Let's Take a Trip Inside Budget Power Bars, Part Three

About the author
Daniel Sauvageau

Daniel Sauvageau is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He’s known for his feature tear-downs of components and peripherals.

Read more
This thread is closed for comments
21 comments
    Your comment
  • blackmagnum
    Don't use a $10 powerstrip with your $1000 equipment; said my favorite salesman.
  • Amdlova
    thank you daniel for another bad trip. when i look for those bars i have a bad feeling about what happens inside of it.
  • babernet_1
    Is it just me? For this and another similar presentation I can only get one picture switch then the rest of the pics are locked, I cannot see them.
  • mortsmi7
    Makes me wonder how the power strips like the 3' 12 outlet TrippLite bars fare.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    1335368 said:
    thank you daniel for another bad trip. when i look for those bars i have a bad feeling about what happens inside of it.

    Those last three were fairly decent and the Belkin was not too bad either as far as basic surge protection go.

    If you want dangerous everyday stuff, someone asked me to take a look inside their LG microwave yesterday. Complaint: not heating up. Cause of failure: door safety micro-switch rated for only 0.6A at 125V in series with the HV transformer which should draw at least 10A based on the oven's 1100W rating, likely more due to reactive power and crest factor. The connector covers were melted and partially carbonized onto the switch.
  • rdc85
    745156 said:
    Is it just me? For this and another similar presentation I can only get one picture switch then the rest of the pics are locked, I cannot see them.


    usually caused by connection problem (lag)..
    try refresh and wait a while the pic is loading...
  • aentreri00
    I can't read the article, the arrow key takes me to digikey.
  • hydac8
    How about doing a tear down of European power strips ? I'm sure it would be interesting for non US residents
  • synphul
    Doesn't surprise me, seems like as time goes on and tech 'improves' basics get crappier. Most anything electrical anymore is a fright fest, especially compared to older 'outdated' things. I've noticed this with a variety of electrical appliances. Old funky power bars no one gave a second thought about just worked. New ones with all the bells and whistles are melting down.

    Who used to worry much over their psu for their pc? So long as it had an appropriate wattage rating, it just worked. Now? Buzzing, popping noises, puffs of smoke, melted sata power wires, you name it. Literal Chernobyl in a box. Countless stories recently of people using electric heat tape to keep their pipes from freezing (since it's winter here in the u.s.) and fires breaking out. Many just from friends of mine alone who have smelled burning and smoke and panicked, shut off their main house power. Fire dept confirmed they did the smart thing since it was burning their home's insulation and about to start a major house fire.

    I've personally had 2 electric heaters just within the past couple of months getting so hot that they melt the plugs. To the point the contact spades are literally falling out of them and the plastic insulated plug head is like goo. On a 1500w heater, that's ridiculous (although at least I didn't experience blue sparks or smoke/flames emitting from the front as others have). That's not a 'cheapy' either, it was a $100 DeLonghi. Everything electrical anymore is flat getting scary terrible in build quality and worse than not performing as we'd hoped is becoming a health and fire hazard.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    1876530 said:
    How about doing a tear down of European power strips ? I'm sure it would be interesting for non US residents

    The main problem with that would be the basic fact that european power accessories are not readily available in North America.

    470171 said:
    Doesn't surprise me, seems like as time goes on and tech 'improves' basics get crappier. Most anything electrical anymore is a fright fest, especially compared to older 'outdated' things.

    If you want something frightening, I saw a video on youtube a few months ago of someone doing dangerous appliance tear-downs. I do not remember if it was an Euro or Australian bar but it was absolutely horrible: packaging said it had a fuse or breaker but there were none, it said it had surge protection but there was none, same for filtering. It claimed to be heavy-duty but its power cord was copper-plated aluminum thinner than #16. The outlets were strung together using #18 gauge copper-plated aluminum. Wiring insulation started melting with the bar passing merely 8A out of its 16A rating. At 10A, wiring caught on fire. Packaging claimed the product used fire-resistant material but the plastic failed to put itself out after power was removed.

    I think none of the units I had in my three parts tear down come anywhere near that horrible - though I did not do actual load/conductivity or flamability tests.
  • synphul
    That is scary. It's no surprise that as time moves on the objective is to crank out more product at the lowest cost possible. Aside from a few higher quality products that means the majority is providing people with the 'lowest common denominator' for quality and when mixed with something as unforgiving as electricity it just makes for a bad mix. I'm amazed with various regulations in place whether it's UL or others how products like these make it to store shelves with blatant shortcomings and misrepresentation.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    470171 said:
    I'm amazed with various regulations in place whether it's UL or others how products like these make it to store shelves with blatant shortcomings and misrepresentation.

    UL and its equivalents are only a collection of safety standards. In many jurisdictions, compliance with any such safety standards is optional and it is up to the consumer to make sure the products they buy have valid safety certification.

    As for false advertising and misrepresentation, I imagine it could be escalated to fraud and criminal negligence in most developed countries - assuming authorities can get their hands on the vendor or manufacturer.

    For things ordered direct from China (don't remember if that was the case in the uber-horrible power strip story), getting hold of the seller or manufacturer is usually a lost cause.
  • bigT123
    So what power strips DO you recommend? I use the mid range APC's myself around $30 per strip. Not exactly sure what additional features it would realy provide (or not)
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    1885016 said:
    So what power strips DO you recommend? I use the mid range APC's myself around $30 per strip. Not exactly sure what additional features it would realy provide (or not)

    Of those I have done tear downs of so far, the SurgeArrest Pro would be my first pick.

    Next month's unit, which I bought during Boxing Week for $30, would have stolen that spot were it not for a worrisome manufacturing defect.

    Hints: it is a new brand as far as my tear downs are concerned, a well-known brand too, but not one normally featured on THG.
  • happyballz
    Good article. Any chance you would do any test on Monoprice's power-strips? They seem to be around that price range.
    It would be good to see if these can actually handle power-spikes and how much current can they handle.

    Could you also provide links to older reviews... I know they are under related content on the bottom of the page but sometimes people don't see them.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    473281 said:
    Good article. Any chance you would do any test on Monoprice's power-strips? They seem to be around that price range.

    I'm in Canada, so I try to stick with stuff that is relatively readily available on both sides of the border. I suppose I could try keeping an eye on Mono's Amazon.ca store.

    As far as actual testing goes, I would need some proper equipment... or whip up my own where possible. I have plans to do some homebrew stuff in the near-future, but not high-energy/high-voltage stuff.

    For the older tear-downs, I keep bookmarks to forum sections:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2256822/trip-inside-power-strip.html
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2292342/tear-trip-inside-ups.html
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2328427/apc-current-gen-surgearrest-modern-tear.html
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2387005/trip-inside-low-cost-power-bars-part.htm
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2435937/trip-inside-budget-power-bars-part.html
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2489242/trip-inside-budget-power-bars-part.html
  • bit_user
    1736083 said:
    470171 said:
    I'm amazed with various regulations in place whether it's UL or others how products like these make it to store shelves with blatant shortcomings and misrepresentation.
    UL and its equivalents are only a collection of safety standards.
    I thought the "UL Listed" logo meant that Underwriters Laboratories had tested & inspected the model and certified its safety. If they only published standards, they wouldn't need 12,000 employees.
  • bit_user
    Daniel, thanks for the wonderful articles and for visiting with us in the forums!

    I never knew that it was such a real possibility for MOVs to catch fire that they integrated fire suppressants into these devices. That will surely make me think about when/where/how I use a surge suppressing power strip, in the future.
  • bit_user
    Anyone curious about what a given UL mark means can look it up, here:

    http://ul.com/corporate/marks/ul-listing-and-classification-marks/appearance-and-significance/marks-for-north-america/

    As I thought:
    Quote:
    If a product carries one of these marks, it means UL found that representative product samples met UL’s requirements.
    So, qualifying for one of these marks involves review of actual product samples by UL.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    328798 said:
    I thought the "UL Listed" logo meant that Underwriters Laboratories had tested & inspected the model and certified its safety. If they only published standards, they wouldn't need 12,000 employees.

    If a product is genuine and genuinely UL-listed, sure.

    However, some products are forgeries/counterfeits, others have fake marks, some have no marks/listing whatsoever, there is the occasional manufacturing slip-up where someone forgets or mixes up components or even the questionable manufacturing practice of omitting components after certification. For example, the Sunbeam bar in part one has an ETL mark allegedly from Intertek but Intertek could not confirm the file's validity when I asked. Molded instructions on the back of the bar said it was supposed to have some form of end-of-life disconnect for the surge suppression but there was none in the actual product - at least not the one I bought.

    In an ideal world, a certification mark should mean that the product you bring home meets the associated standards. In practice, there are many reasons why this may not always be the case.
  • Machistmo
    This site has become worthless. The article is literally CRAMMED in among the ad's. What's worse is that any value the article may have had is lost on the author trying to say two or three sentences about anything as that's all each page allows him. Its just worthless. I know they have to pay the bills but I wont be clicking on this sites results in my future searches if it can be avoided. And to sum up - his summation reminds me of that Ed Asner SNL skit: Remember you can never put too much water in a nuclear reactor.