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  • Surge Protectors vs. Extension Cords: Which Should I Buy?
Technology Articles > Hardware > Power Supplies > Surge Protectors vs. Extension Cords: Which Should I Buy?

It is important to take good care of your computer and electronics. Individuals will choose to use a surge protector over an extension cord, or vice versa, but never realize the impact this decision could make on their devices. What is the difference between a surge protector and an extension cord? How could they make a difference in the way your computers, laptops and gaming systems function?

Extension Cords
Although many extension cords may look similar, there are many discerning factors. First, an extension cord is often chosen based on its length, allowing you to power objects that are further away from electrical outlets. Second, there are two wire and three wire extension cords. The two wire cords are usually all you need for simple home appliances, such as lamps and stereos while the three wire cords are used for heavy duty machinery or extreme environmental circumstances. These three-wire cords are often characterized by their bright yellow or orange colors. Additionally, some extension cords are grounded, having a three-pronged entry for the power cord. Others cords are ungrounded, meaning that you can only plug a two-pronged or ungrounded electrical appliance into them. The use of the grounding sprocket is a safety device. Finally, extension cords are often chosen based on their amperage. The higher amperage cords are used for the more heavy duty equipment. Higher amperage cords are often necessary to carry power longer distances.

Surge Protectors
Surge protectors differ from extension cords in a variety of ways. You may find surge protectors that give you extra length and extension cords with surge protection. The surge protector was created to divert any extra power surges that might come through the electrical outlets. Although these are often only minor surges of electricity, they can greatly damage your electronics. A surge protector can either block or divert this electrical surge by grounding it. The metal oxide varistors inside are crucial to this performance. Each protector is specifically labeled to tell you how much energy it will allow before blocking the surge. Thus, the lower the number, the higher the protection will be, although the life span of the surge protector will be shorter. Another number that is labeled on surge protectors are the joules. The purpose of the joules label is to let you know how much energy will be absorbed before the protector will fail. One important thing to realize about surge protectors is that while an electrical surge may occur for several nano- or microseconds, a surge protector will usually only take a few nanoseconds, enabling it to activate before the peak of the surge is in progress.

Extension cords are crucial when you need to stretch an appliance from one location to a distant electrical outlet, while surge protectors help keep your equipment safe. The two can greatly differ in price: depending on type and size, extension cords range in price from $1 to $250, and surge protectors from $3 to $1,200. Remember that the price you pay for power supply may be just a fraction of the equipment you are trying to protect.