What is surge protection?
The primary job for a surge protection system is to protect electronic devices from power surges or transient voltage, which are bursts of voltage significantly above the Australian standard 240 volts for home and office buildings.
Power surges can be caused by downed power lines, faulty wiring, faulty equipment at the power source, issues with the electricity service provider and from electrical/lightning storms.
If a surge is high enough, the wiring in your devices heat up (just like the filament in a light bulb) and literally burn – destroying them beyond repair. Depending on what you have plugged in to your wall sockets (e.g. computers, TVs, entertainment systems) this can end up costing you hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars.
How does surge protection work?
Surge protectors often come in the form of a powerboard, allowing you to connect 4-8 devices into the one wall socket. They work by diverting excess voltage from the outlet into a grounding wire to prevent it from flowing into your devices, while still allowing the safe level of voltage to continue flowing along its path. This protects your devices and allows for them to continue operating without interruption during a surge event.
As a backup, some surge protectors also have either a safety overload protection switch or a built-in fuse. This allows the circuit to be cut-off completely if the outlet is unable to effectively ground all of the excess voltage during a surge event. Surge protectors with a safety overload protection switch can be reset by pressing a button. For surge protectors with built-in fuses, the fuse will overheat when exposed to excess voltage and will burn out so your devices remain undamaged. As it is destroyed in the process this fuse will only work once, but is a small price to pay if it protects your computer or TV from frying.
Keep in mind that surge protectors are not effective during severe electrical storms, which can produce surges of several millions of volts in a nanosecond! The best way to prevent damage to your devices during storms is to simply unplug any devices that could be seriously damaged if there is a surge.
Where should I use surge protection?
As technology continues to shrink, a lot of the components in our devices are becoming much smaller and more delicate than they have ever been before, making them more sensitive to even slight surges in power. Microprocessors, which are vital components found in computers and smart TVs, are especially sensitive to surges and only function properly when they receive a stable current at the appropriate voltage.
So you should definitely use a surge protector with your computer, as it is loaded with voltage sensitive components. An unprotected computer will have a shortened life-span at the very least due to relatively small fluctuations in the power supply coming from the grid. At worst, your entire system could be destroyed – along with all of your saved data. As computers are fairly expensive, and your data priceless, it makes sense to invest $30-$40 in a decent surge protected powerboard.
Likewise, if you have any other higher-end devices or items like a smart TV or entertainment system then it’s a good idea to protect them as well. Again, a surge protector will generally extend the life of these devices, and the high cost of repair or replacement in the event of a more sever surge makes it very worthwhile.
How do I choose a good surge protector?
There are a few things that make a good surge protector great. These include an indicator light, a UL rating, a response time of 1 nanosecond or faster and lower clamping voltage.
As surge protectors can be damaged during surge events, an indicator light lets you know your surge protector is still working as it should. If the indicator light isn’t working, then it’s time to replace it. A UL rating simply means the surge protector has been independently tested for safety and is a must-have for any surge protector. Clamping voltage refers to the level at which a surge protector starts to redirect excess voltage away from your plugged in devices. So a lower clamping voltage means better protection for your devices.
If you have any questions about setting up surge protection, or if you’re having trouble with any of your devices in the home or office, feel free to contact us for help.