It is rather topical that as I write about surge protectors there is a severe thunderstorm warning for the Tallahassee area. If you’ve been hearing those menacing booms and crashes in the distance (or really, really close as was the case here), perhaps you’ve given some thought to whether your electronics are protected.
Most people are familiar with the standard $5 surge protector- a surge protector is often included in the power strips used for entertainment systems and home offices.
But first things first-
What is a power surge?
A surge is a sudden increase in voltage significantly above the designated level for a given electrical system. The standard voltage for most home/office systems is 120 volts. When the voltage surges above 120, it can result in significant damage to your computer and electronics. The effect of a power surge is similar to too much water pressure in a hose- if the pressure keeps building with no release, eventually the hose will burst. An electrical wire “bursts” when too much voltage is forced through, but the burst takes the form of overheating and burning.
What causes a surge?
A surge can be caused by many things:
Lightning. It is uncommon, but if lightning strikes near a power line, it can cause a surge. During a lightning storm you cannot rely on a surge protector, no matter how strong. Your best bet is to unplug your computer entirely.
High-power electrical devices. Devices like elevators, air conditioners and refrigerators require a lot of power to turn on because of components like motors and compressors. A sudden, brief demand for power can disrupt steady voltage flow. The damage caused by this kind of surge is most often gradual, so you may not realize that something is wrong until it’s too late and the preventative measure of installing a surge protector won’t be enough to fix your damaged electronics.
Other possible causes include faulty wiring, faulty equipment, and downed power lines.
Where do you most need a surge protector?
Small home appliances, electronics, and computers all contain microprocessors, which are delicate and require steady voltage in order to function. The wiring of items with microprocessors will be damaged much more quickly than other items if a surge occurs. A surge protector will extend the life of your computer, your high-end electronic equipment, etc.
There are several different ways to go about protecting your home from electrical surges. The most reliable is an entire system, beginning with a surge protector installed directly into your electrical panel, to stop surges at the point where they enter your home wiring. However, this is not always enough, so it’s wise to combine this with high-quality surge protector strips, and remember that during a thunderstorm your ONLY guaranteed protection is to unplug your sensitive electronics, thus removing the source from which the surge would come.
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