Power strips with surge protection are essential buys if you’re looking to safeguard your valuable electronic devices from thunderstorms and power fluctuations.
Surge suppressors, as they’re also called, can absorb excess voltage and prevent your devices from shorting out. The best ones also provide plenty of power outlets to connect multiple devices, and feature LED light indicators that let you know when your devices are no longer being protected.
Luckily, power strips and surge protectors are relatively inexpensive. They can cost anywhere from less than $10 to over $40, depending on the number of outlets, amount of protection and additional features, such as whether it includes USB ports. Smart surge protectors — which let you control devices through an app on the phone — are unsurprisingly a bit more expensive, sometimes selling for as high as $80.
Power strips and surge protectors buying guide
Yes, power strips and surge protectors all look pretty similar at first glance. But there are a series of factors you should consider before you pick one.
• Joule rating. The joule rating or surge energy rating measures how much energy the surge protector can absorb before failing. Basically, the higher the joule rating, the greater the protection.
These ratings can range anywhere from 300 joules to over 4,000 joules. If you’re getting a surge protector for electric devices such as computers, TVs and video consoles, consider a joule rating of at least 1,000 joules.
If, on the other hand, you want to protect large devices or appliances such as fridges, washing machines, power tools and home theater systems, consider higher joule ratings of 2,000 or more joules.
Do note that while some multi-outlet surge protectors with high joule ratings can be used for protecting refrigerators and other appliances with motors, it’s better to use dedicated surge protectors for this type of domestic appliances, such as the Refrigmatic, which we review below.
• UL-certified. Look for a power strip with an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification or an Intertek’s ETL mark. This lets you know that the product has been independently tested and certified to meet performance and safety standards.
• Clamping voltage. The clamping value refers to how much voltage passes through during a power spike. Unlike the joule rating, the lower the clamping voltage the better. Most experts recommend a clamping value of no more than 400 volts.
• Number and spacing of sockets. Power strips come in different sizes and shapes, and can have anything from 3 to 12 outlets. But they can also vary when it comes to the space between outlets. Some devices have large power bricks that can take up neighboring outlets and make them useless; there are, however, many power strips that offer well-spaced outlets that fit oversized plugs easily.
• Auxiliary ports. Some power strips have auxiliary ports such as USB ports, RJ11 inputs and coaxial cable connections that can be used to protect telephones, DSL modems and satellite boxes.
We recommend surge protectors with USB connections so you can charge portable devices directly from the power strip. To ensure quick charging, look for an USB connection of at least 2 amps (often labeled as 2A).
• Power cord. Make sure the power cord is long enough to cover the desired area. Most surge protectors typically have 6 to 12-foot long power cords. A few, like the Tripp Lite TLM825SA reviewed below, have a cord length of 25 feet, which makes them ideal for covering remote areas of your house or worksite.
• Indicators. Surge protectors wear out over time, which is why you should look for one that lets you know when your devices are no longer protected. Many power strips and surge protectors include LED lights that indicate whether the devices plugged are protected or not. Others have additional LED indicators that let you know if the surge protector is properly grounded or if there’s any power problem, such as an overload or a wiring fault.
Best surge protectors and power strips
1. Best overall: Belkin 12-Outlet Pivot Plug
Number of outlets: 12 | Joule rating: 4,320 | Cord length: 8 ft.
The Belkin 12-Outlet Pivot Plug may look bulky, but it’s one of the best options if you have a lot of large plugs, such as those that come with the latest iPads and iPhones.
The Pivot Plug has four outlets with standard spacing on the middle and eight rotating outlets, four on each side. This gives you plenty of options for connecting a wide array of oversized plugs without having to lose neighboring outlets.
This Belkin model includes 1-in, 2-out RJ11 inputs (DSL or telephone ports), which can be used to connect telephones, fax machines or modems and protect them from power fluctuations. In addition, you get coaxial cable connections so you can protect your cable or satellite box.
One drawback, however, is that it doesn’t have USB ports, which can be very useful for charging portable devices that don’t come with power bricks, such as some smartphones and tablets.
A similar option is the Belkin 12-Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector. It offers surge protection of up to 3,940 joules and includes 12 standard outlets (they don’t rotate, unlike the ones in the Pivot Plug), six of which are widely spaced for large adapters. It also comes with telephone and coaxial cable protection, and costs roughly $15 less than the Pivot Plug.
2. Editor’s pick: APC Surge Protector (P12U2)
Number of outlets: 12 | USB ports: 2 | Joule rating: 4,320 | Cord length: 6 ft.
A great alternative to the Belkin Pivot Plug is the APC Surge Protector P12U2, which offers the same surge protection with a joule rating of 4,320 but for about $10 less.
Retailing for about $30, the P12U2 is a good choice for protecting your home electronics — including game consoles, computers and TVs — from electricity spikes and lighting.
Like the Belkin Pivot Plug, it has 12 outlets, four of which are widely spaced so you can plug in power bricks without compromising adjacent outlets. It also comes with two USB-A ports with 2.4Amps of charging power, enough to fast-charge your devices.
Another good option is the APC Surge Protector (P11U2). It has a lower surge energy rating (2,880 joules) and one less outlet than the APC P12U2, but it comes with six well-spaced outlets. In addition, it features a 180° rotating power cord and an LED alert system that lets you know if your electronics are protected, and whether there’s an overload or a building wiring fault.
3. Best for low prices: AmazonBasics 8-Outlet Power Strip
Number of outlets: 8 | Joule rating: 4,500 | Cord length: 6ft.
If you’re looking for the best value, the AmazonBasics power strip offers the highest joule energy rating for the lowest cost — less than $20.
It has eight outlets, three of which are widely spaced so you can plug in a couple of oversized bricks without having to worry about blocking neighboring outlets. In addition, it has a 6-foot power cord and a green LED light that indicates whether devices are protected and grounded.
As its name suggests, the AmazonBasics power strip is, well, basic, but it has the capabilities needed to keep your gadgets safe. There are also a few other options you can choose from. For instance, if you have more area to cover, you can opt for the 12-foot cord model, which costs about $22.
Or if you need more outlets, you can choose the AmazonBasics 12-outlet power strip, which has an 8-foot cord, a 4,320 joule rating and costs roughly the same ($23).
4. Best wall surge protector: Addtam USB Wall Charger
Number of outlets: 5 | USB ports: 4 | Joule rating: 1,800
If you want to avoid dealing with long power strip cords and tangles, a wall adapter power surge protector, like the Addtam USB Wall Charger, might be a good choice.
The Addtam extender features five widely spaced outlets, which are strategically placed — two on each side and one on the front. This makes it easy to plug in large power bricks, such as those that come with laptops and the newest iPhones and iPads.
Additionally, it has three USB-A and one USB-C ports with a maximum charging speed of 2.4Amp and 3.1Amp, respectively. This means you can fast-charge four portable devices at once.
Another good choice is the CyberPower Surge Protector (CSP600WSURC2). It has six swivel outlets that can rotate up to 90°, which is highly convenient for tight places such as behind a nightstand or desk. It also comes with two 2.4Amp USB-A ports to fast-charge devices. It costs about the same as the Addtam adapter, but it only offers 1,200 joules of protection.
5. Best smart power strip: TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip (HS300)
Number of outlets: 6 | USB ports: 3 | Joule rating: 1,710 | Cord length: 6 ft.
Yes, even power strips can be smart. Just like you can control other smart devices with a simple voice command or through an app, the TP-Link Kasa HS300 power strip lets you control your electronics from anywhere and in a variety of ways.
This ETL-certified surge protector offers 1,710 joules of protection against sudden power surges and overloads. It features six smart outlets that can be independently controlled through the Kasa Smart app and three 2.4Amp built-in USB ports for charging smartphones and tablets
The Kasa Smart app not only lets you remotely control your devices with a single tap, but also program them to turn on and off at specific times. It even allows you to monitor their power consumption. In addition, it’s compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which means you can control the outlets with voice commands.
The $80 price tag may be a deal-breaker for some users. Nonetheless, it can sometimes be found on sale for about $50.
6. Best for large spaces: Tripp Lite 8-Outlet Industrial Safety Surge Protector (TLM825SA)
Number of outlets: 8 | Joule rating: 3,900 | Cord length: 25 ft.
Selling for around $60, the Tripp Lite TLM825SA is not be the cheapest surge protector, but with a 25-foot cord, it’s the best choice if you have a lot of space to cover.
This model has a joule rating of 3,900, which is high enough to protect equipment from spikes and surges. Its rugged black and yellow metal case features eight power outlets and a built-in cord wrap to facilitate cord management and prevent tangles.
It includes four safety covers to protect unused outlets from debris and integrated keyhole slots so you can mount it in a wall or desk. Additionally, it’s said to withstand harsh conditions, making it ideal for industrial or automotive worksites, as well as any outdoor environment, such as the garage or porch.
7. Best for appliances: Refrigmatic WS-36300
The Refrigmatic WS-36300 is a dedicated appliance surge protector that’s ideal for protecting refrigerators, ice makers and air conditioners from voltage drops and power spikes.
The WS-36300 can protect refrigerators up to 27 cubic feet in size, and air conditioners of up to 5,000 BTU. It features four light indicators that let you know if there’s normal, high or low voltage; most importantly, if voltage is unstable, the protector creates a delay of about three minutes, letting the power stabilize before powering the fridge back on.
Unlike most multi-outlet power strips, dedicated appliance surge protectors don’t necessarily work with joule rating. Instead, surge protectors like the WS-36300 use a system that allows it to shut down power when there are voltage fluctuations that go above or below the one that’s needed (typically 100 to 120 volts for refrigerators).
The Refrigmatic WS-36300 costs about $30 for a one-outlet unit. However, a pack of two costs roughly $39, which is a great deal if you want to protect both a fridge and an A/C unit. The Refrigmatic is also available in a Mega edition that features a 90° rotating plug and is designed to protect two-door refrigerators and large freezers (27 cubic feet or more).