I know I’m going to get some flack for this entry, but I’m already over it. Yes, I am about to recommend a surge protector that costs $200. No, I’m not crazy. And yes, I like the pretty colors that they come in.
We don’t have a lot of electrical outlets in our workshop. When we tore out the old bar equipment, we removed miles – literally miles – of electric cabling. And speaker cables. Coaxial. Wire for security cameras. Stuff I couldn’t identify.
I probably went overboard in removing outlets from the building. Megan and I each have an outlet in the floor by our workbenches. It is what powers our task lights, charges our phones and spins the occasional drill. It’s enough, except when we have six additional students and another instructor working in the room.
So last year I decided to upgrade the cheap plastic surge protectors we use to help divide the electricity equitably. I did some research, and I ended up with a few of these Conway Electric surge protectors. Though they’re made in California, they’re built like Soviet tanks. The bodies are stout steel plate. The switches make a hugely satisfying “click.” And the cord is cloth wrapped and nicely flexible.
If I built surge protectors, this is exactly how I would build them.
My only complaint about the product is the ordering is a bit weird. You get a confirmation of your order, but it can take weeks before you hear anything more about your shipment. It always comes (I’ve ordered three times). You just have to be patient.
— Christopher Schwarz
Read other entries from The Anarchist’s Gift Guide here.
21 thoughts on “Anarchist Gift Guide Day 13: Conway Electric Surge Protectors”
That should be pretty easy to make. Like the idea. Whats the switch control? I see the circuit breaker in the knockout next to it, talking about the toggle.
Most power strips have an on/off switch for the entire set of outlets; I presume that’s why they included one here. I’ve usually considered that just one more component to wear out eventually, but occasionally it’s useful to be able to power down everything at once (eg when you have multiple lights plugged in and want to turn them on and off centrally). Beats hot-plugging the box’s own power cord….
Interesting that they chose to use outlets with USB power jacks. Convenient, these days… but it has me wondering whether those outlets themselves contain surge-suppressing MOVs. If so, this is essentially just those outlets, a 3U surface-mount wall box with black Decora-style faceplate, switch, fuse socket, power cord and a bit of internal wiring, and it would be easy to make if you’re comfortable with house-voltage wiring. If the outlets don’t have surge suppression built in, add the cost of 3 MOVs and understanding how to set up the protection triangle. On the other hand, I suspect that Conway is buying components in sufficient bulk to drive their costs down, so DIY might not save a lot — and they deserve some profit for the convenience of getting it pre-assembled and for their having seen and addressed the need in the first place.
It’s important to never let your planes be damaged by a power serge!
Yes those pesky Russian weight lifters can be bothersome.
… which is why they travel with government minders — Serge suppressors.
I’m a bit surprised at this post – first, that your building inspector let you get away with this, and second, since you’re generally into safety. Since the fifties the national electric code has required that no point on a wall can be more than 6 feet from a receptacle, and walls bigger than 2 feet must have a receptacle. The reason for this is that running lots of extension cords is quite the fire risk, and a trip hazard to boot. Why not spend the money on a licensed electrician?
That doesn’t really apply here, given that I suspect the real concern is wanting outlets out in the middle of the floor next to the benches. Of course floor outlets do exist if you need outlets out in the middle fairly often, but they’re a pain to install in existing concrete floors and not always a lot friendlier in other floors. Ceiling-hung outlets are also possible but have their own issues.
Other reasons why not electrician: Cost-effectiveness can be one reason. Flexibility might be another, if you expect to need the outlets in different places at different times. No single solution is right for everyone; check your needs and do what works for you.
We are up to local commercial code for a historic structure and we have electrical inspections every year.
The surge suppressors are used to bring electricity from the floor to the bench. So we don’t have to bend over all day. There is no trip hazard as the cord goes between the benches.
Fair enough, I suppose I was thinking of residential code anyway. Just alarm bells going off for me when I imagined 2 outlets in the whole shop and extension cords stretched across the room.
We have at least 10 outlet boxes in the front room. I only mentioned the ones on the floor because those serve the workbenches.
I recently decided to put in a whole-house surge suppressor. For my brand of load center (breaker box), it’s a simple snap-in module, taking up the space of two breakers so it can reach both busses but it has two breakers built into it so there’s no net additional space needed. Does need to be installed by someone competent to work inside the box, of course, but it means I no longer need to feel quite so paranoid about plugging expensive electronics in without their own protector, and it guards hardwired devices too (in-wall smart light switches, for example).
Realistically, probably overkill. But I like the set-it-and-forget-it aspect, and I’m enough of a technogeek that this appealed to me.
Of course if you’re buying outlet strips anyway, and getting them with their own surge-protecting MOVs doesn’t cost noticeably more, there’s nothing wrong with belt and suspenders.
When I wired my house I put an outlet every 6 feet thinking I had it all covered.
Now I wish I had put them at waist level so I could reach them easier with my back issues.
You can never cover all the variables.
These little surge protectors don’t offer much protection unfortunately. A lightning strike will flow through that protector like it’s not even there. You are better off taking a layered approach. Here’s where I would invest my $600: install proper grounding rods, add a whole house surge protector at the panel, and buy less expensive Tripp lite protectors. I used to work in high power environments surrounded by millions of dollars of equipment, and the cost to implement real surge protection is far beyond the value of the equipment most households want to protect. Here’s the cheapest solution: unplug your equipment when not in use.
We use these to bring power from the floor to the benchtops. We plug task lamps into them and the occasional drill. Sometimes we charge our phones during the day.
Tools for tasks.
Actually, for most drills and lights, any surge protection is arguably overkill; the cost of replacement times the likelihood of the protector preventing replacement is less than the cost of the protector. The phones may be more sensitive, but even there the equation may not justify suppression unless you have a more-expensive-than-usual phone and/or don’t back up often enough. BUT, if you’re buying a power strip anyway, the incremental cost of having one with some protection is minimal, and if you like this one from a functional point of view go for it.
(“The perfect is the enemy of the good enough.”)
I’ve been very happy with my Tripp lite protector. I used it to replace a cheap plastic unit that had outlets packed together too tightly. Between fat wall-warts and grounded (3 prong) plugs, I could no longer actually plug everything in anymore. Tripp lite has lots of configurations and I found one for 50 bucks with all the real estate I need.
We have a few of these at our house as well. I bought the first one because I thought it looked cool. I bought the next two because they were so well made. Made in the USA.
Maybe I’m missing something, but it looks like this Conway device is just a MOV surge protector like any other. The MOV is a consumable component, so surge protectors like this are disposable devices. And the MOVs get consumed even without experiencing an obvious surge, so you may not be able to tell if your device is still protective. When I learned this I got SurgeX devices for my sensitive audio equipment. The SurgeX technology doesn’t degrade over time, so it’s much less “disposable”.
If I read the webpage correctly, only the USB is surge protected.
Still, if you’re handy with a screwdriver (that’s what electricians call turn screws), and some parts from the local BORG, you can make a pefectly suitable qual box. Won’t have cloth covered wire, but will still work fine.
I meant QUAD box. Just a box with 2 duplex outlets in it,
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