What is a Phone Surge Protector?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Phone surge protectors are simple devices that prevent a dangerously high amount of current from traveling through telephone lines and damaging phone equipment. While many people think of a phone surge protector as a device that is attached to an individual phone connected, the most common types of surge protectors are designed for installation in the switch room in an office, hotel, or other location where multiple telephone lines are in use. Along with protecting telephones from being damaged, a phone surge protector can also moderate the flow of current to a modem and any other computer equipment that is connected to a telephone line.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

As with other types of lines that carry electrical current, telephone lines are capable of carrying high amounts of electricity. In most phone systems, that flow of current is regulated at the local telephone switching station, thus minimizing the chances of a power surge. While this precaution works very well for day to day usage, the regulation is not sufficient to deal with situations where telephone lines are struck by lighting or come into contact with other sources of electrical current. For this reason, the use of a phone surge protector is a good idea.

The typical phone surge protector functions by modulating and controlling the unexpected power surge. For example, if a telephone line is struck by lighting, there is an increased chance of a surge of current running through the line, terminating at the end of the connection. Generally, a telephone is at the end of that connection. When the current reaches the point where the surge protector is installed, the device functions as a buffer, reducing the flow of current until it is back into an acceptable range. The end result is that the telephone does not receive a sudden burst of current, and thus is not damaged.

In offices, municipal buildings, and other public areas, phone systems are routinely protected with the use of a phone surge protector. A protector of this type is normally installed on the main telephone console in the building’s switch room. By installing the phone surge protector at that point in the network, the device not only provides protection for all the telephones, modems, and computers connected to those various extensions, but also helps to minimize the potential for damage to the control hub.

Households with expensive telephones or computer equipment attached to a phone line would do well to purchase a phone surge protector. Since a surge caused by lighting or some other source can destroy electronic components and render the devices useless, investing in a good quality protector simply makes sense. Even people who do not make use of phone lines for DSL or dial-up service, but who tend to purchase inexpensive phones, would benefit from installing a phone surge protector, since the device can help ease the possibility of damage to the phone lines ran within the home.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@Vincenzo -- If you have ever seen a television blown up when lightning struck and sent a surge through the cable, you know the answer to that. A cable modem isn't immune to surges.

Having said that, exercise caution should you choose to get a cable surge protector. Make sure you pick up one that is expressly for cable modems. Otherwise, you could block Internet access by using something that interferes with the signal carried through the cable.

The same advice is good for those who are getting DSL surge protectors. Get something specifically for that purpose and you should be fine.


That's all well and good for DSL, but what about those of us who are using cable modems? Do we need to worry about surge protection or do the cable companies pretty well take care of that?


I am glad this article points out the bit about using a surge protector to protect a computer wired into a DSL connection. In my house, we put the surge protector at the point where the "main" DSL line ran out of the phone jack and into a modem. That way, the entire system is protected should a surge get into the phone line.

In other words, using one surge protector at the source is a lot less expensive than installing them between a DSL line and each computer that is hardwired into the system.

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