What’s the Difference Between a Surge Protector and Power Strip?

Here’s how to keep all your electronics plugged in simultaneously.

Wall outlet in office
Charge your devices and protect them from sudden power spikes.Unsplash/Thomas Kolnowski

You might hear the terms “surge protector” and “power strip” tossed around interchangeably. But if you’re looking to purchase one of the devices for your home, you should know the difference. A power strip gets plugged into a wall and gives you more outlets for all of your devices. A surge protector does the same, with the added bonus of protecting your devices from possible spikes in voltage. Here’s how to find the right one for you.

Power Strip, Bototek Surge Protector with 10 AC Outlets and 4 USB Charging Ports

Protects Electronics

Enough room for all of your office or entertainment electronics.Bototek

A surge protector, unlike a power strip, is designed to block unwanted jolts of electricity. These are less common than they used to be, but can still occur due to a variety of causes: lightning strikes near a power line, changes made to the power grid by the electric company, or just something going wrong with your wiring. Worst case scenario, a huge bolt of electricity comes into your house and straight to your electronics. A proper surge protector works a little like a circuit breaker—it senses these surges and blocks them from getting to your computer or other valuable electronics.

Anker PowerPort Cube USB Power Strip

Fast Charging

Sleek, take-anywhere design is great for small spaces and business trips.Anker

At a really basic level, many people are just looking for more places to plug in their electronics. A power strip gives you exactly that, and nothing more. But you might consider a power ball or cube. Not only do they provide A/C outlets, many also offer USB plugs for charging devices. Cubes also allow you to plug in multiple “wall warts”—big power charging blocks—with enough room that you’re not blocking another outlet.

Power Strip with USB Charging Ports, Surge Protector P8U2, 2630 Joules, Flat Plug, 8 Outlets

Trusted Protection

Has a six foot cord for good extension.APC

A good surge protector will tell you how much energy it can safely absorb. If you experience a lot of surges, eventually your surge protector will run out of protection. In really unstable areas, you might have to replace a surge protector every five years or so. But what’s great about the best surge protectors is that they help protect your electronics.