Updated Jun 28, 2022 11:14 PM
Finding the best surge protector for your electronics ensures that they’ll remain guarded from potentially irreversible damage that comes from commonly occurring electrical spikes in building wiring and power grids. Power surges are a normal and inconvenient part of life that occur frequently when utility companies switch electricity on and off again, but they can also be triggered by a variety of electrical events including lightning strikes, storms, and power cycling of large appliances like air conditioners. By placing a surge protector between your electronics and the wall outlet, you can add a layer of safeguarding for your precious appliances that will prevent them from getting fried.
While any amount of protection is better than none at all, it’s important to consider what types of appliances you’ll be using to determine what type is best for your needs. For most common home appliances—like lamps—any standard surge protector should do the trick. But, for high-wattage appliances and critical electronic equipment like computers or stereos, a heavy-duty model may be more fitting. Whether you’re looking for a portable surge protector to use with your electronics while you’re on the go, or one for permanent use in a business or home, we compare some of the best surge protectors currently available to help you make an informed decision, below.
How we picked the best surge protectors
The homes and offices of the Pop Sci writers and staff are loaded with gadgets, all of which require ample power to charge and operate. In order to find the right choice for you, we surveyed dozens of models with a mixture of online research and hands-on experience to hone in on the models that make the most sense for specific users. The entries on this list come from reputable brands that have demonstrated reliability, which is crucial when you’re trusting pricy gear to their performance. We looked for a mixture of functionality, reliability, and design that would offer the piece of mind you’re paying for in the first place.
Best power strip: Kasa Smart HS300 Plug Power Strip
Why it made the cut: Smart functionality and built-in power monitoring make this the best power strip surge protector.
- Protection: 1,710 joules
- Outlets: 6
- USB ports: 3
- Smart home connectivity
- Sleek design
- Lots of outlets
- Handy companion app
- Needs the app for full functionality
The Kasa HS300 is one of the best smart surge protectors on the market, offering 1,710 joules of surge protection in a sleek white finish and slim design that will be welcome in any office or home environment. It has a host of useful features onboard including scheduling, remote control of devices, and power consumption monitoring that are all accessible within the app. It’s compatible with Alexa, Google Home, and Microsoft Cortana for users who want to harness the voice control feature, but this unit also has the ability to work as a standalone product with no hub required.
The simple, familiar design makes this model easy to hide away under a desk or entertainment center. Three built-in USB ports add extra charging options and the plug on the stirp itself lays relatively flat to the wall so it won’t get smushed by your furniture and bent out of shape.
Best for college dorms: Anker Power Strip Surge Protector
Why it made the cut: With 12 outlets and three high-speed USB ports, this strip is a great option for a common room or other shared space. No one gets left out.
- Protection: 4,000 joules
- Outlets: 12
- USB ports: 3
- Tons of protection
- Lots of sockets
- Modern design
The ubiquitous USB charging port is used to power everything from hard drives to cell phones, making it a popular outlet choice for inclusion on power strips and aftermarket wall outlets. Buying a surge protector with USB ports offers users the ability to give their smartphones protection that traditional wall chargers and power strips don’t offer. It’s always nice to have peace of mind when charging a phone and ensures you won’t be stuck with a bricked device in the event of a power surge. These also eliminate the need for users to keep track of their wall chargers, which can often go missing, allowing them to opt for plugging straight into the surge protector. This comes in especially handy when you’re in a college dorm situation and multiple people may need access to charging capabilities, which is why is our pick for the best surge protector for college dorms.
Users who are looking to charge numerous peripheral devices and enjoy the benefits of surge protection won’t have to skimp on normal three-pronged outlets with this Anker Power Strip and Surge Protector. Its 12 grounded outlets and three USB ports offer 4,000 joules of surge protection to devices of all sorts and offer multiple plug orientations, making it a good option for shared spaces and desk areas with a large number of devices to power. You can choose between 6-, 8-, and 10-foot cord lengths depending on the layout of your space. It’s the perfect model to put in a common room for shared use.
A pair of slotted holes on the back of the device makes it easy to mount to a desk or wall, so you can secure it down and you won’t have to worry about someone walking off with it next time there’s a party or people come over.
Best heavy-duty: Tripp Lite Isobar 6
Why it made the cut: Its super-burly build and military-grade protection can power extremely demanding devices in challenging environments.
- Protection: 3,330 joules
- Outlets: 6
- USB ports: 0
- Super durable
- Maximum protection
- Meets high safety standards
The Isobar from Tripp Lite is a convenient and robust surge protection unit from a power protection industry veteran. It features a six-foot AC power cable and six protected outlets mounted in isolated filter banks to cut down on noise interaction between connected electronics, and three indicator LEDs show users the current protection status and whether there’s a problem in the electrical line. Tripp Lite also offers insurance for connected peripherals, making the Isobar one of the best heavy-duty surge protectors for workshops, garages, and industrial spaces.
The surge protection potential of consumer devices is measured in joules, which is a unit equivalent to one watt applied to an electrical system for one second. A surge protector with a higher joule rating can absorb more energy before failing, which translates to more robust and comprehensive surge protection for critical equipment. If you plan on protecting expensive or sensitive high-wattage electronic equipment like computers, air conditioners, stereo equipment, or power tools, opting for a heavy-duty surge protector with a joule rating of 3,000 or more is a must. That’s what makes the Isobar so appealing to commercial users.
The sturdy metal housing allows this burly surge protector to function properly in demanding environments like workshops and studios without potentially cracking or becoming damaged and jeopardizing your equipment in the process. As an added bonus, it looks as burly as it is.
Best for TVs: APC Wall Outlet Plug Extender
Why it made the cut: Its flat form factor makes it easy to tuck behind an entertainment center or TV stand where it can keep lots of cords in order.
- Protection: 1,080 joules
- Outlets: 6
- USB ports: 2
- Flat profile makes it easy to hide
- Well-spaced outlets
- Powerful USB charging
- Average protection levels
- Dated design
The APC Wall Outlet Plug Extender is one of the best surge protectors for TVs, and space saving too! It has the ability to generously expand any standard wall outlet into six plugs and two USB ports and add 1,080 joules of surge protection while hardly adding any extra space. That makes it easy to hide behind your entertainment center. It uses your wall outlet’s existing screw hole to fit securely without the danger of coming loose as you unplug your electronics, and it features LED protection indicators to keep you apprised of its current status at all times. At this price point, there’s no better option for super-compact and relatively high level of surge protection. Because you get six individual outlets, it can also run entertainment devices like streaming boxes or smart speakers. The USB ports add a nice touch in case you want to charge your devices or a remote.
Best portable: Belkin 3-Outlet USB Surge Protector
Why it made the cut: When space is an issue, this pocket-sized power strip offers three outlets and two USB ports in a package the size of a candy bar.
- Protection: 918 joules
- Outlets: 3
- USB ports: 2
- Easily fits in a pocket
- Fast-charging via USB
- Won’t eat up a whole wall outlet
Power strips, surge protectors, and other power distribution devices are best known for supplementing fixed workspaces and areas of the home, but power surges can affect your electronics anywhere and at any time. In some cases, power surges are more likely to affect your electronics while you’re traveling than they are at home if you factor in the unfamiliarity of the local power grid and weather. For maximum protection of your sensitive devices wherever you go, get the best portable surge protector and enjoy the benefits of surge protection on the road.
Travelers who want some extra peace of mind when using power outlets will appreciate the incredibly small form factor and 918-joule protection rating of this USB surge protector from Belkin. It comes in three variants rated for different levels of amperage depending on what peripherals you plan on plugging in, and it uses a 360-degree rotating plug to maximize its compatibility with any number of strange outlets in hotels, airports, and more. It’s flexible and simple to use, too, with two USB ports offering a combined 2.1 amps of charging power and an onboard protection status LED. It’s great on an RV because it doesn’t take up much space and won’t overdraw your vehicle’s system. Plus, if you want to take it inside of a coffee shop or other spot you at which you may be spending some time, it’s easy to tote.
Best budget: GE 6-Outlet Surge Protector
Why it made the cut: This ultra-affordable strip is a great option when you just need basic protection or you want to keep a spare unit on-hand for emergencies.
- Protection: 800 joules
- Outlets: 6
- USB ports: 0
- Very cheap
- Compact form factor
- Rotating sockets
This six-outlet surge protector from GE packs an integrated surge protector and 800 joules of protection into a familiar body, making it one of the best cheap surge protectors for the money. Each of its outlets can be closed with a simple twist for extra safety, and wall outlet mounts on the rear allow users to mount it up and off the floor if needed. It has a three-foot power cord and standard plug and offers incredible value for the money, making it a good choice for shoppers on a budget or users who are looking to purchase in bulk.
The key function of a good surge protector is preservation of your electronics, so it’s hard to compromise on price without a dip in quality. Still, by remaining aware of the joule rating of the surge protector and the wattage of the equipment you’re powering with it, you can accomplish an adequate level of protection at an affordable price point. The GE and similar models are best for stationery use in the home due to less durable casing materials and may not bear the bells and whistles of more expensive units. Still, as long as you’re not powering irreplaceable equipment or operating in a building with a known history of frequent and intense surges, they should do just fine. The GE model strikes the right balance between performance and reliability for basic jobs. You don’t always need maximum protection if you’re just trying to string some holiday lights or have a power strip on-hand for emergencies.
Features to consider when shopping for surge protectors
Surge protectors are available in portable, bag-sized travel units as well as tough, metal-clad industrial forms and everywhere in between. Determining the best unit for your needs comes down to the level of protection you require according to the quality of the electric system from which you’re pulling power as well as the value of the equipment you’re looking to protect. Whether you’re enduring daily power spikes or just want reliable protection for some extra peace of mind, we’ve picked out a few of the top surge protectors on the market to help you give your electronics the protection they deserve.
Voice control, smart home technology, and home automation are more commonplace and accessible than ever before. There are countless smart plug products on the market that allow users to integrate traditional appliances with a smart home system. The best smart surge protectors offer users this same convenient hands-free remote control of their electronics without sacrificing high-level protection from power surges all in a single unit.
Most smart surge protectors offer compatibility with Alexa, Google Home, and other popular smart home systems, but many are able to function as standalone units as well. A local WiFi network and a companion app are usually all it takes to get up and running, turning a smartphone into a universal remote for your electronics. Users who want to create automated lighting schedules or who want to activate coffee makers, slow cookers, and other devices from afar will appreciate the combination of convenience and safety that a smart surge protector provides. These may not be the most robust choice for heavy-duty applications, but they’re completely unparalleled for adding flexibility, protection, and voice control to commonplace household and office appliances.
You don’t always have to find a charging brick when you want to plug in your phone or other portable device. Some surge protectors have built-in USB connectivity, which allows you to charge extra devices without having to occupy one of the AC sockets. These can come in handy even when you might not expect it. For instance, USB ports can be handy for charging controllers if you have them on the surge protector in your home theater.
If you’re going to be plugging in big power bricks, there’s a chance you might run into a traffic jam that prevents you from using all of your surge protector’s real estate. Try to visualize the plugs you need it to accommodate and make sure there’s room for everything. Otherwise you’ll be trying to daisy chain strips together and that’s not good for anything.
Q: How many joules are in a good surge protector?
The best surge protectors can range anywhere from around 800 joules up to 4,000 joules and beyond. Determining which level of protection you need depends largely upon the value of the equipment you’re protecting as well as the known reliability of the electrical system that you’re using, but when in doubt, the more joules the better.
Q: What is Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 surge protection?
The most common form of surge protection offered by consumer products is Type 3 surge protection, which is used in parallel with consumer electronics at the load end of an outlet. Type 1 protection is a permanent installation that protects the whole electrical system from outside sources of surges including lightning strikes and utility switching, while Type 2 protection is a permanent installation that protects from surges caused within a system, as in the case of air conditioners or other large appliances.
Q: How often should I replace my surge protector?
Surge protectors offer diminishing protection over time, but fortunately, the best surge protectors actively indicate whether your electronics are protected or not. As a rule of thumb, you can wait three to five years before replacing a surge protector, but users with frequent power issues—including lightning strikes, rolling blackouts, or brownouts—will have to replace their surge protectors more often.
A final word on shopping for the best surge protector
Surge protection doesn’t come standard in most buildings and power systems, so it’s crucial to ensure that your electronics are safeguarded from inevitable power spikes and blackouts with the best surge protector for your needs. Home users should turn to a smart surge protector for total control over their electronic ecosystem or a surge protector with USB ports for quick charging and protection of their irreplaceable devices, while commercial users who need robust protection should turn to a heavy-duty surge protector to keep their bases covered. Whether you’re powering a vacuum cleaner or a smartphone, every user of electronic equipment big and small should use a surge protector. Then you can rest assured that your devices are safe and sound the next time a blackout or power surge comes around.