Green Your Home with Tech: Part 1

APC Power-Saving Surge Arrest Power Strip

$30 at

Most computer users should already be using a protective power strip to keep their equipment safe in the event of a lightning storm or other unexpected power surges. With so many on the market, it was reassuring to see a few dedicated to saving electricity, as well. The APC Power-Saving SurgeArrest seemed to include all the features we would want in such a strip and it was very basic to set up and use.

The unit has a basic On/Off control that could be used as a Master control to all appliances plugged into it. We knew that it was working right away, as it had a green light indicating Protection Working. It also featured a red light to alert users of potential building wiring faults, which we fortunately didn't encounter in our test.

The SurgeArrest functions like many protectors, tripping the circuit breaker when overloaded, and forcing the black Reset button to pop out. As a remedy, remove devices one at a time until a safe load is reached, then reset the circuit by pressing the black button again.

Perhaps the best feature of the SurgeArrest is the Master/Controlled Outlets that let your computer control up to three peripheral devices, which can significantly reduce usage of unused appliances (or phantom loads). To see it in action, I set up my desktop tower as the Master Outlet (which was clearly marked on the power strip). I then plugged in my personal printer, speakers, and monitor into the three Controlled Outlets. Every time my computer would go into Hibernation or Power-Save mode, the three peripherals would lose power and shut down. (Note: to be sure that your computer is set up for the Power Saving feature, access Power Options and the Power Schemes under the Control Panel of Windows-based systems. Mac users can do the same thing with Energy Saver in the System Preferences.

This configuration made it easy to cut down on power used by the peripherals that I tend to leave on most of the time, with zero effort on my part. The remaining outlets were perfect for items such as my router and shared Wi-Fi printer that I didn’t want to power down whenever my desktop went into hibernation mode. 

Home network users will need to be aware of what peripherals will be used exclusively by the Master machine. In our home, it wouldn’t include anything that my laptop or other wireless devices need to access. These items should not be plugged into the Controlled Outlets.

The SurgeArrest is nothing fancy to look at, but it covers about everything you would need in a unit. With the added modem, fax, and phone protection (which allows you to plug in a standard phone cable into its jack), you can keep your phone wiring safe from surges, as well. We also liked the wall mounting feature, which lets you keep your cords up off the floor and in a safer, cleaner area of your office.

The SurgeArrest from APC has a total of seven outlets.