Best surge protector: For safe charging and tech use

Your prized electronics deserve an extra level of safeguarding from electrical spikes. Here’s how to find the best surge protector for your tech.

Finding the best surge protector for your electronics ensures that they’ll remain guarded from potentially irreversible damage that comes from commonly occurring electrical spikes in building wiring and power grids. Power surges are a normal and inconvenient part of life that occur frequently when utility companies switch electricity on and off again, but they can also be triggered by a variety of electrical events including lightning strikes, storms, and power cycling of large appliances like air conditioners. By placing a surge protector between your electronics and the wall outlet, you can add a layer of safeguarding for your precious appliances that will prevent them from getting fried beyond the next time a power surge occurs.

While any amount of protection is better than none at all, it’s important to consider what types of appliances you’ll be using to determine what type is best for your needs. For most common home appliances—like lamps—any standard surge protector should do the trick, but for high-wattage appliances and critical electronic equipment like computers or stereos, a heavy-duty model may be more fitting. Whether you’re looking for a portable surge protector to use with your electronics while you’re on the go, or one for permanent use in a business or home, we compare some of the best surge protectors currently available to help you make an informed decision, below.

Features to consider when shopping for the best surge protector

Surge protectors are available in portable, bag-sized travel units as well as tough, metal-clad industrial forms and everywhere in between. Determining the best surge protector for your needs comes down to the level of protection you require according to the quality of the electric system from which you’re pulling power as well as the value of the equipment you’re looking to protect. Whether you’re enduring daily power spikes or just want reliable protection for some extra peace of mind, we’ve picked out a few of the top surge protectors on the market to help you give your electronics the protection they deserve.

Get the best surge protectors with voice control

Voice control, smart home technology, and home automation are more commonplace and accessible than ever before. There are countless smart plug products on the market that allow users to integrate traditional appliances with a smart home system. The best smart surge protectors offer users this same convenient hands-free remote control of their electronics without sacrificing high-level protection from power surges all in a single unit.

Most smart surge protectors offer compatibility with Alexa, Google Home, and other popular smart home systems, but many are able to function as standalone units as well. A local WiFi network and a companion app are usually all it takes to get up and running, turning a smartphone into a universal remote for your electronics. Users who want to create automated lighting schedules or who want to activate coffee makers, slow cookers, and other devices from afar will appreciate the combination of convenience and safety that a smart surge protector provides. These may not be the most robust choice for heavy-duty applications, but they’re completely unparalleled for adding flexibility, protection, and voice control to commonplace household and office appliances.

Best smart surge protector: Kasa Smart HS300 Plug Power Strip

Thoughtful Design

Control six standard outlets and three USB outlets with an app or your voice. Amazon

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The Kasa HS300 is one of the best smart surge protectors on the market, offering 1,710 joules of surge protection in a sleek white finish and slim design that will be welcome in any office or home environment. It has a host of useful features onboard including scheduling, remote control of devices, and power consumption monitoring that are all accessible within the app. It’s compatible with Alexa, Google Home, and Microsoft Cortana for users who want to harness the voice control feature, but this unit also has the ability to work as a standalone product with no hub required.

What about the surge protectors with USB ports?

The ubiquitous USB charging port is used to power everything from hard drives to cell phones, making it a popular outlet choice for inclusion on power strips and aftermarket wall outlets. Buying a surge protector with USB ports offers users the ability to give their smartphones protection that traditional wall chargers and power strips don’t offer, which adds peace of mind when charging a phone and ensures you won’t be stuck with a bricked device in the event of a power surge. These also eliminate the need for users to keep track of their wall chargers, which can often go missing, allowing them to opt for plugging straight into the surge protector.

When shopping for the best surge protector with USB ports, choose a model that specifically offers high-speed charging for smartphones and other USB devices to save you precious time and get your electronics fully charged quicker. Units with multiple USB ports will allow multiple devices to charge together with surge protection, making these a good choice for common spaces and offices. Just make sure there’s enough space between USB ports, as well as the included three-prong outlets, to ensure maximum usefulness without overcrowding.

Best surge protector with USB ports: Anker Power Strip Surge Protector

High-Speed Charging

Perfect for media centers, office applications, and more. Amazon

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Users who are looking to charge numerous peripheral devices and enjoy the benefits of surge protection won’t have to skimp on normal three-pronged outlets with this Anker Power Strip and Surge Protector. Its 12 grounded outlets and three USB ports offer 4,000 joules of surge protection to devices of all sorts and offer multiple plug orientations, making it a good option for shared spaces and desk areas with a large number of devices to power.

Do you want to protect electrical appliances from power surges?

The surge protection potential of consumer devices is measured in joules, which is a unit equivalent to one watt applied to an electrical system for one second. A surge protector with a higher joule rating can absorb more energy before failing, which translates to more robust and comprehensive surge protection for critical equipment. If you plan on protecting expensive or sensitive high-wattage electronic equipment like computers, air conditioners, stereo equipment, or power tools, opting for a heavy-duty surge protector with a joule rating of 3,000 or more is a must.

When shopping for something heavy duty, opt for a unit with a metal chassis instead of a traditional plastic casing for added durability. A sturdy housing will allow the surge protector to function properly in demanding environments like workshops and studios without potentially cracking or becoming damaged and jeopardizing your equipment in the process. Many heavy-duty power strips also conform to industrial safety standards and offer insurance for all connected equipment up to specific amounts, which makes them an ideal choice for commercial and professional use.

Best heavy-duty surge protector: Tripp Lite Isobar 6

Tough As Nails

3,300 joules of surge protection in a rugged metal housing. Amazon

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The Isobar from Tripp Lite is a convenient and robust surge protection unit from a power protection industry veteran. It features a six-foot AC power cable and six protected outlets mounted in isolated filter banks to cut down on noise interaction between connected electronics, and three indicator LEDs show users the current protection status and whether there’s a problem in the electrical line. Tripp Lite also offers insurance for connected peripherals, making the Isobar one of the best heavy-duty surge protectors for workshops, garages, and industrial spaces.

What kind of space do you have for a surge protector?

While it’s not particularly difficult to find a surge protector that mimics a standard power strip in size and form, they’re not exactly the most compact devices out there. For homes, offices, and workspaces that are short on extra wiggle room, a compact surge protector can bring all the equipment protection you expect in a much smaller-than-average form factor. The best space-saving surge protectors typically use a wall outlet extension that allows them to blend in with the wall and fit snugly behind furniture. Users who work in garages and offices, or who need surge protection above limited workspaces such as kitchen counters, can use this saved space for the very appliances and tools they’re looking to protect without adding extra bulk or potential for tangled cables. Still, minimizing the design comes at a minor cost in joules, so make sure to pick a space-saving surge protector that offers the maximum amount of protection for its size to ensure it stands up to your needs.

Best space saving surge protector: APC Wall Outlet Plug Extender

Unassumingly Small

For under $20, this adds a whole lot of extra power. Amazon

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The APC Wall Outlet Plug Extender is one of the best space saving surge protectors available thanks to its ability to generously expand any standard wall outlet into six plugs and two USB ports and add 1,080 joules of surge protection while hardly adding any extra space. It uses your wall outlet’s existing screw hole to fit securely without the danger of coming loose as you unplug your electronics, and it features LED protection indicators to keep you apprised of its current status at all times. At this price point, there’s no better option for super-compact and relatively high level of surge protection.

How to find portable power surge protection

Power strips, surge protectors, and other power distribution devices are best known for supplementing fixed workspaces and areas of the home, but power surges can affect your electronics anywhere and at any time. In some cases, power surges are more likely to affect your electronics while you’re traveling than they are at home if you factor in the unfamiliarity of the local power grid and weather. For maximum protection of your sensitive devices wherever you go, pack a portable surge protector and enjoy the benefits of surge protection on the road.

The best portable surge protectors will be small enough to stow away in a travel bag, but it’s important to choose a brand or model that offers an adequate amount of protection despite the small form factor. A design that includes USB ports increases the flexibility and usefulness of the surge protector, especially given the fact that you’ll probably want to charge your phone while you’re traveling. These smaller variant are very affordable, and are essential for protecting your valuable electronics from unpredictable power situations in hotels, on trains and planes, and more.

Best portable surge protector: Belkin 3-Outlet USB Surge Protector

Plays Well With Others

Guard your electronics from electrical spikes on vacation. Amazon

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Travelers who want some extra peace of mind when using power outlets will appreciate the incredibly small form factor and 918-joule protection rating of this USB surge protector from Belkin. It comes in three variants rated for different levels of amperage depending on what peripherals you plan on plugging in, and it uses a 360-degree rotating plug to maximize its compatibility with any number of strange outlets in hotels, airports, and more. It’s flexible and simple to use, too, with two USB ports offering a combined 2.1 amps of charging power and an onboard protection status LED.

Best surge protector on a budget: What you can get for under $10

The key function of a good surge protector is preservation of your electronics, so it’s hard to compromise on price without a dip in quality. Still, by remaining aware of the joule rating of the surge protector and the wattage of the equipment you’re powering with it, you can accomplish an adequate level of protection at an affordable price point. The best surge protectors for less are usually suited for stationery use in the home due to less durable casing materials and may not bear the bells and whistles of more expensive units. Still, as long as you’re not powering irreplaceable equipment or operating in a building with a known history of frequent and intense surges, they should do just fine.

Best cheap surge protector: GE 6-Outlet Surge Protector

Simple Yet Effective

Equipped with automatic shutoff thanks to an integrated circuit breaker. Amazon

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This six-outlet surge protector from GE packs an integrated surge protector and 800 joules of protection into a familiar body, making it one of the best cheap surge protectors for the money. Each of its outlets can be closed with a simple twist for extra safety, and wall outlet mounts on the rear allow users to mount it up and off the floor if needed. It has a three-foot power cord and standard plug and offers incredible value for the money, making it a good choice for shoppers on a budget or users who are looking to purchase in bulk.

FAQ:

How many joules are in a good surge protector?

The best surge protectors can range anywhere from around 800 joules up to 4,000 joules and beyond. Determining which level of protection you need depends largely upon the value of the equipment you’re protecting as well as the known reliability of the electrical system that you’re using, but when in doubt, the more joules the better.

What is Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 surge protection?

The most common form of surge protection offered by consumer products is Type 3 surge protection, which is used in parallel with consumer electronics at the load end of an outlet. Type 1 protection is a permanent installation that protects the whole electrical system from outside sources of surges including lightning strikes and utility switching, while Type 2 protection is a permanent installation that protects from surges caused within a system, as in the case of air conditioners or other large appliances.

How often should I replace my surge protector?

Surge protectors offer diminishing protection over time, but fortunately, the best surge protectors actively indicate whether your electronics are protected or not. As a rule of thumb, you can wait three to five years before replacing a surge protector, but users with frequent power issues—including lightning strikes, rolling blackouts, or brownouts—will have to replace their surge protectors more often.

A final word on shopping for the best surge protector

Surge protection doesn’t come standard in most buildings and power systems, so it’s crucial to ensure that your electronics are safeguarded from inevitable power spikes and blackouts with the best surge protector for your needs. Home users should turn to a smart surge protector for total control over their electronic ecosystem or a surge protector with USB ports for quick charging and protection of their irreplaceable devices, while commercial users who need robust protection should turn to a heavy-duty surge protector to keep their bases covered. Whether you’re powering a vacuum cleaner or a smartphone, every user of electronic equipment big and small should use a surge protector. Then you can rest assured that your devices are safe and sound the next time a blackout or power surge comes around.