Surge Protectors. Yes or No For Your Treadmill And Other Cardio Machines?

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When I bought my treadmill, it was the most expensive thing I had bought for my gym by a wide margin. Add in the professional installation, treadmill mat, and extended warranty, and I was over $2k after taxes!

I thought things were all set, and I was excited to start using my new treadmill. In fact, I already had my workout clothes on when they arrived to install my unit!

So I was a little disappointed when the installers wouldn’t plug my shiny new treadmill in. Why, you might ask? Because I didn’t have a surge protector. 

The installers told me they never plug any cardio machine directly into the wall. I was welcome to do it myself, but their company had a strict policy of never plugging anything directly into a wall outlet.

Should All Cardio Machines Be Plugged Into A Surge Protector?

Yes. A surge protector should be used on any gym gear that plugs into an outlet. Treadmills, ellipticals, and other machines with heavy-duty motors should never be plugged directly into a wall. Even minor power surges can damage the motor, control board, or display, resulting in a costly repair.

In fact, everything in your home that plugs into an outlet should be plugged into a surge protector!

Before starting GymCafter, I spent 30 years in the retail appliance and electronics business. I’ve sold thousands of surge protectors. I should have known better and had a surge protector ready.

Why You Should Use A Surge Protector On Your Treadmill And Other Cardio Machines

One word: warranty. 

Did you know that virtually no appliance or electronics warranty covers power surges?

Now you do.

Did you know that extended warranties only cover power surges in about 20% of the cases?

Now you do.

Imagine buying a $10,000 commercial treadmill with a lifetime warranty only to be told that the repair wasn’t covered when it stopped working a week after you bought it.

This happens a lot more often than you think. And it’s too bad because the solution is simple and cost-effective.

Do Surge Protectors Really Work?

The answer to that very common question is, “It depends.”

If the question is, “Does the $8 six-outlet power strip on sale at Home Depot stop surges?” The answer is no. The only use for those is to get you more outlets. More outlets that are not protected that is.

The same goes for most “power strips” under $20. There’s a very good reason these are marketed as “power strips” and not “surge protectors.”

power strip, not a surge protector
These get you more outlets and that’s about it.

If you are talking about a unit by a quality brand (Panamax is a great example), then yes, they work remarkably well! In fact, higher-end models can stop a direct lightning strike to your home!

I don’t think you need that much protection, but something between the cheapo Amazon models and that lightning stopper will be perfect for you.

What Can Happen To A Cardio Machine If It Gets A Power Surge

Three main problems happen to treadmills, ellipticals, and other cardio machines if they experience a power surge. If you get a surge, you may experience only one or possibly all three!

Remember that power surges come in many shapes and sizes. The average home experiences over 2,000 power surges a year (source)! That’s about six per day! This is why those installers refused to plug my treadmill directly into an outlet. 

No home is safe from power surges!

The Power Source Blows

Inside your treadmill is a transformer that takes the electricity from the wall and converts it into energy that drives your motors and display.

Even a mild power surge can destroy this transformer. The average repair cost (parts & labor) to replace a power transformer in a treadmill is $450.

The Control Board Dies

The control board is the brain of your cardio machine. It’s what controls the speed of the main motor. It manages your incline/decline motor. It knows to stop if the key is removed. 

treadmill control board
1 of 3 control boards found in a Nautilus treadmill.

Without a control board, your cardio machine is a giant paperweight. The average cost to replace a control board in an elliptical (parts & labor) is $1050. That’s par for the course for any cardio machine.

The Motors Die

There are two motors in your treadmill. One drives the belt, and the other controls the incline and decline of your unit. Ellipticals can have one or two motors.

treadmill motor
Both of the motors in this treadmill are susceptible to power surges.

A power surge can easily fry your motor(s). The average cost of a motor replacement (parts & labor) can range from $500-$800.

What’s The Best Surge Protector For Cardio Machines?

panamax m2a20 treadmill surge protector
One of several M2A20’s that I own.

Hands down, the Panamax M2A20 link is the ideal choice for large appliances and cardio machines like rowers and treadmills.

First, it only has two outlets. Most garage gyms don’t need eight outlets for their cardio machine. They just need quality surge protection for that one item!

Second, Panamax is the premier company in the world for surge protection. They guarantee any gear plugged into their units and will pay for repair or replacement of your item if a surge damages it.

Panamax offers a $5,000,000 lifetime limited connected equipment protection policy.

Third, the M2A20 is rated at 20 amps. This is really, really important. Cardio machines draw a lot more current than a TV, light, or computer. If you use a surge protector rated at 10 amps or less (which is ALL of the cheap units), you’ll spend a lot of time getting off your treadmill and resetting your power strip.

The Verdict

For less than $70, you can protect your very expensive cardio machine. It’s one of those things that doesn’t make sense not to do! And it’s one of those things that you kick yourself for putting off until it’s too late.

So, don’t hesitate any further. Head over to Amazon now and grab as many M2A20s as you need to keep your gym working day after day!

Oh, and if you haven’t purchased your new treadmill just yet, make sure to check out our treadmill buying guide here!


Does Panamax really pay out on their warranty?

Yes, they do! In the 30 years, I sold their products in a retail store, I ran into two customers buying new products on Panamax’s dime.

In that same time, I ran into countless customers looking for better power solutions because the cheap models they bought at Lowe’s didn’t protect their products!

Can I use an extension cord with a surge protector?

Yes, you can! This is pretty common in garage gyms where there may be a limited number of outlets.

Should I use a surge protector on my rowing machine? It doesn’t have a motor.

Yes. Most rowers don’t have motors but still have control boards and displays. Anything you plug into a wall should be plugged into a surge protector first.

Photo of author


Tim Steward has been training at home since he got his first weight set from Sears in junior high. Over 30 years later, Tim has helped thousands of people build home and garage gyms that they love and use regularly. He also holds CPT and Nutritionist certifications with the ISSA and is an NCCPT nationally accredited trainer. When Tim is not training or writing about home gyms, you can find him at the dog park with his two Australian cattle dogs, Anny and Beans.

8 thoughts on “Surge Protectors. Yes or No For Your Treadmill And Other Cardio Machines?”

  1. I’ve had my elliptical plugged into the wall for years, you’re just trying to get people to buy something they don’t need so you can make money.

    • Please excuse my smart a$$ answer, but I smoked every day for 20 years and didn’t get cancer. Doesn’t mean I’m gonna pick up cigarettes again. Count yourself lucky and get a surge protector. Or don’t. Maybe you like to gamble?

    • Hard question to answer not knowing the quality of protection you have. I’d check the specs of your whole home unit to see.

  2. I couldn’t find a comment section on your Ring article so I’m leaving this hear. I understand the affiliate program and you’re being compensated if I buy the Rep Rings (most likely). Just a quick question as the Rep’s are $40 with 14′ straps and Rogue’s are $95 with no straps and $110 with 16′ straps. Is there a $70 dollar performance difference between the two other than paying for Rogues name? Thanks as the article laid out a lot of good points.

    • Nope. As with most of what Rogue makes, you are paying for the name. If you look close, they don’t even make everything in the US anymore, which was always a good reason to buy from them. The 2′ strap difference shouldn’t make any difference at all. Just make sure there are measurement markings on the straps and stick with wood rings (I bought composite once from and I don’t like the feel at all compared to wood). Hope that helps, and thanks for the kind words!


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