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Some of these units look yellowed and half-baked. In apartment electrical rooms I see many old surge protector power strips attached to the wall holding various small transformers and plugs for camera or intercom equipment. Many are 20 or more years old. Are they designed for long term use, essentially permanently attached? The transformers hide much of the receptacle openings. What can I tell the building owner so that these units are not fire bombs in disguise?

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    i do not think that i heard it on the internet will be a convincing argument for the building owner – jsotola Mar 23 at 3:54
  • If they're yellowed, they're plastic. There's half your risk right there. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 23 at 6:53
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    UV yellowing is not an indication of failure or danger. Why are you concerned about these and not all the other 20 year old equipment in the place, such as outlets, circuit breakers, and refrigerators? – isherwood Mar 23 at 20:54
  • There will be a lot of opinion here but if the surge protector has built in monitoring that tests the MOV’s so you can see that they are still functioning they can last a lifetime. However even brand new these are fire bombs in my opinion I have seen quite a few melt down when they did there job of spike/ surge suppression. If there is no monitor to me they are useless. If you check there listing they do have to be mounted to meet MFG requirements and yes this is legal and quite common in telecom and electrical closets in commercial buildings that are regularly inspected. – Ed Beal Mar 27 at 21:09
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Almost no electronic device lasts forever. Instead they have MTBF(Mean Time Before Failure), although if you reverse engineered a bunch of power bars, you would probably find some more robust and likely to survive much longer, you probably shouldn't count on any past their warranty. They are not likely to fail short and explode, it's more likely they will fail in such a way that the connected devices are not protected.

I'll just mention at this point that you can get system sized surge protectors if your boss is really worried about surges.

One thing you could do is go around and check the ratings of them and see what you can look up about each individual unit. No telling whether they are all surge protectors in the first place, what their protection ratings are, if they have any connected equipment warranty, whether it applies to commercial use, whether the warranty has expired.

By the time you've done an assesment you'll likely have enough information to say to your boss "Ok roughly 30% are ancient, 20% are power splitters not surge protectors, 45% are out of warranty and another 30% aren't sized well or warranty doesn't cover all connected equipment. I also found 2 of them that don't have regulatory markings (CSA(Canadian Standards Association) or UL(Underwriter's Lab) in Canada). There are 114 units in total, and we can do a bulk order of insert quality replacement for 22 currency each. Would you like to replace them?"

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  • I'd look into using a hardwired multioutlet assembly (Plugmold(tm) or equivalent) for this application vs a portable power tap (power bar) as the former's intended to be, well, permanent. – ThreePhaseEel Mar 23 at 4:19
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    The wording of the question does not imply "my boss" more "my landlord" but the relationship to the building owner is not actually specified. I suspect that "tenant concerned about old powerstrips" is going to rate low on the "spend money to fix this now" scale. Personally, I've never had one burst into flames, but failing to work as intended is a pretty common old age (or post surge) issue. – Ecnerwal Mar 23 at 14:48
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Power strips are prohibited as a substitute for the permanent wiring of a building. NEC 400.8(a).

If you need long-term/quasi-permanent receptacles, then you should install proper outlets using permanent wiring methods. For instance they make metal surface raceway with built-in receptacles (e.g. Legrand Plugmold)... which (for jurisdictions that count these things) count as 1 receptacle even though they have a bajillion outlets.

As far as surge protection, fuggedaboutit. That protection is ablative (consumed by use) and lasts between a week and a few years depending on the quality of the unit.

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