Relocatable Power Tap
Power strip

12 Months / 15 Minutes
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Relocatable Power Tap (RPT) is an electrical device that has a series of receptacle outlets attached to a cord with a plug at the end.


Energy-saving and standby power

Some power strips have energy-saving features, which switch off the strip if appliances go into standby mode. Using a sensor circuit, they detect if the level of power through the socket is in standby mode (less than 30 watts), and if so they will turn off that socket. This reduces the consumption of standby power used by computer peripherals and other equipment when not in use, saving money and energy. Some more-sophisticated power strips have a master and slave socket arrangement, and when the "master" socket detects standby mode in the attached appliance's current it turns off the whole strip.

However, there can be problems detecting standby power in appliances that use more power in standby mode (such as plasma televisions) as they will always appear to the power strip to be switched on. When using a master–slave power strip, one way to avoid such problems is to plug an appliance with a lower standby wattage (such as a DVD player) into the master socket, using it as the master control instead.

A different power strip design intended to save energy uses a passive infrared (PIR) or ultrasonic sound detector to determine if a person is nearby. If the sensors don't detect any motion for a preset period of time, the strip shuts off several outlets, while leaving one outlet on for devices that should not be powered off. These so-called "smart power strips" are intended to be installed in offices, to shut down equipment when the office is unoccupied.

It is recommended that appliances that need a controlled shutdown sequence (such as many ink-jet printers) not be plugged into a slave socket on such a strip as it can damage them if they are switched off incorrectly (for example the inkjet printer may not have capped the print head in time, and consequently the ink will dry and clog the print head.)

Surge protection and filtering

Many power strips have built-in surge protectors or EMI/RFI filters: these are sometimes described as surge suppressors or electrical line conditioners. Some also provide surge suppression for phone lines, TV cable coax, or network cable. Unprotected power strips are often mistakenly called "surge suppressors" or "surge protectors" even though they may have no ability to suppress surges.

Surge suppression is usually provided by one or more metal-oxide varistors (MOVs), which are inexpensive two-terminal semiconductors. These act as very high speed switches, momentarily limiting the peak voltage across their terminals. By design, MOV surge limiters are selected to trigger at a voltage somewhat above the local mains supply voltage, so that they do not clip normal voltage peaks, but clip abnormal higher voltages. In the US, this is (nominally) 120 VAC. It should be borne in mind that this voltage specification is RMS, not peak, and also that it is only a nominal (approximate) value.

Mains electrical power circuits are generally grounded (earthed), so there will be a live (hot) wire, a neutral wire, and a ground wire. Low-cost power strips often come with only one MOV mounted between the live and neutral wires. More complete (and desirable) power strips will have three MOVs, connected between each possible pair of wires. Since MOVs degrade somewhat each time they are triggered, power strips using them have a limited, and unpredictable, protective life. Some power strips have "protection status" lights which are designed to turn off if protective MOVs connected to the live wire have failed, but such simple circuits cannot detect all failure modes (such as failure of a MOV connected between neutral and ground).

UL approved

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standard 1363 contains requirements for relocatable power taps. Included in the scope section of the standard is the statement:

1.1 These requirements cover cord-connected, relocatable power taps rated 250 V AC or less and 20 A AC or less. A relocatable power tap is intended only for indoor use as a temporary extension of a grounding alternating-current branch circuit for general use.[1]


  1. OSHA, What is the current compliance status on the use of "power strips"? 11/18/2002.



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