Not All Power is Created Equal

How to Choose the Right Surge Protector

Austere Power with Omniport USB


Nearly everybody knows that you need a surge protector for your home entertainment system and home office. However, you may not know that power products are not all created equal.

Is the $20.00 power strip sold at the “Deal Store” any good?

What do you get when you pay more for a power product?

It turns out the answer to those questions can get complicated as some surge protector power strips offer a lot more than just protection from power spikes and lightning hits (i.e. Isolated Noise Filtration, Flameless MOVs, 45 Watt Power Delivery, etc.), but a good place to start is with the Joule rating.

A Joule rating tells you how much energy the surge protector can absorb and thus safely protect the equipment plugged in to it. The higher the joule rating, the more robust the surge protector and the longer it will likely protect. Joule ratings are one of the first features you’ll see noted on the product box. If you don’t see it, that should be a red flag; that means you’re either buying a power strip that has no surge protection, or the rating is so low that the manufacturer chose to not call it out. Anyone serious about protecting their device from surge and their homes from a potential fire should stay away from any power product that does not have a solid Joule rating.


“Joule” comes from James Prescott Joule, a brewer from London in the 1850’s. Jimmy Joule was one of the first industrialists to begin using electric engines and he came up with a way of measuring the output of electricity, or Joule. In addition to a genius brewmaster, he was also a prankster who would electrify the doorknobs in his house. Shocking!

OK, so more Joules are better, but how many do you need?

An infinite number of Joules would be best, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

Here’s why:

At the heart of your Joule rating is something called a Metal Oxide Varistor (MOV). An MOV is what absorbs the excess voltage that can damage your equipment. Unfortunately, these don’t last forever. The average household in the US has more than 150 little spikes in voltage all day long. These little spikes wear out the MOVs over time. It’s like stretching a rubber band over and over. Eventually the rubber band will snap. It’s the same principle with an MOV- they have finite lives and will eventually die.


Joules Bank


A Joule rating is like a bank account with finite funds. Each little surge makes a withdrawal out of your Joule account until eventually your account is empty and you are left with no protection. The “Deal Store” surge protector may have 500 to 1000 Joules that will likely only last for one or two years. Once the MOVs are worn out, your account is closed leaving you completely unprotected. And unless your power supply also has an indicator that it has run out of Joules, you will not know that you are at risk.

That’s right, you will not know it.

And even unprotected, your surge protector will continue to deliver power, likely giving us the false sense of security that everything is fine when you really have nothing stopping any surge, preventing a possible fire or protecting you from any of the consequences of ungoverned power.

Some brands choose to do better with their power and protect products. Austere is proud to be one of them. Our Austere III SeriesV Series, and Austere VII Series Power surge protectors have 2500, 3000, 3500, and 4000 Joules ratings. That’s a huge Joule account and is significantly more than bargain surge protectors offer. In fact, Austere power should provide protection for up to five-times longer so you could either buy and replace all bargain surge protectors in your house year-over-year, for about the same cost – and significantly higher carbon footprint -  as a single Austere power product. Austere also guarantees protection will last for five years and all Austere Power products have an blue LED indicator that lets you know your MOVs are intact and working. There’s no guesswork involved. And that’s peace of mind you just can’t get from a sub-par power strip.

Austere Power LED Indicators

Power Icon Power LED \\ This indicates the power strip is plugged in and receiving power.
Ground Icon Ground LED \\ This indicates that the unit is plugged into a properly grounded circuit.
Protected Icon Protected LED \\ This indicates the power strip’s surge suppression components are intact and providing full protection against surges.
For more information on your Austere Power unit, please review our product user guide


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