How To Select a Surge Protector for a Home Theater System

October 17, 2014 Tripp Lite
Tripp Lite

Investing in a surge protector that’s designed for home theater equipment is a small price to pay in order to protect your very expensive equipment from the unforeseen consequences of power surges or electrical line noise. But selecting a surge protector can be a daunting task. To make the job easier, here is a checklist of things to consider when selecting a surge protector for a home theater system.

Things to consider when selecting a surge protector for a home theater system

Type of Equipment: What kind of equipment will you be plugging into your surge protector? Home electronics, computers, office equipment and workbench tools have different protection needs. Be sure to choose a surge protector that protects your equipment on all inputs, including telephone lines (RJ-11), computer network (RJ-45) and cable jacks (coaxial).

Cord Length & Plug Design: Determine how far you will place your surge protector from your grounded AC outlet, and select a surge protector with a cord at least that long. If you want to place furniture flush against the wall in front of the AC outlet, choose a surge suppressor with a right-angle plug.

Number of Outlets: Determine how many items you will be plugging into your surge suppressor, and purchase one with at least as many outlets as you expect to need. Remember that transformer plugs are wider than standard plugs. Select a surge protector that will accommodate transformer plugs without blocking adjacent outlets.

Indicator Lights: Most surge protectors include diagnostic LEDs that confirm power availability and protection status. After repeated power surges, the protective circuitry will burn out so it’s important to know whether or not your surge protection is still functioning.

Protection Modes: Residential power outlets have three wires: hot line (H), neutral (N), and ground (G). Since your home theater equipment is connected to all three, you need a surge protector that protects all three lines, covering the two protection modes: full normal mode (H-N) and common mode (N-G / H-G).

Safety Testing: Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is facility that conducts independent, product safety testing. Surge suppressor manufacturers use UL to test their products according to the UL 1449 safety testing standard. There are several editions to the UL 1449 testing standard. The most current one is the 3rd Edition, which tests to a higher degree of safety than earlier editions. The best surge protectors for home theater equipment conform to the UL 1449 3rd Edition.

Those are the easy things to consider when selecting a surge protector for a home theater system. The more difficult things cover the protection level ratings. By understanding and interpreting their meaning, you will be able to select the most appropriate surge proctor for your home theater system:

Response Time: The response time tells you how long it takes for the surge suppressor to turn on before it is actively preventing a surge from affecting your equipment. The response time is rated in nanoseconds (billionths of a second). The lower the number, the faster the response. The best surge protectors for home theater equipment have less than a one nanosecond response time.

Clamping Voltage: While the response time tells you how quickly a surge suppressor takes to “turn on,” the clamping voltage tells you at what level of surge voltage the suppressor turns on. High clamping voltages allow a higher level of surge voltage to get to your equipment. So, the lower the clamping voltage rating, the better the protection. The best surge protectors for home theater equipment have clamping voltages of 140V.

Energy Absorption: A surge or spike in its most basic terms is raw electrical energy. And energy cannot simply disappear, it has to be either dissipated as heat or absorbed by something else. Surge protectors absorb surge energy and divert it away from your sensitive home theater equipment. Therefore, its energy absorption capability, rated in joules, is a good indicator of the quality of the surge protector. The higher the joule rating, the better the energy absorption. The best surge suppressors for home theater equipment have a joule rating over 3000.

EMI/RFI Filtering: Electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) cause data loss, A/V interference, and sometimes even computer memory loss. The EMI/RFI filtering is rated in decibels (dB). The higher the number, the better the protection. The best noise filters for home theater equipment have about a 60dB rating.

Maximum Surge Amps: This represents the maximum current that the suppressor can tolerate before the surge damages the suppressor itself. The higher the number, the better the surge suppressor. The best surge suppressors for home theater equipment have ratings as high as 150,000 amps.

Finally, there are a few other considerations you should address while shopping for a surge protector. Some surge protectors come with a warranty that covers the replacement of your computer and audio/visual components if the surge protector fails. Another consideration would be a surge protector’s energy efficiency. If energy efficiency is important to you look for a “green” surge protector, which has special circuitry to reduce energy consumption.


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