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Surge-protector shopping checklist

Don't know the first thing about how to protect your electrical equipment? You need a spec sheet filled with incomprehensible jargon. Bankrate furnishes this, below. It may not make sense to read it in one sitting unless you're suffering from insomnia.

However it makes perfect sense to print this and take it to the store with you the next time you decide to shop for surge protectors or uninterruptible power supplies, or UPS, for your computer or home-entertainment center.

Adequate protection with PC surge protectors

These devices:

  • Protect your PC investment from damage or loss due to bad power.
  • Filter out the electrical line noise to help your equipment perform optimally

What to look for:

  • Underwriters Laboratories 1449 Standard for TVSS with all three lines protected to <330V. UL1449 has three of four levels, and best quality surge protectors will offer <330V protection. Inexpensive no-name brands will protect at 400 V and higher, and this is not adequate. Look for the term "clamping voltage 330" on the box. The lower the surge protector's clamping voltage, the greater its level of protection from power spikes and surges. The higher the clamping voltage, the greater the possibility of damage from excess electrical current.
  • Response time of <1 nanosecond. Surge protectors with a response time above 1 nanosecond (or a billionth of a second) react much too slowly and afford poor protection -- and a billionth of a second can literally mean the difference between life and death where high voltages are concerned. The best devices, in fact, offer response times of 1 picosecond (one trillionth of a second).
  • Rated at 300 joules or higher. A good surge protector should also be rated to handle 300 joules of current at the very least. The higher the number of total joules it can dissipate, the better. Seek out units that afford 600 joules of protection in terms of energy absorption/dissipation for best protection.
  • Noise filtering. This technology uses an electromagnet (technically, a toroidal choke coil) which helps smooth out the minor ups and downs of the AC current, thereby "conditioning" it so that it doesn't stress or strain the electronic equipment attached to the surge protector.
  • Number and types of outlets. Make sure that the surge protector has enough outlets to meet your current, as well as anticipated future, needs. Make sure that the spacing of the outlets is sufficient to allow you to plug in all of those bulky AC transformers required by some peripherals such as scanners, external hard drives, digital cameras, etc.
  • Proper data-line surge protection. It is not uncommon for surges and spikes to travel over phone, Ethernet, COAX, DSL and telephone cable lines. All of your incoming-data lines should be connected to the power protection device before being passed onto your AV equipment. Expect to see compliance with Underwriters Laboratories 497A Standard for Secondary Communication Devices (for RJ11 and RJ45 jacks) and Underwriters Laboratories 497 Standard for Paired Conductor Communication Circuits (for coaxial cable).
  • Fail-safe design. It is critical that, should the surge protector give its life to save your AV components, it be designed to leave the circuit "open," so that successive surges and spikes will not be able to reach your equipment after the surge protector has sacrificed itself.
Next: What else to look for ...
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