15 VS 20: Understanding Power Strip Amps to Fit Your Needs


When buying a power strip, some people just count the outlets. Others choose based on the color or design. If you really want to know how many devices you can plug into a power strip, you need to know the amps, voltage and wattage rating of the strip.

Power Strips or Surge Protector?

If you’re looking at a power strip, then it is simply an extension cord with multiple outlets to plug into. If used in your home and you overload the strip, circuit breaker in your home will trip off. If it’s a surge protector, then it will have it’s own circuitry to catch power spikes and cut off the electricity to the strip before it harms any equipment plugged into it.

Household Electricity

A typical US household voltage is 120/240 V, 60 hz, single phase. and will be either 15 or 20 amps . To put this in perspective think about your plumbing, volts would be the water pressure and amps are how fast the water is running through the pipes. Watts is the total amount of water (electricity) flowing through at one time. To calculate where a circuit breaker will trip, multiply volts by amps. For example, if you have 120 volts and 15 amps, it will be at 1800 watts. For 120 volts and 20 amps it will be at 2400 watts.

Just Enough Power Strip

Most of your household electronics will require just a few amps to run. Stoves, refrigerators and clothes dryers are an exception. That’s why special circuits are put in a house for them. If you’re using the power strip for computers, TVs and stereos, then either 15 or 20 amps will be plenty of power.

Be wary of plugging power strips into other power strips because you could easily draw more amps than available. Going back to the plumbing analogy, imagine if every faucet in your home were turned on and you tried to take a shower. You might get a dribble of water but not enough to do the job.

Strange things can happen to electronics if there aren’t enough amps to power it. Devices may go on and off, all of the components may not come on together, and a device that does turn on may not have enough power to do much.As long as the total amps needed by all devices plugged into a power strip is less than the 15 or 20 amp rating, you’ll have all the power you need from most home-rated power strips. Be safe with your power strips so you don’t risk damaging your home electronics.