Ask Lifehacker: Which Surge Protector Would You Recommend?

Ask Lifehacker: Which Surge Protector Would You Recommend?

Dear Lifehacker, Every time I turn a light or appliance on/off, the sound from my LCD TV cuts out for a second or so (picture remains fine). I have my TV, PS3 and stereo hooked up via a basic surge protector board but was wondering whether upgrading to a more robust surge protector (probably with the eco/green power saving capabilities) would solve this annoyance? Thanks, Ryan

Picture by darylfritz

Dear Ryan,

We don’t claim any particular level of electrical expertise, but our immediate reaction is this: getting a better surge protector might help with this problem, but the issue might also reflect either a bug in the TV’s own circuitry or a more widespread problem with your general household circuitry. The easiest way to test for those scenarios would be to first try operating the television plugged directly into the wall (no intervening power boards or other devices) and then see if the volume problem reproduces itself when you use the lights. If it doesn’t, then you can try to either throw everything else onto a board and maintain a separate outlet for the TV or look at a surge protector solution.

If the problem exists even on a single connection, then a surge protector probably isn’t going to help. To isolate whether it’s the TV or your own household electrics that are causing the issue, you’re stuck with the annoying expedient of taking your TV to someone else’s house, plugging it in and seeing if the problem recurs when you switch the lights on and off. If it does, the TV has issues, and you’ll need to dig through out your warranty. If it doesn’t, you might need to call an electrician.

In terms of a useful surge protector, we’ll throw it open to our readers: are there any brands or models you can recommend? Any more electrically-informed advice on Ryan’s conundrum would also be welcome.

Yours on the wire, Lifehacker


  • I’m no expert, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the interference is RF or inductive, rather than direct via power lines. If this is the case, a surge protector isn’t going to make a difference, as it’s a factor of the TV shielding (or lack thereof).

  • Surge protector will not fix this problem. The issue is when flicking the switch an arc is being created. This is then acting ase an arc transmitter. It blankets out the TV transmission. Ideally look at better cabling, shielding etc for the TV feed.

    • In a similar vein, rabbits ears are really good at picking up interference and quite hopeless at picking up TV transmissions.

      A properly installed external antenna is away from the common source of interference. It’ll also be far better at picking up TV signal and not interference.

  • I feel like royalty…
    I’ll try your suggestions for isolating where the problem lies and post the findings.
    Thanks in advance for any recommendations or further insights from commenters.

  • Ok. I’m currently just using the various cables that came with the TV and I’ll look into getting some shielded cables – is this likely to just be in relation to the aerial connection?
    I’ll also try removing the other components (PS3 and stereo) from the setup and seeing if that helps.

  • I had/have the exact same problem and asked AV tech when he was installing my wall mounted tv this question (I have a $100 surge protector) and apparently it is to do with the poor insulated antenna wiring which will be running close to your power wiring. Only way to fix the problem would be to rewire your whole antenna cable (through the roof/walls etc)with a better shielded variety.

  • I’m wondering if this happens when watching DVDs and over-the-air transmissions. It might be interference with your aerial or the cable running from it. The DVD test would isolate that cause, leaving just power and AV cables as possible causes.

  • @Bad Wiring – seeing as I’m in a circa 1970s unit this is more than likely the source of the problem. I’ve got a few other jobs for an electrician to do so will get them to have a look at it as well.

    @Grim – I’ve only really noticed watching FTA but will try the PS3 as a source and see if it happens as well.

    Thanks again everyone.

  • UPDATE: It was only occurring with FTA – using PS3 for DVDs etc was fine. Got an electrician in and let him crawl around in the roof to replace with a shielded aerial cable and problem has gone away. Lesson learned for the future. Thanks for everyone’s advice

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