A surge protector is an electrical device commonly used to protect computers and related computer components from power surges. To fully understand what a surge protector does, you must first understand what a surge is. The typical electrical wiring found in homes (in the United States) and offices carries a standard voltage of 120 volts. If a spike or surge in the voltage occurs, causing the voltage to surpass the norm, damage can occur to the computer equipment. Electrical surges can occur from a number of sources, namely: lightning and the basic surges that occur while turning on the motors and compressors for refrigerators and air conditioners to name a few.
A spike is a brief increase in the voltage intensity and a surge is an increase that endures a bit longer than a spike. In either case, the voltage increases generally endures for less than a second. Surge protectors can prevent many of the problems resulting from spikes and surges. A surge protector, often set up in strip or box form, contains a number of receptacles to plug equipment into. The surge protector itself is then plugged into a standard outlet. While it serves the basic purpose of giving homeowners and business owners additional receptacles to put to use, the greater impact of surge protectors is measured in terms of the protection they offer if a surge occurs.
Though surge protectors come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges, the typical model will route the increased voltage present during a surge to a grounding wire housed within the surge protector, thus allowing the normal 120 volts to continue on to the components plugged into the protector. Some models also have a fuse within the surge protector. These models work much the same way as a fuse or circuit breaker within a standard home or office electrical panel. When a surge occurs, the protector will route the increased voltage to the grounding wire, but if the voltage is too great, it will blow the fuse and the power to the computer components, for example, will be terminated. Though the computer lost power, at least it is protected and able to function once the surge protector fuse is replaced.
Other common names for surge protectors are surge suppressors and surge strips. These protectors can range from $5.00 to $150.00. Rest assured that a cheap model may offer additional outlets to use but it will provide little protection for your components. Find the best strip for your usage by talking to a sales associate at your local hardware store.