Unless you’ve beamed down from another planet, you’ve certainly used a power strip at some point. You probably even have several in your home or workplace without knowing what they’re called.
But like any electrical component, using a power strip correctly can make a huge difference in keeping electrical faults down. So, even if you’ve used this equipment before without any problems, it doesn’t hurt to learn more about its safety and functionality.
Read below for everything there is to know about power strips.
What Is A Power Strip?
A power strip is an electrical device made up of a cord with a plug on one end and one or more outlets on the other. These components go by many other names, including connector strips, edge connectors, extension cords, extension leads, feed rods, feed belts, and feeder belts.
Some publications use the terms’ power strips’ and surge protectors’ interchangeably. However, the two components aren’t entirely the same. As you shall find, surge protection is a common feature in many power strips, but surge protectors do not serve the key functions as power strips.
What Are The Different Types Of Power Strips?
Connector strips come in many shapes, sizes and configurations. The choice of one type over the others depends on several factors, including the distance you intend to position the device from your grounded AC outlet and the exact wall position of the AC outlet.
Most power strips offer standard outlet configurations. However, some also let you experiment with other quirky configurations to suit your specific connection needs. These include right angle power strips, front-facing strips, rear-facing strips, and end-mounted strips.
What Are The Benefits Of A Power Strip?
Power strips are mainly used to power multiple electrical devices simultaneously. Without extension cords, the number of electrical appliances you can use at a time must be equal to the number of power outlets in the room. This can be grossly inconvenient, considering that most housing units usually contain only a few electrical outlets.
Connector strips are also beneficial when you need to power an electrical appliance from a considerable distance from the wall sockets. This is mainly if the equipment in question must be used from a location far from the wall outlets, for example, due to its bulky size.
Another commonly-overlooked benefit of power strips is their energy-saving abilities. These electrical components usually feature a master switch that prevents the devices connected to them from using standby power.
What Are The Basic Features To Look For When Shopping For Power Strips?
Most power strips feature an extension cord of around one foot or 0.3 meters. However, some may have cords as long as 30 feet (10 meters).
Longer connector strips means you can connect devices located relatively far from the wall power outlet. But on the flip side, longer cables are usually less effective at handling electrical current than short ones.
Number of Sockets
A power cord can have one socket, a dozen sockets, or even more. The more, the merrier.
The thickness of a power strip’s extension cable also plays a massive role in determining its current-handling abilities. Thicker cables can carry more current, making them suitable for using with heavy-duty appliances.
Electrical cables are usually assigned gauge ratings. The smaller the number, the thicker the diameter.
Most importantly, note that ‘gauge’ here refers to the thickness of the actual copper wire, not the insulation material.
We’ve already pointed out the vital role of a power strip’s master switch in preventing standby power from being used by the connected electrical appliances. This feature also offers extra convenience as it automatically cuts power to all connected devices instead of doing so for each individual appliance.
Note that not all extension leads come with a master switch. So, it pays to countercheck before completing your purchase.
Choose a power strip that includes individual switches for each socket and the master switch as a bonus point. This gives you extra flexibility in terms of selecting the specific equipment you can switch on/off.
Besides, there should be indicator lights on each switch. This allows you to know whether the sockets are on or off.
Energy Monitoring Features
Still on energy saving, some power strips come with intelligent features that detect when connected appliances are in standby mode and then correspond by cutting the power supply to that equipment.
Ideally, these extension cords will detect when power usage falls below a certain threshold, such as 10% of the appliance’s normal consumption, before cutting off the electrical supply.
Advancements in electrical technology have significantly reduced the incidences of electrical faults. However, electricity remains one of man’s most unpredictable inventions, and things can easily go wrong even in the most regulated systems.
A considerable number of electrical malfunctions result from voltage spikes. And that’s why you need power strips with advanced surge protection capabilities.
If you’re new to electrical components and have trouble differentiating between power strips and surge protectors, keep your eyes out for a ‘joules’ rating on the device. Joules are a unit used to measure energy; only surge protectors or power strips containing in-built surge protectors usually have the rating.
When a surge protector detects voltage spikes above acceptable levels, it diverts extra electricity into the grounding wire. It’s important to note that the initial joule rating of a surge protector depletes over time.
What Bonus Features Should A Power Strip Have?
- USB Charging – USB charging ports are useful for charging mobile devices, including smartphones, e-readers, and laptops.
- GFCI Plug – A GFCI plug distributes power to all connected electrical appliances in harsh environments, protecting users from electrical shocks during wet or humid conditions.
- Antimicrobial Coating – Some power strips have an antimicrobial coating to reduce bacterial contamination, especially in hospitals and other health facilities.
- Voice Assistant Compatibility – Many smart connector strips nowadays integrate with voice assistant solutions, such as Alexa, for hands-off usage.
What Devices Can You Connect To A Power Strip?
The following are some common electrical appliances you can use with a connector strip;
- Home equipment, such as televisions, woofers, videogame systems, smartphones, laptops, water dispensers, and refrigerators
- Office equipment, such as desktops, monitors, printers, and photocopiers
- Server rooms and data center equipment, such as network and wireless hardware
Power strips are essential electrical components every household or workplace should have. We hope you can use this article as a guide the next time you’re looking for high-quality connector strips.