect, as well as the type of devices. For example, if you have a home theater system with multiple components, you’ll need a surge protector that has enough outlets to accommodate all of your devices. Additionally, you’ll want to consider the quality of the surge protector. Look for one that is UL-listed, which means it has been tested by Underwriters Laboratories and meets their safety standards.

A home theater system with a large flat-screen TV, a soundbar, a Blu-ray player, and multiple speakers placed around the room for surround sound experience."

Home Theatre

Other Steps to Protect Devices from Voltage Spikes

In addition to purchasing a surge protector, there are other steps you can take to protect your devices from voltage spikes. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure that your home’s electrical wiring is in good condition. If your wiring is old or damaged, it can increase the chances of a voltage spike occurring. You should also avoid overloading electrical circuits, which can cause voltage spikes. If you’re using a lot of electrical devices at once, plug them into different circuits to spread the load.

Another important step to protect your devices from voltage spikes is to unplug them during a storm. This is especially important for devices that are sensitive to voltage spikes, such as computers and televisions. If you can’t unplug them, consider using a surge protector with a built-in master switch that allows you to turn off all of the protected devices at once.


In conclusion, a surge protector is an essential device that can protect your electrical devices from voltage spikes. It’s important to choose a surge protector that is UL-listed, has enough outlets to accommodate all of your devices, and has the features that you need. Additionally, it’s important to take steps to protect your devices from voltage spikes by maintaining your home’s electrical wiring and avoiding overloading circuits. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your devices are protected from voltage spikes and can continue to function properly.

Talk to the team at Hiko Electrical about protecting your devices.