Ever since they were developed, surge protectors have been providing us with safe places to plug in our computers and home electronics, and have protected our most sensitive devices from the damaging effects of power surges and spikes. But while they've provided a very valuable service to electronics owners everywhere, surge protectors have, for the most part, been known as single-function devices… until now.
No longer limited to the old, familiar block-style design or even a single purpose, these cleverly modern surge protectors come in shapes and styles that are not only safer and more convenient, but also more décor-friendly than ever. And they even multitask: nowadays, surge suppressors do double-duty as power meters, energy savers, and even cable concealers.
Here's a roundup of some of our favorites, with tips on when and where to use them:
4 Outlet Rotating Surge Protector
Why park a surge protection unit on the floor when you can plug it right into a wall receptacle? 360 Electrical's take on the classic surge protector has one of the least cluttering designs that we've seen – with only 4 outlets, this mini surge suppressor plugs in right at the source, so it won't take up any valuable real estate. And despite its diminutive size, this clever device can actually finagle accommodations for up to 4 bulky adapters, thanks to the fact that each of its outlets rotate 360°, and can be locked into any one of 18 possible positions.
The perfect place to use it: In small offices or living spaces that have no room for unnecessary bulk. It's also great for hotel rooms – a must-have travel companion for laptop-toting business travelers.
Tripp Lite Energy-Saving ECO UPS System
It may be a surge protector’s job to distribute power to needy electronics, but thanks to all of the energy conservation advances that have been made, some PDUs can actually cut down on electricity use and your utility bill. Case in point: the ECO Series UPS System from Tripp Lite. Designed with specially-programmed "intuitive" outlets, this power-saving surge protector distinguishes between primary devices like computers and TVs, and secondary peripherals like printers, multi-media speakers, DVD players and gaming consoles. When a primary device is shut off, it's sensed by the surge protector, which then automatically cuts power to the peripherals attached to it. It's a simple solution with a big long-term payoff.
The perfect place to use it: Alongside home theater and office setups in homes and businesses where green living and money savings are a priority.
Socket Sense Adjustable Surge Protector
Have you ever purchased a power strip and then felt cheated when a few chunky plugs and adapters took up more than their fair share of space, and only let you use half of the outlets? Get the payback you deserve with an adjustable surge protector like the Socket Sense™. With a long and lean power strip design, this surge suppressor actually expands lengthwise as needed, to separate the individual outlets and leave plenty of room for even the bulkiest adapters.
The perfect place to use it: Anywhere that multiple cell phone chargers or computer components are competing for power outlets.
Is your surge protector working for you, or are you working for it? When it comes to plugging your electronics into a surge suppressor, you shouldn't have to struggle to get cables into a configuration that matches the outlets' layout. In our opinion, the outlets should meet you halfway. That's why we're crazy about the Power Squid® Calamari, a uniquely-shaped home theater surge protector whose receptacles are located at the ends of 6 "tentacles." These arm-like mini extension cords not only flex in any direction for more convenient access, but also do a flawless job of accommodating large plugs and connectors.
The perfect place to use it: Gadget-packed home theater systems with cables coming from every direction.
Belkin Compact Surge Protector
The best surge protector is an invisible surge protector, but how do you get one to disappear from sight? Hide it behind your furniture, of course. That prospect might sound a little daunting if you're saddled with a cinderblock of a PDU, but it's no problem with the Compact Surge Protector from Belkin. This slim and vertically-oriented surge suppressor can cozy right up against a wall, and is the ideal shape for squeezing between walls and nice big camouflaging sofas and desks. Make a surge protector vanish? Too easy.
The perfect place to use it: Well-decorated rooms where visible electronics would ruin the aesthetics.
Belkin Concealed Surge Protector
When you have toddlers and pets around, the last thing you want is for cables and plugs to become play objects or chew toys. If you're worried that the curious and low-to-the-ground cuties in your life will suffer nasty shocks when they decide to go exploring, one of the best preventive measures you can take is to conceal plugs and excess cord length. An easy way to take care of both in one shot is to plug into Belkin's Concealed Surge Protector, which has a flip-closed lid that creates a barrier between tempting cables and plugs and your little ones.
The perfect place to use it: Electronics-laden rooms that are frequented by small children and pets.
Kill A Watt™ PS Electricity Usage Monitoring Power Strip
It's always been said that no one likes a tattle-tale, but it turns out that in some cases, they can actually come in handy. Take the P3 Kill A Watt™ PS surge protector, for example. In addition to distributing power to home and office electronics and keeping power surges at bay, this 8-outlet surge suppressor also tells you exactly how much power the devices plugged into it consume, and how much money they're costing you to operate. Armed with this data, you can decide which appliances to use less frequently or cut out altogether. Take it from us: this is one informant whose tips really pay off.