I need surge protectors to prevent expensive equipment from exploding. Manufacturers of these devices obviously make a lot of fantastic claims about features and performance, but how can I trust them when there appears to be no independent tests available on the internet? I know of at least one device that's designed for these kinds of tests, but it's expensive, and I don't need to do this regularly. Is there some sort of lab that I can send samples for them to test or any alternatives besides waiting for a catastrophic failure?
Check your surge protector and you will most likely see marks from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), ANSI (American National Standards Institute) /IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission). These groups define standards for how products should functions as well as some also do testing and certification.
Check the surge protector for stamps from these groups in particular look for these codes:
These indicate that the device is designed to function to specs for surge supression.
You cannot verify that the devices you buy actually perform to spec since the only way to actually test it is to push it to the point it fails, thus breaking the device. Good manufactures test random samples and verify that they meet the specs and so can make a good faith claim that the devices they sell will also meet the specs.
The best bet is probably to go with a reliable company that insures their devices. APC for example has devices with hundreds of thousands of dollars or more of insurance coverage if the device fails to protect your hardware. That's usually a pretty good indicator that whoever was underwriting the insurance wanted some proof that it actually does it's job reliably, though it isn't necessarily fool proof.