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Outlet Surge Protection
Outlet Surge Protection
Understanding outlet surge suppressors and selecting the right one for your needs
Outlet Surge Protection

What is outlet surge suppression?
Simply plugged into wall outlets, this type of surge suppression stops voltage spikes entering through phone, modem and cable-TV lines from damaging your valuable electronic equipment.

Outlet surge suppression diverts excessive electrical energy away from sensitive electronics or appliances. The energy goes to an electrical “ground” where it is dissipated without doing any harm.

Consider an outlet surge suppressor as an inexpensive way to protect your sensitive electronics equipment — computers, microwave ovens, stereos, TVs, VCRs and fax machines — from surges in electricity.

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Selecting the right surge suppressor
Since 1998, standards governing the protection capabilities of surge suppression devices have become more strict. To protect your large appliances such as your refrigerator, you need panel-mounted surge protection. To enhance this protection to cover sensitive smaller electronics such as your television or computer, you need to add outlet surge supressors to each piece of equipment you want to protect.

To make sure you get the right outlet surge suppressor, look for products that meet industry specifications below. You can also print out these specifications and take it with you to the store.

Minimum specifications
Four key features to look for in an outlet surge suppressor:

  1. UL 1449 listed
    • Conforms to Underwriter Laboratory’s standard UL 1449 for transient voltage surge suppressors.
    • UL 1449 listing is required for safety. UL listing as a “power tap” is not sufficient.
  2. Peak surge current
    • Also referred to as maximum transient current or maximum surge
    • If you have surge suppression at your meter or circuit panel, 36,000 amperes is sufficient.
    • Without surge suppression at your meter or circuit panel, look for 54,000 amperes or higher.
  3. UL 1449 suppressed voltage rating
    • Also referred to as clamping voltage
    • 330 volts gives the best protection; higher voltage ratings give less protection.
  4. Energy rating (joules)
    • 700 joules or more; the higher the joules, the better
    • Since testing methods for energy rating are not standardized, don’t base your choice on a joules energy rating alone.

Other important features
Depending on your electronics and appliances, you might consider the benefits of using an outlet surge suppressor with these other optional features.

  1. Phone and cable TV protection
    • To protect a TV, VCR, telephone, fax or computer, buy a surge suppressor with TV cable connectors and/or phone jacks
  2. Extra surge suppressor connectors and outlets
    • Several outlets for each piece of equipment
    • Room for AC adapters (transformers)
  3. Indicators
    • Status or warning lights to indicate that the device is working (not just that the power is on)
  4. Electrical noise protection
  5. Warranty and insurance
    • Warranty on surge suppressor of at least five years
    • Warranty on connected equipment of $10,000 to $25,000 or more
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Common questions about outlet surge suppressors
Q. What if the packaging doesn’t list all these specifications?

Consider buying a different surge suppressor that lists all of the minimum specifications. Make sure the device you choose comes with UL 1449 listing.

Q. What does a good outlet surge suppressor usually cost?

For home use, quality surge suppressor prices can be found for as little as $7-$8 for a small single-outlet model. Larger models with six to eight outlets can be $25-$50 or so depending on their features.

Q. What can’t a surge suppressor do?

It cannot protect you from power outages (blackouts) or power sags (brownouts). It provides only limited protection from surges and nearby lightning strikes.

Q. What about my older home?

A surge suppressor will only work if plugged into a properly grounded three-prong outlet. If your home features two-prong or improperly grounded three-prong outlets, talk to an electrical contractor about upgrading.

Q. What about my old surge suppressor?

The UL Standard 1449 became more strict in August 1998, so older versions may be less safe. The UL Standard 1449 must be stamped or embossed on the device for adequate protection.

If an old suppressor discolors, overheats or shows signs of melting, replace it immediately. If your old surge suppressor indicator lights are not working, it should be replaced.

Q. Can I protect my whole house or office from power quality problems?

A panel-mounted surge protector provides surge suppression and protects your electrical system from power surges originating outside the building. For true overall protection, all electronics connected to telephones, cable TV or a digital satellite system should also be plugged into outlet surge suppressors with phone, cable TV or digital satellite system protection.

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More Questions? Contact us
For more information, contact an electrical contractor, PGE’s Power Quality Hotline at 503-612-4615 or 800-270-7016, or email us.

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