Differences Between a Power Strip & a Surge Protector

Power strips and surge protectors are commonly used around the world today. There is a common misunderstanding about the differences between a "power strip" and "surge protector," as the terms are often used for the same equipment.


Power Strip Basics

A power strip is a way of sharing a single electrical outlet with multiple pieces of electrical equipment. It is generally a series of electrical outlets contained in an electrically shielded case, which are connected to a single cable with a male electrical plug on one side. This plugs into an electrical outlet.

Surge Protector Basics

A surge protector is an entirely different piece of equipment. It is a component used to protect from surges in electricity coming through a wall outlet. Such surges can be caused by natural phenomena, such as lightning, and can also be caused by electrical appliances, such as those with large motors inside.

Surge Protector Types

Different types of surge protectors provide protection from different kinds of electrical surges. Any wire carrying electricity in a building can be a possible source of an electrical surge. This includes telephone lines and cables used for television.

Colloquial Misunderstanding

A common misunderstanding has apparently led many people to believe that a power strip and a surge protector are the same thing, or that every power strip includes a surge protector. This is likely due to surge protectors being included on many power strips and with the words "surge protector" being printed on power strips that do feature surge protectors.


Many people may choose to purchase the most inexpensive power strip in a store, thinking there is no difference, while not realizing the purpose of a surge protector. If relatively expensive and sensitive equipment such as home electronics are being connected to a power strip, it is advisable to purchase a power strip with a surge protector.