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Daily LifeSurge Suppressors

By Brad Smith

It seems like most of the power plug strips sold in the U.S. also come with surge suppressors (aka surge protectors). Since this always seems like a good idea, I personally have a lot of them. In the States, having surge suppressors everywhere is pretty safe. Either they protect your electronics from power surges, or they don't, but adding one never does harm.

The same is not true when you bring those surge suppressors from America to France. American surge supressors are wired differently and are NOT compatible with the French power system. I have not heard of any cases where damage occurred when one was plugged in, but there are plenty of stories of American surge surpressors shutting off the power in the entire house. Even when nothing is plugged into them, a surge suppressor will cause the French house breaker to trip. This happens through a transformer, even when the transformer is turned off.

Thus, you cannot use your American surge suppressors in France. You can, of course, buy French surge suppressors, but they are more expensive than in the States. This actually caused us some trouble when we learned this because then we did not have enough American sockets to plug the electronic items into the transformers. You might want to bring some extra plug strips with you (without surge suppressors, of course). It IS possible to buy them at Home Depot (example: Leviton H-1192-003-AS) and they work fine in France.

Suggestion: Leave your American surge suppressors in the States. Buy some plug strips without surge suppressors before you leave and bring them with you because you will quickly run out of sockets on your transformers in France.

Nerd Info: I have been told the problem is caused by the fact that in America the ground and neutral lines are essentially the same, whereas in France they are not. American surge suppressors short the two together, but that makes the French power system VERY unhappy. Literally every case I've heard of where someone tried to plug in an American surge suppressor into a French house ended with the power to the entire house switching off.

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