The 1980s brought us the computer age and also ushered in the power strip. Most people had a desktop computer and monitor, and maybe a printer—but add to those external drives, scanners, wireless routers, and other peripheral devices, and those two standard outlets most of us had were simply overwhelmed. Now we’ve got laptops, tablets, smart phones, and wireless Bluetooth devices, all connected to a power strip.
Today, power strips often incorporate USB ports and surge protection. We tested a broad range to determine which are the best. But first, some buying advice.
What You Need to Know About Surge Protection
The proliferation of wireless handheld devices that charge at lower voltages makes surge protection more important than ever. What most people don’t realize about surge protectors is that they wear out over time. With every voltage fluctuation they absorb, their lifespan is shortened. So, to be sure you’re getting the most protection you can, it’s a good idea to replace them every two to three years.
Power surges can occur due to a number of reasons. People tend to worry most about lightning strikes, which can find their way to electrical wires and cause power spikes in the millions of volts. Most surge protectors can’t handle anything this large, so don’t rely on them during lightning storms—the best way to protect from this type of surge is to unplug your sensitive electronic equipment.
More commonly, power surges are caused during storms when power lines are downed. When the power company’s transformers and complex switching systems try to reroute power or address changing demands, it can create inconsistent power flow with dips and bursts. The other common cause for surges occurs within your own home. Air conditioners, compressors, and electric ranges require a large amount of power, particularly when they start up. However, their need drops off quickly once they’re running, which can cause surges elsewhere in the house’s wiring.
The amount of protection surge protectors provide is measured in joules. A joule is a unit of energy required to do a certain amount of work. One joule is about the amount of electricity used to light a one-watt LED for one second. To adequately protect an average home entertainment system or computers and related equipment, look for surge protectors rated in thousands of joules. Always check with the manufacturer, they usually provide examples on the packaging of what a certain model can protect.
How We Tested These Power Strips
The power strips on this list have been thoroughly vetted and evaluated by our test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience with them to determine the best options. We plugged these power strips in and tested them in kitchens, family rooms, workshops, and offices. We evaluated them based on ease of use, their features, and how they performed in various situations. We used a Sperry Instruments outlet tester to confirm circuit grounding when power strips had wiring fault indicators. If you need power strip or surge protector, chances are you’ll find one on this list to suit your needs.