Should You Plug a UPS Into a Surge Protector?

Person's hand plugging a cord into a surge protector.

In the quest for the ultimate combination of battery backup and surge protection, the UPS-in-surge protector question has been asked for years, with no clear-cut answer. Many recommend plugging a UPS into a surge protector; yet, many others don’t. But which is correct? Read on to find out.

What Is a UPS?

An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is a device that provides battery backup to any connected equipment in the event of sudden power drops or a complete power failure. It does this thanks to an internal battery that can power your devices anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on their individual and combined power ratings. Most UPSes also have Automatic Voltage Regulation to protect your devices from spotty electricity, while some take this to a higher level by incorporating some form of surge protection.

What Is a Surge Protector?

A surge protector is a power strip on steroids. On any given day, it serves as a multiple outlet receptacle for plugging in components. However, in the event of a power surge, its primary function is revealed: to protect expensive devices like PCs, TVs, and more, from dangerous voltage spikes. Check out our guide on the best surge protectors for your equipment.

The Best Surge Protectors of 2022

Best Surge Protector Overall

Tripp Lite TLP1208TELTV Surge Protector

Best Wall Surge Protector (AKA Wall Wart)

LVETEK Surge Protector

Best Surge Protector for Gaming PCs

Furman Power Station 8 (PST-8)

Best Travel Surge Protector

Tripp Lite Portable Surge Protector

Best Battery Backup Surge Protector

APC UPS Battery Backup Surge Protector

Some Manufacturers Say Yes

Popular electric device manufacturers like Eaton and Alltec Global say you can plug a UPS into a surge protector. In fact, they recommend it. While that sounds contrary to popular opinion, their reasons make a lot of sense.

UPSes are known primarily as battery backups, but they also contain some form of built-in surge protection ability to meet the IEEE Standard, which states that networked surge protection devices (SPDs) are needed for UPS battery backups. So that should mean that a UPS is enough for your devices, right? Well, not quite.

According to Eaton, the level of surge protection provided by most UPSes is second-rate at best and should never be considered the primary surge protection device. But even if you took manufacturer claims at face value, most don’t even give enough values—let through voltages, joule rating, etc.—for you to assess the adequacy of this built-in surge protection.

The overarching idea is that a surge protector will safeguard your equipment and even the connected UPS from high voltage spikes. Just make sure never to exceed the maximum load of either strip (UPS or surge protector).

Others Advise Against It

Manufacturers like APC and Australian company UPS Solutions do not recommend plugging a UPS into a surge protector. So what are their reasons?

For starters, UPS Solutions mentions there’s nothing wrong with plugging a surge protector into a UPS if done correctly. However, UPS Solutions kicks against it for reasons you may have heard before, such as the UPS switching to battery power even without a grid failure due to uneven power distribution among its outlets—this will result in faster battery wear. However, this problem will likely only occur when heavy appliances are connected to the surge protector’s extra outlets.

Other reasons pointed out include the power strip potentially overloading the UPS and subsequently increasing the chances of a power spike. It also might just void your warranty. APC highlights similar reasons but says that your warranty and Equipment Protection Policy will be maintained only if you use an APC brand surge protector with your APC brand UPS.

Should You or Should You Not?

So with those seemingly conflicting views in mind, are you safe to plug your surge protector into your UPS? Ultimately, the answer depends on the specific UPS and surge protector you have and what the manufacturer has to say about it.

To be on the safe side, check the user manual and warranty of your device for more information on the dos and don’ts of that particular model. If your manufacturer doesn’t provide answers and you decide to plug your UPS into your surge protector anyway, you should at least avoid connecting appliances that demand a lot of power. You might also consider buying UPSes and surge protectors from manufacturers that do give you specific answers, since that signals better customer support that won’t leave you in the dark.

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