What is a Surge Protector and How can it Save me money?

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Power Strip

The first power strips were simply a convenience — useful devices that could instantly turn one electrical outlet into six or eight. In the past half-century or so, they have evolved into much more. They are now smart enough to guard against the effects of power surges, keep your televisions, computers and other devices operating even if the electricity in your home fails and help you avoid wasting energy.

A Smart Move

There are several reasons to use a smart power strip, an uninterrupted power supply or both. In fact, if you value your electronic equipment and the information that is stored on your computer and other devices that require electricity, no argument can be made for simply plugging them into the nearest wall socket.

Here are some good reasons to purchase one or more high-quality smart power strips for your home or office.

  • They greatly increase the number of electrical outlets available for you to use.
  • Used correctly, they can help you conserve energy. Some smart strips will automatically turn off printers and monitors when your computer is shut down, or turn off the DVD player when you turn off your television.
  • They can help protect your electronic devices against power surges.
  • They can keep you from losing data stored on your electronic devices if you are hit by a power outage.
  • They give you the option of shutting off electricity to several devices by flipping one switch. For example, a smart power strip near your workspace can serve as the power source for one or more computers, a printer or two, and even a lamp.

Avoiding the Vampire

Smart power strips are specifically designed to help you keep your electric bill from soaring out of sight, or, more specifically, from being bit by vampire power, the phenomenon that continues to spin your electric meter even when your equipment is turned off or in standby mode. With a traditional power strip, as long as the electronic equipment is plugged into the strip, it will continue to suck up power. A smart power strip can sense when equipment such as such as printers, DVD players, computers and TVs go into standby mode and cuts the power to those outlets. If you aren’t using smart power strips, 5 to 10 percent of your home’s energy consumption will be eaten up by vampire power. According to the Energy Information Administration, the total cost of vampire power in the United States is more than $3 billion a year.

Here are some of the electronic devices that, if you’re not careful, will use the most vampire power.

  • Stereo receivers
  • DVRs
  • Desktop computers
  • Computer speaker systems
  • DSL modems
  • Inkjet printers
  • Wireless routers
  • Microwaves
  • Laptop computers
  • External hard drives

Sudden Surges

In addition to making your electric bill a little more tolerable, your smart power strip is designed to protect against sudden surges in electricity brought on by the following natural and man made issues.

  • Thunderstorms – Lightning will find the most convenient conductive material. If it strikes near a power line in your neighborhood, it might blast a large amount of random electricity into the wiring of your home or office.
  • Overload – Surges can be caused by man made mishaps as well. If you have too many devices plugged into a single outlet, turning them on all at once can cause a surge.

On occasion, simply turning on a large appliance such as an air conditioner or refrigerator can cause a minor surge that might not cause immediate problems but that can gradually damage electronic devices.

Up and Running

A UPS battery backup, or uninterrupted power supply, is a smart power strip that serves additional and extremely useful purpose.

How UPS Battery Backups Work

UPS systems are plugged into a source of electricity, like a wall socket, and electrical equipment like computers, tablets, Smartphones, and other electronics. The flow of electricity comes from the wall to the UPS battery and distributes it to any connected electronic device. The UPS battery backup will continually check the flow from the wall to it. Once the flow of electricity is inefficient, the UPS will start using its reserved battery power. The battery life  during an outage can range from a couple of minutes to hours depending on the tier UPS battery backup.

Two Battery Types for UPS Battery Backups

  • Offline Battery - This type of battery functions like laptop batteries. The battery will close down the power transfer and start supplying power from its reserved power when there is a power outage.
  • Online Battery - This type of can provide electricity at any time without having to close down power transfers and protect your computer from voltage irregularities. Making it the more reliable type of UPS Battery Backup. However, these are typically more expensive than offline battery backups.

Calculating For The Right UPS Battery Backup

Often times, people may miscalculate the amount of power they need. Underestimating the required amount of electricity can cause your computer to not have enough time to shut down. Overestimating the required amount is not a real problem because your devices will be able to stay on longer when the power source is cut. However, you may be paying more money than you need to for the extra time.

APC, a well known and popular supplier of UPS Battery Backups has a UPS Calculator tool. The tool calculates and shows you Battery Backups that they offer for your needs. However, you can use it as an idea to see what type of UPS Battery Backup to buy.

Features of UPS Battery Backup

  • Surge Protection
  • Guard against vampire power
  • Keep you from losing important data
  • Protect your electronic devices that might be harmed by a sudden shutdown

The battery in the UPS, which is constantly being recharged when the electricity in your home or office is working, will keep your equipment up and running, so you can shutdown your computer and not lose data.

Smart UPS battery backups come with power management software for your computer. In an event of an outage, these UPS' can automatically save your open files and shut down your computer safely and more.

Damaged Equipment

Many companies that produce smart power strips offer warranties, not only for the strip but also to protect against damage caused to equipment such as computers, printers, DVRs and TV sets. These equipment protection policies usually have the following fine print attached to them:

  • The company will determine if the damage is due to their equipment failing
  • The coverage is above and beyond the manufacturer’s warranty of each item
  • Products that have been modified or are using 3rd party batteries are not covered
  • Proper grounding must have been in use

For example, Bits Limited, which makes a wide range of surge protectors, will pay $50,000 or more to repair or replace connected equipment, while Isolé covers up to $25,000.

Depending on which model you purchase, Belkin will pay from $10,000 to an unlimited amount. If you are using one of its two most expensive models, Belkin will also provide professional data recovery services if you suffer a hard drive malfunction because one of its surge protectors didn’t do its job.

APC, leaders in the industry of providing power, also offers one of the best warranties available. Warranties are typically $5,000 and up.

You have the power to decide how to protect your computers and other electronic equipment. Do your research to find out which power strip works best for you.

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