Replace Your Surge Protector

My computer won’t turn on!

Recently a small but powerful storm rolled through our area, knocking out power to many local homes and businesses. The next day, as I opened up our computer repair shop, several customers came in with devices that were affected by power surges. Most computers are susceptible to fluctuations in power coming through the lines, and a good storm can wreak havoc on unprotected electronics.

But I have a surge protector!

While you may have taken the precaution of using surge protectors for your devices, it must be remembered that surge protectors have a limited lifespan. According to, a surge protector is designed to take a certain amount of extra voltage, usually measured in joules, and divert that voltage away from the appliance. For example, a surge protector rated at 1000 joules will be able to divert one 1000 joule surge, ten 100 joule surges, or one hundred 10 joule surges.

So how do I know if I need to replace my surge protector?

Unfortunately, it is difficult to know for sure. If you can’t remember when you installed it, or if you grabbed it out of the closet, or if you bought it at a yard sale, you should replace your protector. It’s also a good idea to replace it after a power outage or electrical storm.

Ok, so which surge protector should I buy?

The choices are many. Keep a few things in mind as you are looking for options.
1. How many outlets do you need? Having a few extra slots is better than not having enough. Also, many surge protectors support coaxial cable, phone lines, and even USB. This option from APC has plenty of plugs.
2. How long do you need the cord to extend? Most surge protectors have a four or six-foot cord, and often the documentation states they should not be used with an extension cord. Here’s unit with a 15’ cord.
3. What level of protection do you want? The higher the joule rating, the more potential protection you will have. Many manufacturers offer warranties for connected equipment as well, though there are mixed opinions regarding the viability of these warranties. This bad boy is rated at 5560 joules.
4. Do I have any mission-critical devices? If you run a home office with all of your valuable QuickBooks files and customer information stored on your computer and require that computer be ready to use at all times, you should strongly consider an uninterruptible power supply. UPSs protect from surges and power outages by switching to a battery backup when things go wrong. Consider this UPS for additional protection.

Whatever your needs are, the lesson of the day is that an old surge protector can’t be trusted. Replacing any doubtful units could save you a trip to the computer repair shop.

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