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Power Basics: Power Conditioners and Your Wall Outlets

We always recommend that you use voltage regulators and/or power conditioners for your audio and computer AC sources. These can protect your gear from damage and actually improve sound quality. However, it’s important to understand that these devices aren’t miracle workers, and you need to apply common sense when you’re connecting things.

Electrical service is delivered to groups of outlets in circuits that have specified maximum current ratings, measured in amps. Typical ratings for circuits in houses are 15, 20, and sometimes 30 amps per circuit. Once the circuit is delivering its maximum amperage – which means the devices connected to it are drawing the maximum available current – it can’t go any further. Power conditioners and voltage regulators can “clean” the current and protect against voltage spikes and sags, but they can’t change the current flow. Therefore, when you plug a power conditioner rated at 20 amps into an outlet from a 15-amp circuit, the conditioner effectively becomes a 15-amp device.

You need to apply this mode of thinking as you connect your devices to any outlet. Find out the capacity of the circuit in amps, and then add up the current requirements of your gear (this is usually printed on the back of the equipment). If that total exceeds (or even comes close to) the circuit’s capacity you must find an alternative. This could range from connecting to another circuit (which can be less than ideal for audio due to grounding issues) to having an electrician rewire your studio.

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