Understanding Surge Protection For Homes
Electricity is very useful. It allows you to power your home and electronics, but like fire, it can be harmful. To protect your electronics, surge protection is needed. In recent years, surge protection has become much more complex. In a typical home, the value of electronics and electrical equipment has increased. They are more vulnerable to surges as a result of lighting. Yes AC protection is provided in form of circuit breakers and fuses but for total protection, these are not enough.
Surges can be as a result of the following:
- Problems with a transformer close to your home
- Lightning strikes
- Upgrades to the power grid by the Power Company
When a surge occurs, it only happens for a few seconds but the damage can by costly. In some cases you can seek compensation, but not always. It is common for home owners to protect vital electronics like TVs, home theater systems and video equipment using surge strips. What about other expensive electronics like refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, dryers, laptops, smart phones, tablets and air conditioners?
As a home owner, it is important to note that every single electronic device you buy is fitted with an electronic board. This board is home to processors, memory modules, transistors and resistors among other components. A surge will not only cause damage to the board, but may destroy the equipment.
What is a surge protector?
This is an electronic appliance designed with the purpose of protecting electronic devices like TVs, home audio systems, dishwashers, dryers, washers, refrigerators and smart devices against voltage spikes. The device is designed to protect any appliance that plugs into a standard AC outlet from surges, spikes and disruptive line noise which is transferred through an electrical wall outlet.
They are designed with a long power cord which is plugged in directly into the wall. Other models have a single outlet only and allow the connection of a single electronic device for example TV or refrigerator. There are surge protectors that provide protection to phones/modem lines, network connections, antenna and satellite TV reception.
Surge protectors use joule rating which refers to how much energy they can absorb in a single event before succumbing to failure. What you need to know is that a higher value indicates longer life expectancy which means the device is able to divert more energy somewhere else and not absorb it. The best protectors are known to surpass peak ratings of 1000 joules and 40,000 amperes. Australia has a a number of safety standards which are summarised here.
How does surge protection work?
Before understanding how surge protection work, it is important to understand these two terms:
A surge refers to the voltage increase which lasts three nanoseconds or more while a spike refers to a voltage increase that lasts one or two nanoseconds. Both can inflict heavy damage on any electronic equipment. If you want to understand the effect of voltage increase, think about the application of water pressure to a hose. Too much water pressure in a hose will definitely burst it.
Common surge protectors are fitted with a metal oxide varistor (MOV). This component diverts the extra voltage when a surge or spike occurs. The component has three parts:
- A single piece of metal oxide
- Semi conductor
- Semi conductor
The two semi conductors have variable resistance which means when voltage is below a certain threshold, the electrons flow in a way to cause high resistance. When voltage exceeds, the electrons create a lower resistance. So when the voltage is too high, the metal oxide varistor (MOV) conducts a lot of current thus eliminating extra voltage. The current is diverted to ground allowing the voltage to return to normal. By doing so, the MOV diverts the surge current only while allowing the standard current to power your machines.
Benefits of surge protection
1. Acts as the first and second line of defense
Did you know that surge protection starts at the main service panel? During electrical installation in a home, it is common for professionals to install surge protectors at the service panel. Circuit breakers, fuses and suppressors are used. They help to cut down the big surges to size protecting your home electronics and electrical equipment. For this to work, you need a licensed electrician.
As said earlier, two lines of defence are needed. The first line of defense helps to cut down the big surges while the second line of defense fizzles out the remaining spikes and surges protecting your home. In your home, it is important to have point-of-use surge protectors. These are plugged to the wall outlet finally connecting to individual electronic devices that include TVs, home audio systems, refrigerators and washers among others. It is important to purchase the right surge protector for your home. Consult experienced electricians for top quality products.
2. Protect your computer and laptop
Unlike TVs, home audio systems and refrigerators, computers and laptops are very sensitive to power surges. Even though they are fitted with batteries and power supplies, their electronic components are sensitive. Furthermore, damage to your computer or laptop means data loss. This has a huge impact especially if you are running an online home business. Furthermore, you don’t want to lose those memes or cat videos you have been creating and posting online.
Modern computers and even smart devices have built-in protection in form of power supply, BIOS (for older computers) and UEFI (for modern computers).
Surge protectors are definitely good insurance preventing your woes in the event of a power outage or lightning strike. To protect your computer and laptop, invest in surge protectors and Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS).
3. Peace of mind
Taking a vacation is a great way to unwind and rejuvenate your energy levels. It also provides an opportunity for taking some time off from the hustle and bustle of the city and work life. You may decide to travel to another city or another country. If you are travelling with your family, it means no one will be left in your home. This is the same if you are living alone. If you have pets, you can leave them with friends or extended family members. The same people will occasionally pop in your home to check for any mail or the current status of your home.
When you take a vacation, there are electronic devices that will not be switched off. One of them is the refrigerator. Not only do you have to keep your food fresh but you don’t want the compressor leaking the refrigerant which is dangerous to your health. Investing in surge protectors gives you peace of mind when away from your home for more than a day. If something were to happen (lightning strike or power surge), the protectors will be there ready to divert the surge finally protecting your home and electronics.
4. Keep your family safe
When you are away at work, your family is at home spending time together playing video games, watching TV or movies. Despite investing in the best security system, there are dangers that happen in nanoseconds and can result in fires if you don’t protect yourself.
Today, smart devices have become common in many households. Despite the fact that they come with non removable rechargeable batteries that last a day or two, it is common for users to keep them connected to the wall socket.
If a surge were to occur when a family member is holding a smart device that is currently charging, it will cause harm to the user. To keep your family safe, invest in reputable surge protectors.
How to choose the best surge protector?
When it comes to selecting the best surge protector for your home, the rule of thumb is to consider the following factors:
- UL Seal Certification
As a home owner, it is wise to shop for a product that not only works as advertised but lasts for long too. When it comes to electrical devices, it is important to look for one that has the UL Seal Certification. UL is a global company with over 120 years of expertise. The company certifies, validates, tests, verifies, inspects and audits electrical products ensuring that they are in compliance.
- Number and type of devices
How many electrical devices do you have? This is important because it allows you to shop for surge protectors providing total protection to your home. While your home may be installed with a surge protector in the main service panel, you need individual surge protectors for your devices too.
- High joules absorption rating
The joule rating indicates the cumulative amount of energy a surge protector is able to absorb before it’s replaced. As a home owner, it is wise to choose a protector with a high rating. Why? The higher the rating, the longer it will provide protection to your devices.
- Diagnostic lights
LED display lights are important for diagnostics. Not only do they help to show the total amperage load for all connected devices plus incoming voltage, they also help to identify power problems too. This is why it’s wise to seek a model that has diagnostic lights.
This is always an important consideration to have in mind. Price is determined by the number of devices, type of devices, the brand of the protector and quality among others. Choose protectors that will not result in you breaking the bank.
When it comes to costs, planning is needed. Costs for your home depend on the number of devices, number of wall outlets, types of devices and brand. To determine how much the total cost for surge protection will be, you have to consult an experienced electrician. Not only are they familiar with the current brands in the market but they can advice you when it comes to warranty, joule rating and clamp voltage.
There are several ways of locating reputable electricians:
- Seek recommendations from family and friends
- Use social media business pages
- Use search engines local business listing
Wall outlet surge protectors
They are perfect for protecting your electronic devices ranging from TVs, video equipment, smart devices and laundry equipments. They have a high joules absorption rating which provides protection to your electronic devices for longer. Plug-in protectors are available in stores and cost between $50 to $1000. Take your time to browse through the features.
Whole house surge protectors
They protect the entire house from the effects of harmful electrical surges as a result of lightning strikes and huge power spikes. This is the first line of defense when it comes to protecting your electrical devices. It helps to counter the big surges. When it comes to purchasing whole house surge protectors, it’s wise to consult with an electrician. They are best suited to provide you with affordable quotes.
Uninterrupted Power Supply surge protectors
Using wall outlet protectors especially for sensitive equipment like computers, laptops and smart devices is not enough. Investing in UPS surge protectors will ensure peace of mind. They are safe because they come with battery backup systems that help to ensure your computer, smart devices and laptops are safe in case of a power outage. They are sold in major stores and cost between $200 to $2,000 and more.
As a home owner, lightning strikes and power spikes are common but undetectable. They can cause immense damage even though they only last a few nanoseconds. To ensure peace of mind, invest in surge protection to proect your home.