Holds a Master’s degree in Engineering and is keen on her own home’s climate. Sometimes we think that Carolina owns every single product she writes about – that’s how profound and insightful her reviews always are.
For 8 years, Richard had been working as an HVAC specialist and AC unit installer since his student years. Now, he’s our main consultant on every technical aspect that may arise during our tests and research.
Last updated: January 20, 2021
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Did you know that having an AC surge protector does not necessarily protect your air conditioning appliances from electrical damage? Noteworthy is that there are many different options, all rated at various capacities. As such if you are not careful, you will purchase a protector that is simply not meant for your AC and suffer the consequences later. However, you can avoid this sequence of events by being careful in your shopping. You do this by considering the features and ranking a few top gadgets. From there, you can pick out the best AC surge protector for purchase.
The features that are common for these devices are the type, protection modes, UL rating and MCOV. These will tell you just how much protection your AC is getting. Also, for extra protection, a warranty is essential. In addition to that, you may also benefit from additional outlets that you can then attach to other electrical appliances in the house. This is the information that our team used to rank some of the best AC surge protectors below.
Taking the highest spot on our list is the Intermatic AG3000. If you don’t have much information about surge protectors, you are likely to see the features listed above as jargon. Nevertheless, we can explain some of the terms to you so that you know what you are getting.
The type of surge protector will likely dictate where it is installed and what kinds of devices it can protect. One example is type 1 surge protectors. You may know that your main disconnect serves to isolate your home wiring from the power utility service.
As such, you are allowed to connect the protector either before or after the main disconnect. Consequently, it should provide commercial-grade protection to your whole house.
Type 2 protectors can find a permanent home in an electrical switchboard. This also ensures that it is protecting multiple devices at the same time. The fact that this tool is both a type 1 and a type 2 means installation can be quite versatile.
As if that is not enough, it offers multiple protection modes. One of them, as mentioned above, is L-G which means line to ground and shows the direction of travel for the electric current. Others include L-L and L-N.
Also, the maximum continuous operating voltage is 150V where the electrical path is line to neutral. It also offers twice that capacity where the electrical path is line to line.
When this device is working, the green LED indicator stays on. As such, you should make it a point to periodically check where it is installed to make sure it is in pristine condition.
Also, even if you install it outside the house, it shouldn’t be much cause for concern as it comes with a UV resistant and watertight plastic cover. The warranty on this device is ideal since it protects not only the machine but also the AC and appliances that it is connected to. The only problem is that it doesn’t last long.
What we liked:
Offers protection along multiple electrical paths
A green LED is provided to show the working condition of the device
You have various installation options since it is both a type 1 and type 2 device
The enclosure is weather protected
What could be better:
Installation might require professional help which increases the cost of ownership
The Leviton 51120-1 is another top-rated device for you to consider purchasing. It is undoubtedly the most expensive option on today’s list. What remains is to answer the question of whether or not it is worth the price.
Given where type 2 surge protectors are installed, they are capable of protecting your AC from both externally generated and internally generated power surges. Remember, it is not only lightning or damage to power lines that can cause surges or spikes. Even switching your AC and other power-intensive accessories on and off can cause smaller surges.
You need to protect your appliances from these as well since they may reduce the lifespan of your AC. Where modes are concerned, you get the same level of protection that you get from the editor’s choice.
Also, this tool has its predecessor beat in the warranty. It comes with a limited lifetime warranty. That might account for the high cost of purchase. However, for the manufacturer to have this level of faith in their product means a lot.
Additionally, this surge protector for wall unit air conditioner is underwriters laboratories certified. This is a mark of quality that nobody can deny. If you end up purchasing this product, rest assured that the experts have tested it and given their stamp of approval.
The icing on the cake is the diagnostic indicator. As such, check this indicator periodically so that if power surges occur, they will find you protected.
What we liked:
Comes with a limited lifetime warranty
Offers a diagnostic indicator that tells you the working condition of the surge protector
Protects from both external and internal surges
What could be better:
Expensive to purchase
May need professional help during installation
This tool is for indoor use only, and even external appliances are not covered by the warranty
Another type 2 surge protector to make it onto the list is the EATON CHSPT2ULTRA. If you find the Leviton 51120-1 too expensive but still need something with similar ratings, you can opt to purchase this device.
Right off the bat, it offers line to ground, line to line, and line to neutral protection. Additionally, due to its type 2 status and how it is installed, it doesn’t come with any outlets. Nevertheless, it will still be able to protect your investments.
The UL 3rd gen certification is very impressive as well. As is the tradition with most high-quality surge protectors, even the electronics that are protected by this purchase fall under warranty. As such if this device allows a power surge to go through and damage appliances, the manufacturer will compensate you for that loss as well.
Additionally, the LED status indication is crucial to ensuring that your AC and other electronics are protected. Also, the L-L protection is rated at 300V.
What we liked:
Offers a lifetime warranty
Offers multiple mode protection
What could be better:
Installation for some people is not as easy as the manufacturer claims
The Belkin 12-Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector serves as the first type 3 surge protector for a window air conditioner. There are, of course, some benefits that you can associate with purchasing this type of surge protector that other devices don’t have. The most notable is how affordable these gadgets are. For instance, this product costs a tiny fraction of the amount of money it takes to buy a type 2 protector.
It comes with 12 outlets and needs to be attached to the socket outlets of your home. You can then connect as many appliances as there are outlets on the device. This is inclusive of TVs, laptop chargers and more. Additionally, the cable on this device is 8-feet long and will thus be able to reach your appliances easily in a small room.
This works with L-G and L-L modes providing you and your AC with all the protection required. As well the maximum energy rating is awe-inspiring. After all, it can handle up to a 6000V spike voltage.
To reiterate just how well the manufacturer designed this device, the makers have provided a lifetime warranty. They will replace the protector and even appliances connected to it, such as TVs and ACs that get damaged during a surge or spike in power.
It is also no secret that this tool is UL certified, and that adds to the assurances of quality by the manufacturer.
What we liked:
12 outlets including an AC plug are available
6000V maximum rating
Long 8-feet cable
Easy to install
What could be better:
While it does have 12 outlets, their placement and proximity to each other makes it impossible to attach 12 appliances
Due to the indicator light being very bright the tool might not be ideal for a bedroom where you want total darkness
You can also purchase a 16 dollar alternative that is meant for use with ACs, freezers, washing machines and ice makers. This is connected to an outlet socket in one of your walls. As you can see, it also features an outlet that you can then connect to your AC.
Just like the Belkin 12-Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector, this is a type 3 protector and hence will be a breeze to install.
Using its auto-sense feature, the device will be able to gather information about electric currents and react accordingly. That being said, it has a maximum rating of 250V in the L-L mode. This is not a bad rating and should provide relatively high levels of spike protection.
Also, a three-mode indicator is provided, which will tell you the device’s working state at any time.
What we liked:
Easy to use and install
LED indicator shows the working condition of the device
What could be better:
Doesn’t come with a warranty
Only one outlet is quite minimal
Things to Сonsider
Ideally, you want your purchase to be effective in protecting your AC which is why you can’t afford mistakes in your purchase. Below is a breakdown of all the things you need to think about and look for in potential acquisitions. This way if you read and analyze the data, you will no doubt select the ideal AC surge protector for your needs.
Why buy an AC surge protector and how it works
Just about all the electrical appliances in the house come at a high cost. This is true for ACs as well. Also, power surges in your home tend to happen now and then. These power surges can damage your AC to a point where it no longer works. This is why you need to protect it using an AC surge protector.
When electrical currents are in the normal working range, a surge protector lets them flow so they can continue powering your devices. However, there is the presence of a pressure-sensitive valve that works when the power is in excess. This component serves to redirect the excess energy, so it doesn’t end up damaging your electronics.
Features to consider when choosing a surge protector for an air conditioner
Most manufacturers will provide you with a lot of information about their products so that you can gauge whether the item is worth buying or not. With this data, you should be able to estimate whether the tool is enough for your power protection needs or not.
However, this information might seem like technical jargon to a lot of you. It might also further confuse you rather than make things clear. Nonetheless, if you read the below section, you will know what terms to expect and what they mean.
SPD stands for surge protection device, and even in our list, there are a couple of type options that you may have come across. They range from type 1 to type 3.
Type 1 and type 2 may be able to protect the whole house from surges and not just the AC. Type 1 is installed near the main disconnect. This ensures that power is regulated even before it is provided to the different parts of the house. More often than not, these products are installed outside the home.
Type 2 SPDs are also installed in a central location that is often inside the house. This is the electrical switchboard which still provides electricity to multiple areas of the house. This means numerous appliances are protected by the product.
You can also choose a type 3 SPD such as the Belkin 12-Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector. However, be careful as these are often meant for use with low power appliances such as a TV, fan or sound system. Usually, they take the form of a power strip and may even have multiple outputs that you can connect to your electronics.
Protection modes can also help you decide whether you want to purchase a particular device or not. They are denoted as L-L, L-G, or L-N. The more protection modes a device offers, the more it can protect against power surges from different sources. This is one of the reasons why the Leviton 51120-1 is so highly rated.
Maximum Surge Current Capacity
You also want to be able to protect your device against the largest of surges. This is why you choose devices with a large maximum surge current capacity. If you live in an area prone to lightning strikes, you may want to pay close attention to this area even more. This is because lightning often has the effect of increasing the current to unprecedented levels.
Short Circuit Current Rating (SCCR)
Additionally, it would be smart to choose a tool with a very high short circuit current rating. This way, when a short circuit does happen, and a current is trapped in the device, the purchase will be able to withstand it until the said current can be released safely.
Maximum Continuous Operating Voltage (MCOV)
We have also endeavored to provide the MCOV figures for all the tools that we listed above. So long as the voltage stays below this value, your appliances will also receive a steady supply of the power they need. Check these values and compare them to the power ratings of your appliances if you want the best results.
NEMA Enclosure Type
Also, the device you choose should come with an enclosure that is compatible with where it is supposed to be installed. Different NEMA enclosure types have different characteristics. Some will protect against dust. For such a device, it cannot be installed outdoors since moisture may lead to damage.
Some feature UV resistant and watertight enclosures like that of the Intermatic AG3000 mentioned above. For this tool, installation outside the house shouldn’t be problematic. This implies that you should pay particular attention to the enclosure type of any device you deem worth buying. Of course, this will allow for better planning where the installation is concerned.
This is different from most of the other measures of quality since the lower the value, the better.
The clamping voltage, of course, refers to how much power the protector will allow through before it starts to divert it. A good rating is about 400v, but you can go even lower than that for more protection to your devices.
Number of outlets
This only applies to type 3 devices such as the Pipeman’s Installation Solution PROTECTX-AC and the Belkin 12-Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector. Even with these two examples, the difference in the number of outlets is astounding. Nevertheless, if you only want to connect one AC machine to the surge protector, why would you choose a device with 12 outlets? On the other hand inventions with multiple outlets give you the option of connecting multiple devices directly, which is a huge benefit.
Most high-quality devices will also be able to tell you when a surge or spike is happening. For that information, you just need to look at the LED lights provided. As such you won’t be left wondering why the AC suddenly went off. Also, if the tool is working normally, it should be able to show you some indication of the same.
If such a device fails during a power surge, you will lose more than the surge protector. You will likely have to use thousands of dollars replacing your AC, TV, refrigerator and a bunch of other electronics. This being the case, you should choose only the best surge protectors even if it means spending more money.
Also, the best surge protectors provide a warranty for all connected appliances as well. The duration of the warranty also matters, which is why the EATON CHSPT2ULTRA is a top product with its lifetime warranty.
Modern surge protectors come with status indicators, as mentioned above. As such, there should be a way to identify whether the device is working or not. A likely scenario is that the status indicators will shut off the LED lights and that may tell you that you need to buy a new one.
It all depends on the device that you intend to connect to the surge protector. If for instance, you are connecting a high quality and expensive AC you might even want to go for a product rated at 2000 joules or above. If it doesn’t use up that much power and is cheaper even the 900-joule option may be sufficient.
They are also powerful enough to handle the large currents of power surges. The AG3000, for instance, stands out by being weather-sealed, UL certified, among other benefits. When you start looking into the Leviton 51120-1, you find impressive features there as well. The lifetime warranty, for instance, deserves note.
Our third pick as well has a lot of the benefits of its predecessor without being as expensive. It would thus provide a lot of potential buyers with a suitable alternative to the Leviton 51120-1. Nonetheless, the above list only consists of five options. It should, therefore, be a piece of cake to figure out which protector would work with your current home AC. If you can do that, your purchase will be beneficial for ages to come.