For gamers, being forced to push the pause (or worse, the “power off”) button is never a pleasant experience. At the same time, you generally have hundreds or thousands of dollars of valuable electronics plugged into an outlet.
This makes for a tough decision when there is a thunderstorm – do I unplug my device to protect against power surges and lightning strikes? Or do I keep gaming and risk damage to my Playstation/Xbox in the event of a power surge?
Here, we discuss every option available, alongside the risks and benefits of each. And we also reveal why the common advice – “just plug your console and TV into a surge protector” – is actually flawed and risky for your treasured devices.
Quick Answer: Can I Play Xbox (or PS5) During a Thunderstorm?
Any device that is plugged into an electrical outlet is at risk of damage in the event of a power surge, lightning strike, or even a solar flare.
If you want protection for your plugged-in devices, there are two ways that are generally safe.
The first (and most disappointing) is to fully unplug everything from the outlet. This way you don’t have to think about power surges, surge protectors, UPS systems, or anything else. Just power down the device, unplug the device, and wait for the storm to pass.
The second option is to use an EMP shield, surge protector, UPS, or other device that provides protection against power surges and lightning strikes. However, these devices are imperfect and cannot ensure total protection against device protection, especially in the event of a lightning strike.
Therefore, the only totally safe solution is to unplug your devices.
Unplugging a Device
Again, this is the safest way to ensure that your electronics don’t get damaged or destroyed by a power surge or lightning strike. Although many of us use surge protectors, a cheap power strip surge protector isn’t going to save anything if lightning strikes your house.
Before unplugging a PS5 (or Xbox Series X or S), be sure to power down the device. The sudden loss of power that comes from pulling the plug isn’t too friendly on gaming consoles.
Using a Surge Protector
The classic advice for gaming during a thunderstorm is to use a surge protector. In truth, this isn’t the cure that people pretend it is.
First, some consoles (including Xbox) have a built-in surge protector. Any knowledgeable electrician will tell you that daisy chaining (in other words, connecting more than one) surge protectors can lead to failures and/or fires.
So, if your device already has a built-in surge protector, don’t plug it into another surge protector. It won’t provide any benefit, and at worst, it can cause damage.
Next, notice that the device is called a “surge” protector, not a “lightning strike” protector.
By that, I just mean that basic surge protectors won’t protect your devices if lightning strikes your house. There is simply too much voltage involved, and a $10 surge protector from Walmart isn’t going to magically stop it or dissipate it.
Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems are another popular “solution” to gaming during a thunderstorm. Here, again, we urge you to be careful.
First, although it sounds awesome to have a battery backup for your console, most of these UPS systems aren’t built to power your device if the power goes out. Instead, they provide a few seconds (or minutes) of power which allows you to power your device down properly, rather than just “pulling the plug.”
So, don’t assume that a budget UPS will keep you gaming during a power outage.
Essentially, these systems function as a surge protector with a brief battery backup. So the same risks that apply to surge protectors (which we discussed above) also apply to UPS systems.
You can find a quality UPS from a brand like CyberPower for less than $200, depending on the size you need.
An EMP shield is, in layman’s terms, a “surge protector on steroids.”
While electrical engineers love to debate the actual effectiveness of these devices should an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) actually occur, the devices are certainly more protective against power surges than a typical surge protector.
Because EMP shields are military-grade devices, you can game during a thunderstorm with much lower risk if your house is protected with one.
Further, these devices are backed by a 10 year warranty and a $25,000 insurance policy. So if your devices get bricked by a lightning strike, you are still covered.
Consider Homeowner’s Insurance, Too
Another point to consider is that device damage due to power surges may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance.
Although your deductible may be higher than the cost of a PS5 or Xbox, your homeowner’s insurance could be a lifesaver if you also sustained damage to other devices like a TV, sound system, or major appliances.
Deductibles and exclusions vary from one insurance company to the next, but this is definitely something worth considering. And for renters with renter’s insurance, you may also be able to file a claim.
Is it Dangerous to Play Xbox (or PS5) During a Thunderstorm?
Needless to say, this website is for informational purposes only, so you should proceed at your own risk.
However, because Xbox and PS5 systems use wireless controllers, you aren’t actually in any danger by gaming during a thunderstorm. The risk of voltage jumping through your controller simply isn’t anything to worry about.
As mentioned above, thunderstorms (and the accompanying lightning strikes and power surges) can be devastating to any electronics that are plugged in. And lightning is dangerous in many other ways — but I wouldn’t be too worried about electrocution via an Xbox controller.
Ultimately, the only safe way to treat your devices during a thunderstorm is to unplug the console totally.
If you are bound and determined to game during inclement weather, consider an EMP shield or other industrial-strength device. But don’t assume that a basic surge protector is going to save your PS5 or Xbox if lightning strikes.