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ARCHIVED: When buying a surge protector or suppressor, what things should I consider?

All surge protectors or suppressors are not created equal. Indeed, many people mistake fancy extension cords for quality surge protectors or suppressors. When buying a surge protector, always take the following into consideration:

  • Surge suppressors differ from surge protectors in that surge protectors are basically just extension cords with minimal built-in protection (fuses, etc.). That is, the fuse or breaker may trip when voltage exceeds the limit set by the fuse or breaker. Quality surge suppressors, on the other hand, should be designed to clamp the voltage before any damage is done to the computer circuitry. This distinction, however, is complicated by the fact that many manufacturers use the two descriptions interchangeably.

  • Clamping voltage (or level) is the level of over-voltage required before a device will attempt to suppress that over-voltage. You can think of clamping voltage as the distance between threads in a butterfly net. The greater the distance, the greater the holes in your net. You should attempt to purchase a surge suppressor or protector with the lowest possible clamping voltage with which your computer will work.

  • Most surge protectors or suppressors on the market are not really designed for computers. Most have a clamping voltage of 330 volts or greater, which although appropriate for a large TV, is not at all sufficient for a personal computer.

  • Portable surge protectors designed specifically for laptop computers are available. If you travel often and are unfamiliar with the consistency of the power in the areas in which you travel, buying a portable laptop surge protector is recommended.

  • Clamping speed, on the other hand, is another important aspect of surge protectors or suppressors. Clamping speed refers to how quickly the suppressor will react after the clamping voltage has been reached. A low clamping voltage is worthless if your surge protector or suppressor is not quick enough to react to the surge.

  • Telephone cord inputs and outputs are very valuable. Surges and spikes are notorious for damaging or destroying modems during storms, and it's a good idea to be able to protect against such damage.

  • Almost all the highly regarded brand names bundle insurance policies with their products; even the lowest-end policies are enough to cover the cost of replacing a whole computer. These products tend to be slightly more expensive, but you can find good ones for $10-$25. And the most expensive ones are still only $100-$150, far cheaper than the replacement cost of a computer. For personal computing, you should consider only suppressors that come with an insurance policy.

  • Unfortunately, good surge protectors or suppressors are hard to find.

A good surge suppressor or protector can mean the difference between a functional and a non-functional computer down the road. When purchasing a surge protector or suppressor, consult as many sources as you find necessary until you feel comfortable with making a decision.

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Last modified on November 01, 2008.

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