Surge protectors are appliances that guard electronic equipment against destructive voltage and current spikes caused by some factors like malfunctions, defective wiring, etc. Now, the question is, “do surge protectors work without ground?”

A surge protector will not operate as intended without being grounded. The benefits of a surge protector will be minimal if there are ungrounded outlets or improper wiring as extra voltage won’t be expelled properly.

This article will contain a brief description of the working procedure of a surge protector along with a grounded and ungrounded protector.

Do Surge Protectors Work Without a Ground

What is the Function of a Ground in a Surge Protector?

Most common surge protectors having a three-pronged arrangement with hot, neutral, and ground wires belong to a part called metal oxide varistor (MOV) that is in charge of directing excessive voltage to the ground.

Surge Protection Circuit Principle and Design
Fig 1- Surge Protection Circuit Principle and Design

A proper connection between the hot and ground wires (Fig 1) is required for the MOV to work. There are two semiconductors in the MOV device and They work with a variable resistance that is voltage-dependent.

The electrons move differently depending on whether they are receiving low or high levels of power. When there is insufficient power, the movement of electrons in semiconductors results in a high resistance level.

On the other hand, high amounts of power lead to lower resistance. Because of its low level of resistance, the MOV can carry large quantities of current to remove the excessive voltage.

When the voltage in the hot power line returns to normal, the resistance level increases once more. This indicates that it is performing its duties successfully.

What If the Surge Protector is Grounded but Not Protected?

If the surge protector is grounded but not protected, it will offer safety to the user from the risk of electrocution, but will not protect the appliance from a power surge.

“Protected” means that in the event of a power surge, the plugged-in devices won’t be damaged. And “Grounded” means that when someone plugs in a new device to the strip, he/she won’t be shocked or electrocuted.

The truth is that without a ground and a high-quality surge protector, there is no way to secure electrical equipment completely. A surge protector grounded but not protected can be a result.

If you ask do surge protectors work without ground, the answer would be “no”. The surge protector should have a ground wire as well as it must be protected.

Surge Protector Light Indicator

The surge protector light shows whether the surge protection devices are working or not. The MOV is monitored by the surge light to make sure it can still divert power surges away from connected devices. Surge light ‘ON’ means surge protection is being provided by the surge protector.

When the surge protector protected light is off, it means the surge protector has either experienced an electrical surge strong enough to damage inside the MOV, or the MOV has worn out due to regular electrical fluctuations that create minor power surges.

Let’s discuss the different statuses of light indicators of the surge protector and their description:

Surge Protector Light Indicators: At a Glance

Light IndicatorDescription
Protected/Not ProtectedThe surge protector protected light off means the outlet doesn’t work and the light ‘ON’ means it is working.
Grounded/Not GroundedThe grounded LED turns on when a correctly grounded AC outlet is found. Grounded LED ‘OFF’ indicates that there may be faulty wiring and that shouldn’t be used in that outlet.
Over-Voltage ( + )The light will be on if the protector notices a voltage spike above the anticipated incoming voltage level (Generally, depending on the region).
Under-Voltage ( – )The light will be on if the protector notices a voltage dip under the incoming power level (Generally, depends on the region).

I Hope, this table will give a clear view of the surge protector lights meaning and purpose.

Surge Protector Light Flickering

Surge protector light flickering means the light appears to flutter and be unstable. Light flicker is defined as rapid, repeated fluctuations in the brightness of light over time.

It occurs when a light source’s voltage is altered or when the voltage of the power line itself varies. The causes of surge protector light flickering are given below.

Causes of Surge Protector Light Flickering:

  • The brightness of neon light degrades with time.
  • Flicker can happen when there is not enough voltage to span the distance between the electrodes.
  • The typical NE2H, for instance, has an effective life of 20,000 hours. If it is powered full day long less than two years, then for non-indicator tasks, the average life of light will be 4,000 and 9,000 hours.
  • The firing voltage increases with time. One can lessen it with both radiation and ambient light. Firing voltage can neglect the effect of temperature.
  • For some lamps, a radioactive component is used to increase the firing voltage’s consistency.

What steps may be taken to get rid of the light flicker?

  • Make sure that the components of the light fixture (most importantly, the ballast) are working properly.
  • When it requires replacement, fluorescent lighting with electronic ballasts should be introduced.
  • One can change the bulbs on a regular basis as older bulbs tend to flicker more.

Testing and Safe Use of a Surge Protector

The surge protector has an indicator light and the status of the light shows whether the protector is working or not. When plugged in, these lights become brighter which means the surge safety feature is active.

But how do I know if my surge protector is bad? Flickering in light or irregular service indicates that the protector is becoming faulty. The device’s blinking light typically means that replacement is needed.

High-voltage devices like heaters, induction, air conditioners, etc. shouldn’t ever be plugged into a surge protector for safety concerns as overheating tendency of these appliances results in an electrical fire. Instead, connect these gadgets straight to a wall. You should know what not to plug in a surge protector for safety purposes.


This article should provide you with the answer to the question, “do surge protectors work without ground?”. Also, you should be able to know the status of the light indicator which shows the condition of the surge protector.

It is necessary to check the condition of the surge protector regularly. Expertise knowledge may be needed for electrical devices and so you have to consult with an electrician if any malfunction is noticed. It is a wise initiative to check the electrical components frequently.

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