How to Shop for a PC Surge Suppressor

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Several years ago, my PC's external modem was fried during a storm while I was away. I did not have the modem plugged in to a surge suppressor. Luckily, nothing else was damaged from the storm. Since then, I've always made it a point to have a good surge suppressor for my PC. There are numerous other situations that can be very dangerous to your PC as well. Your local power grid can have fluctuations, or your neighborhood could be going through a power line replacement, causing power transients to occur. Knowing you have a good surge suppressor will tame your fears and give you the confidence that everything will be okay. Consider a surge suppressor as an inexpensive PC life insurance policy. Let's talk about what constitutes a good surge suppressor, hopefully without getting too geeky. To ascertain whether a suppressor is good enough to do the job, here's some good basic guidelines that will ensure you have adequate protection for your system. You should be able to verify these items either on the surge suppressor itself or on the packaging.

Important Shopping Considerations


  • Joules rating: A joule is a measure of energy and the joules rating is the amount of joules the suppressor can consume before it's unable to continue protecting your equipment. Suppressors are usually rated from 200 joules to thousands; the higher the rating it has, the better it is. You should look for a rating above 600 joules.
  • Protection reaction time: 1 to 2 nanoseconds is sufficiently quick enough for the surge suppressor to react in time to the surge.
  • Clamping voltage (let-through voltage): This is the voltage at which the suppressor kicks into gear. A clamping voltage of 330 volts or above is acceptable. The PC's power supply handles the numerous lower voltage spikes in the line, allowing the suppressor to deal with only the large spikes and surges.
  • RJ-11 jacks: If you use a phone line, whether it's DSL for your Internet, a Voice Over IP phone, a fax machine, or some other device that is part of your PC system, they connect to the suppressor through a RJ-11 phone jack. 
  • Protection status indicator lights: I'm not referring to the on/off power indicator. Your protection circuitry could be blown and the power light will still illuminate if the fuse is intact. You won't know if the last storm finished off your suppressor's protection circuitry unless it has a separate indicator light showing you the suppressor's protection is still there and functioning properly.
  • Warranty for equipment involved: The manufacturer should have warranty replacement coverage of any equipment of yours that could be damaged through a defective suppressor, which shows their faith in their product. Make sure you understand the terms of the warranty, including the coverage amount.
  • Meets the UL 1449 standard: Many electrical devices today show the standard UL seal on it, signifying it has met the Underwriters Lab criteria for minimum safety standards. However, it's important to verify that this seal on the suppressor state that it's for transient voltages, which means it meets the UL 1449 standard for surge suppression. 


You Get What You Pay For

A couple of important closing considerations include remembering that even the best surge suppressor is not perfect at protection. During an electrical storm, you should always unplug your PC from the outlet. And always have the data on your active hard drive backed up onto a separate storage device, such as a CD, DVD, external hard drive, or a thumb drive. When you're shopping for a surge suppressor, this is an area where it's a big temptation to go cheap. And you'll find a lot of cheap stuff out there. You should spend some decent money on a surge suppressor, and $50 is not too much to spend for one. Many popular retail outlets that specialize with in-home electronics offer decent surge suppressors. Remember that some manufacturers call the device a surge protector, rather than a surge suppressor. They are the same item. Follow the above checklist and remember that you get what you pay for. It does not have to be an electrifying experience!

 You can get many more useful tips on caring for your PC by viewing it here.



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