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Power Conditioner vs Surge Protector: Which Should You Use?

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By Scott Winstead

power conditioner vs surge protector

Trying to understand the difference between a power conditioner vs surge protector?

While working on my recordings for my eLearning podcasts, I constantly tried many different ways to improve the quality of my recordings as well as give my equipment the best care.

One of the ways I tried to do this was testing out both power conditioners (also known as line conditioners) and surge protectors. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to pass on my learned knowledge to others through this article.

Below, I will explain what a power conditioner is, why you may need one, the main differences between power conditioners vs surge protectors, and help you decide which one to choose for you and your needs.

After many years of experience using these tools as well as conducting lots of research, my goal is to help others out by saving them countless hours of searching for information and providing the knowledge that I have learned.


What is a Power Conditioner and Why Do You Need It?

A power conditioner, also commonly referred to as a line conditioner, is a neat device that was created to improve the overall quality of the power that is going to your electrical equipment.

When the power goes through your home’s electrical system, it needs to travel to your everyday appliances, such as a refrigerator or an air conditioner.

However, it can experience power fluctuations or interference from low-quality wiring, other appliances using the incoming power, or machinery.

A Line Conditioner Keeps My Gear Happy and Healthy

When this happens, you may experience disturbances in your appliances. For example, your lights may flicker or the picture may look distorted on your television.

Most people who experience these situations typically ignore them, which may cause your appliances to work harder than needed. If this happens, they may wear out a lot quicker than expected and need to be replaced more often.

A line conditioner can step in and use filters to isolate power outlets and get rid of any possible interferences.

This is useful because it provides the correct voltage level to sensitive electrical equipment, which increases your appliances’ ability to work efficiently and safely at the proper voltage.

It Does a Great Job at Removing Noise From the Power

When the electricity is causing distortions to your appliances, it is often referred to as “dirty power.”

A line conditioner will come in and clean up your power, helping it run more effectively. If you would like to ensure that your appliances are reaching the correct voltage, my advice is to purchase a line conditioner.

This device not only helps my podcasts by ensuring that the power reaching my recording devices are the proper voltage limit that it was designed to run at, but a line conditioner also offers excellent filtering.

My Audio Gear Can Perform to Its Best Ability When Receiving Clean Power and the Proper Voltage

Before I knew about the benefits of a line conditioner, I would simply plug my audio gear into the wall and assume that I was good to go.

However, I learned that this was not the case. I then purchased a great power conditioner, which began improving the sound quality of my analog and digital gear as well as extending its life. Now, I cannot imagine ever going without this device.

If you would like more details on the line conditioner and its functions, check out Sweetwater’s YouTube video. In this video, Mitch Gallagher explains what a line conditioner is as well as its many benefits.

Another video that I recommend watching is the ElectricMan’s YouTube video. During this quick video, he goes over why you need a line conditioner as well as clarifies what exactly this device does.


What is a Surge Protector and How Does It Work?

A surge protector, sometimes called a surge suppressor, is a device that protects electrical devices from voltage spikes and increases in alternating current circuits.

A voltage spike is typically when the power reaches a high number of volts very quickly (around 1 to 30 microseconds).

When a voltage spike occurs, such as during lightning strikes that lead to power surges or even power outages, it can destroy your electronics that are plugged in, such as audio equipment, computers, televisions, modems, and so much more.

Surge protectors try to limit the voltage supply to any electric device by blocking any unwanted voltages above a certain limit.

The majority of surge protectors send the electrical current from the wall outlet to all of your electronic devices that are plugged into its power strip. If the voltage starts to surge, this neat device will divert the extra power supply to the outlet’s grounding wire.

One of the most important components of surge protection is the Metal Oxide Varistor (MOV), which is responsible for diverting the extra voltage. The MOV can easily burn out with one voltage spike. Therefore, I recommend purchasing a surge protector that is equipped with a light that lets you know if the device is working properly.

MOV Is Responsible for Diverting the Extra Voltage

Additionally, an important term that you should remember is “clamping voltage.” This term is the maximum amount of power that can go through a surge protector before it restricts further voltage from going to an electrical device or computer. It is very important that you check the clamping voltage when searching for the perfect surge protector. By doing this, your surge protection will last longer as well as protect your gadgets from larger voltage spikes and power surges.

In my opinion, the risk is not worth it, and you should only look at surge protectors with at least a 600 or higher voltage limit. Most computers come with their own clamping voltage, but once that voltage limit is surpassed, the computer will experience damage.

If Your Computer Has a Maximum Voltage Level of 120, It Will Crash if It Receives a Voltage Amount of 121 or Higher

Knowing the clamping voltage and purchasing an excellent surge protector will help ensure that your computer or any other electronic gadget does not experience a higher voltage level than it can handle.

If you are a person who has a lot of devices plugged in like myself, my advice would be to consider buying a surge protector. While recording podcasts, I use a lot of different electronic devices, and I have invested a lot of money into my gear that I use every day. Therefore, I have learned to use a surge protector to protect my equipment and home from any potential voltage surges.

For a brief video on surge protectors and how they work, consider taking a look at GalcoTV’s YouTube video. This video is very informational as Katie Nyberg elaborates on the several duties that a surge protector is responsible for.

If you are interested in watching a more in-depth video explaining the various functions of the surge protector, I suggest watching Techquickie’s YouTube video. This video will teach you all that you need to know about surge protectors in less than six minutes.

By the way: remember that your home studio is nothing without a good mic, find the best mics in this article.


Line Conditioner vs Surge Protector: The Main Differences

A line conditioner and surge protector may seem similar. However, there are several key differences to look at when it comes to these two separate devices. I will point out a few of these differences below.

  • A line conditioner uses its elements to eliminate any possible damages to electronic gadgets, such as system destructions, operation disruptions, or component degradations.
  • A surge protector only limits the damage from potentially destructive events.
  • Surge protectors are unpredictable as they may not be able to handle a certain amount of voltages or may need the MOV replaced.
  • Line conditioners are mostly predictable and repeatable as they are created to handle the same power issues over and over again.
  • Surge protectors focus on limiting voltage.
  • Line conditioners eliminate high voltage as well as clean the power.
  • The only time a surge protector alters the power is when it goes over a certain amount.
  • A line conditioner is always altering the power as its main function is to modify the power and clean it for the electronics connected to it.
  • A line conditioner may seem expensive.
  • A surge protector is cheaper, but it will need to be regularly replaced every few years for your protection.

In order to place all your equipment in one area, you will need a good table. We offer several solutions in this article.


Choosing Between a Power Conditioner vs Surge Protector

If you are looking for a way to protect your equipment or electric appliances, line conditioners/power conditioners and surge protectors are both great options to look at. This can be a difficult decision that must be decided based on your overall needs.

My advice is to choose a line conditioner if you are looking to protect equipment that is very important to you. Big businesses use line conditioners to protect their equipment from electric shocks. Therefore, your smaller home studio or office will most likely do really well with a line conditioner.

Spoiler: Some People Use Both

For someone looking for a cheaper option to the power conditioner, I suggest purchasing a surge protector. This will keep high voltage from being transmitted to your plugged-in electronics. It will also prevent any damages to your equipment.

The only thing that you must keep in mind is that you will need to replace your surge protector every so often, which means this could seem like the cheaper option in the beginning but may end up being more expensive in the long-run than a power conditioner.

Some people choose to use both of these unique devices to give an extra layer of protection. By doing this, you will also give yourself some relief knowing that you are doing all that you can for your electronic gadgets and devices.


Useful Resources


A Final Word on Power Conditioners vs Surge Protectors

I hope that this article was successful in teaching you what a power conditioner is, what a surge protector is, and their main differences. I hope it also was effective in helping you decide which one or if both may work for you and your needs. As a professional who records multiple podcasts a week, both of these devices are essential to my daily needs.

However, you may feel that one has more benefits than the other when it comes to your work. Regardless of what you decide, always do what is best for your equipment.

Still have questions about power conditioners and surge protectors? Leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer you.

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