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How do I mount surge protectors to the wall?
July 11, 2005 12:44 PM   Subscribe

How do I mount surge protectors (surge strips) to a newly painted wall so the surge protectors are flush and appear professionally mounted?

In a previous Ask.Mefi thread, I asked other Mefite's opinions on outstanding bedroom colors. The bedroom is currently being painted, but I would then like to install surge protectors for all the major appliances in the room to save money on the electric bill. (The colors of the bedroom are Behr "Myth" and "Reflecting Pool," in case you were curious.)

The Grandparents of a good friend use a similar eletricity saving setup in their home and have saved a bunch of money on their electric bill by switching to surge protectors.
posted by Colloquial Collision to Home & Garden (25 answers total)
 
This is a little unclear: by "flush" do you mean you want the power strip sunken into the wall like a standard outlet?

Where does the electricity saving come in? Are you going to use the switches on the power strips to turn off appliances?
posted by Galvatron at 1:19 PM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


I'm partial to the industrial-look Tripp-Lite style strips, and they come with mounting hardware.

Where did you get this "power-saving" idea? Are you just cutting the power to things like microwaves/toaster ovens/etc. when you're not using them?
posted by trevyn at 1:20 PM on July 11, 2005


Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to your question, but I'm curious what you mean when you say that the surge protectors will save money on the electricity bill.
posted by AaRdVarK at 1:21 PM on July 11, 2005


If you want to mount a surge protector on the wall, you just hang it from two screws, generally. There isn't really any way to make it look more professional that I can think of. If you wanted it to look more like a regular outlet, you can buy a surge protector that resembles six outlets in a 3 x 2 formation and will directly cover the two existing outlets. That would be available at any hardware store.

If you wanted something inside the wall, you'd have to cut a hole and put in a metal box and hook it up to your house's electrical system, etc etc--if you aren't an electrician or a Talented Amateur, it's not something you should be doing yourself. Are you looking for full instructions for something like this?

(How does a surge protector save money on the electric bill? There's something I'm not understanding about this question.)
posted by bcwinters at 1:21 PM on July 11, 2005


This is a little unclear: by "flush" do you mean you want the power strip sunken into the wall like a standard outlet?

No, the surge protectors will up against the wall. My bad.

Where does the electricity saving come in? Are you going to use the switches on the power strips to turn off appliances?

Yes. The surge strips will be switched off to keep the appliances from slowly sucking away power in "standby" mode.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 1:25 PM on July 11, 2005


Is there something wrong with bcwinters' "hang it off two screws" solution? If you're not trying to mount anything inside the walls, then I'm not really seeing where the difficulty lies...
posted by Galvatron at 1:37 PM on July 11, 2005


What kind of appliances are you using that suck any more than a few cents worth of power per month in their "standby" modes?

Though, I'm not arguing with your idea - it will indeed save you those few cents.
posted by odinsdream at 1:42 PM on July 11, 2005


Is there something wrong with bcwinters' "hang it off two screws" solution? If you're not trying to mount anything inside the walls, then I'm not really seeing where the difficulty lies...

Well, I guess there isn't. That's what I was planning to do, but I was just curious if their were any pointers for doing this...

I guess I just take measurements of the surge protector and go from there, right?
posted by Colloquial Collision at 2:01 PM on July 11, 2005


Many appliances use, over the course of their lifetimes, much more electricity when they're "off" than when actually being used. TVs, stereos, video players, fax machines, microwaves, computers and monitors, anything with a transformer (feel the transformer even when the attached device is "off". The transformer will be warm.) are the common offenders. Billions of dollars are spent every year in the US providing electricity to keep VCR clocks blinking at 12:00. More
posted by TimeFactor at 2:08 PM on July 11, 2005


It's been my experience that the Two Screws never hold outlet strips in place, if they're located on the back of the uint. Look for power strips that have flanges on the ends with screwholes.

I've also had success with thin, holed metal straps, which I screwed into the wall & over the strips, in strategic locations. Two straps should do it, and you can use more than 4 screws (one for each side of each strap) to hold the staps in, if necessary.
posted by catkins at 2:09 PM on July 11, 2005


Don't do measurements, make a template. Take a piece of paper and hold it (hell, taping it would be best but maybe you're not as persnickity as me) against the back of the SP. Poke a small hole in the paper where the screw holes are. Now put the paper against the wall and make a pencil mark through the holes. Put screws into pencil marks. Bada bing, perfect. Bonus points if you use a level to make it perfectly vertical/horizontal.

You'll probably have to adjust the depth of the screws once or twice to get a good firm mount. Make sure you use machine screws rather than tapered ones or you'll never get a firm grip.
posted by phearlez at 2:14 PM on July 11, 2005


odinsdream writes "What kind of appliances are you using that suck any more than a few cents worth of power per month in their 'standby' modes?"

Look at anything with a wall wart. Those little power supplies are horribly ineffiecent and some of them suck juice whether the appliance is on or not. Just go around your house and start counting anything that has a clock, anything with a tube that instant ons, or anything that loses settings when unplugged. I've got a couple dozen. Even ten at 10 watts each is a 100W light bulb on 24X7X365. If your serious about saving power it really adds up.

Hang around some solar power boards for an idea of how evil standby/clock power is.
posted by Mitheral at 2:19 PM on July 11, 2005


phearlez is right about using a template. I think I disagree on the "machine screws" idea... or maybe we just disagree on terminology? The important thing is you want a screw with a pan head or similar, as anything with a countersunk head will cause a loose fit with the screw slots. (And you probably want it to be a wood screw so you can easily drive it into a 2x4 behind the drywall.)
posted by Galvatron at 2:33 PM on July 11, 2005


I wouldn't. Every time one of my surge suppressors has blown, there has been a dark spot and melted plastic near where the MoV was. I then toss the strip and get a new one. Mounting a strip to a wall seems dangerous and might encourage you to re-use the now useless strip.

Recently I have switched to using the 4' long outlet strips sold at fry's, with each strip plugged in to a medium size UPS.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:37 PM on July 11, 2005


Why not put the outlets you want to use for appliances on a wall switch? Much easier than bending down to turn of a wall mounted power strip behind an appliance. Switched outlets are pretty common in new construction. That's the true built in solution here. Power strips mounted on the wall are going to look like power strips mounted on a wall. Not inherently nicer than having them neatly on the floor.
posted by realcountrymusic at 2:38 PM on July 11, 2005


Wall switches are great, but hard to retrofit.

You may consider a switch/receptacle combo (man, that took a while to get the right terms!). "Switch/receptacle" should get you enough hits if you're googling. It's like an electrical outlet, but one of the two outlets is replaced by a switch which can be wired to control that outlet. Looks professional. However:

I am not an electrician. I suspect that mounting switches at outlet level may be a bad idea/not code, but I have no idea. In my locality at least, replacing an outlet requires a permit.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 2:47 PM on July 11, 2005


I would install a switch next to the outlet, or replace the outlet with something like this, this, or the switch that fits behind this faceplate.

To control multiple outlets (just like a power-strip), you might be able to run standard outlets in parallel to the switched outlet, and have it control them, but could also use a dedicated switch. I don't know which, if either of these options is preferable from the safety standpoint.

As for hanging power strips.. yes to panhead screws (^Galvatron), and you might want to use drywall anchors. When you're hanging the strip, you might end up putting it on and taking it off a few times to get the screws to an ideal height. When they're perfect, the strip will slide on with a little push, but it's hard to get them to that perfect level without a little tweaking. I would avoid placing them such that the screws go into studs (metal or wood), because the studs will on 16" centers probably, and the power strip won't be.

If you use a power strip, please use a nice tripplite, or even better, the one linked by trevyn.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 2:58 PM on July 11, 2005


I would avoid placing them such that the screws go into studs (metal or wood), because the studs will on 16" centers probably, and the power strip won't be.

True enough, but not a problem if you hang the power strip vertically. I really prefer screwing into studs when possible. If you anchor into drywall, it just takes one accidental bump to loosen or rip out a screw.
posted by Galvatron at 3:17 PM on July 11, 2005


Q: So switched outlets aren't the norm in the US? They're about the only type you get in Oz - unswitched outlets are usually only available in industrial versions. Then again, I understand you guys have overflow drains built into your sinks and basins - a logical design which seems to be damn near impossible to get here...
posted by Pinback at 4:29 PM on July 11, 2005


Pinback: Nope, outlets are basically *never* switched at the wall in the U.S. ~99% of interior power sockets look something very much like this. I've heard outlets in Oz (or anyplace with 220 volt power) tend to be switched because it's more likely to spark than 110. But that could be apocryphal.
posted by zeypher at 8:27 PM on July 11, 2005


OK, here's my tried and true method for doing this. It's like a template, only better and faster.

1. make a horizontal line on the wall where you want the strip

2. hold the strip, facing out, against the wall covering the line

3. rotate the strip down a quarter turn, bringing the top towards you. The side of the strip should be pressed against the wall, with the underside with screw keyholes facing up.

4. shift the strip so that the screw keyholes are as close to the line as you can get

5. use a pencil to make two marks on your line. Line the pencil up with the right edge of the keyholes to make the mark. Don't try and guess the center of the holes, it's easier to see an edge than to guess a center. As long as you pick the same edge on both holes you'll be fine. It's the distance between that you want to be exact.

6. put the screws in. Make sure they are pan head or truss head, and that they fit in the holes (sounds obvious, but...). If the strip wobbles, remove it, tighten the screws a bit, and re-install. Repeat till the strip is snug.

This took a long time to explain. In practice it takes less time to do the marking than to read this.
posted by sol at 8:46 PM on July 11, 2005


What about these?

Bathrooms seem to have these in case something falls in the sink, but it'd be just as easy to press that test button when you want to open the circuit.
posted by SAC at 11:22 PM on July 11, 2005


SAC - I was thinking the same thing. A Ground-Fault Interrupt (GFI) plug has a breaker built into it. They're about five (to ten) times the cost of a regular plug though.
posted by bonehead at 6:31 AM on July 12, 2005


...And standard GFCI outlets are not necessarily rated to be used as switches, although I have seen "switch rated" ones which I assume will hold up better. They're not usually designed to switch all the time.

Many countries, not just Australia, have switched outlets as standard. Not the US, though.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:29 AM on July 12, 2005


Thanks, everyone, for all the help. These comments are invaluable.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 6:43 PM on July 13, 2005


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