Surge suppressors protect your electronics from spikes in power. Whether they're caused by lightning strikes, appliances shutting off or some other reason, these spikes can harm your device's power supplies and internal circuitry. However, surge suppressors have a secondary benefit. Turning them, and the devices plugged into them off, can save significant money.
If you've heard surge suppression in and of itself reduces your electric bill, you've been sold a bill of goods. It's true that a power surge sends more power into your electronic equipment and speeds up your meter. However, that power is billed at a rate of 1,000 watts per hour. A surge lasting just a second or two, which is less than 1/1000th of an hour, is unlikely to make much of a difference in your electric bill.
When you turn your electronic devices off, many of them aren't really off -- they're just on standby. The power they're drawing while you think they're off is a phantom load, and the loads from these vampire devices can add up very quickly. For example, your bookshelf stereo draws 8.3 watts and a microwave 3.08 when you think they're off. Plugging them into a surge suppressor and turning it off eliminates the phantom loads.
Given that all of the small phantom loads typically add up to about 6 percent of your home's energy usage, flipping the switch can save you a meaningful amount of money. For example, just turning your bookshelf stereo off for the 18 hours a day will save 149.4 watts per day or over 54 kilowatt hours per year. That won't make a gigantic difference by itself, but every little bit can add up.
Switching your surge suppressor off has a second money-saving benefit. The circuitry is designed to stop surges of a certain size, but a large one could go through the suppressor and into the connected equipment. It could also burn out the surge strip itself. Switching it off protects the suppressor and any connected devices from this risk.
- Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images