Surge Protectors

Surge protectors regulate the supply of voltage to electric devices. They protect from spikes or surges of electric energy which may be damaging to equipment connected to an electrical supply such as computers, televisions, telephones, and stereo equipment. Many surge protectors are available with multiple outlets upon one surge protection strip for connection of several devices. Surge protectors are particularly useful during electrical storms and prevent burnout of many high cost household appliances and devices once extremely vulnerable to such voltage spikes.

Surge Protector Defects

Poorly constructed surge protectors pose a significant fire, shock, or electrocution hazard risk, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In the five years spanning from 1994 to 1999, the CPSC recalled over 2 million cords, surge protectors, and power strips due to faulty wiring or components, undersized wiring, loose connections, or improper grounding. Most of the recalled items were sold at discount stores and made in China. Many had counterfeit Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification labels, leading consumers to believe the surge protectors had been approved for safe use in the U.S.

Surge Protector Recalls

Some examples of surge protectors recalled in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission due to documented injury, household property damage, or extreme potential for such risk through standard use by consumers are:

  • In 1995, 4,200 surge arrestors were recalled by Square D Company of Illinois due to degradation of the components over time, causing fire risk. Five consumer-owned arrestors caught fire and two properties were damaged.
  • Two Newpoint surge protectors overheated and melted during one evening in a Houston office in January 2003. An employee arrived in the morning and smelled smoke and upon further investigation found the two overheating surge protector strips. Property damage was caused to computer equipment.
  • Recalled surge protectors with defective design or manufacturing include :
    • General Electric – 45,000 recalled in 1988
    • Chandur Hasso Inc – 18,000 recalled due to fire, shock and electrocution hazard in 1997
    • Supreme Premium – 7,500 recalled due to fire, shock and electrocution hazard in 1997
    • MBR Industries – 2,900 recalled due to undersized and loose wires, loose connections, and improper grounding, which present fire, shock, and electrocution hazards in 1997
    • Trisonic – 43,500 recalled in 1997 due to fire, shock and electrocution hazard
    • Belkin, International – 68,700 recalled in 2009 due to cracked molding and shock hazard

Some examples of surge protector general failure include:

  • In September 2008, a faulty surge protector was to blame for a fire started during the night in a mobile home bedroom. A 10-year-old boy awoke to smoke in his bedroom, woke his younger brother and mother, and likely saved the entire family from imminent death.
  • An electrical malfunction within a surge protector was to blame for a Kauai clothing store’s destruction by fire in January 2008.
  • A faulty surge protector was blamed for a fire that destroyed a Pittsburgh area apartment in 2008. The resident had a laptop, lamp, and stereo connected to the surge protector when the blaze started.

Statistics

According to the CPSC, 72 percent of sampled surge protectors from 83 different sales locations across the country failed to meet basic safety certification standards issued by the Underwriters Laboratories. In 1996, 7,100 fires, 120 deaths, 12,000 emergency room visits, and 2,500 general medical treatments were associated with faulty extension cords and surge protectors.