Surge protectors, which are recommended by the National Fire Protection Association and the Institute for Business and House Safety, protect electrical equipment in your home against power spikes and surges. However, how can a surge protector safeguard your electrical gadgets from being damaged by all that amplified energy? The science that underpins technology is not as difficult to comprehend as you would believe.
What Is a Surge Protector?
Surge protectors are tiny appliances or devices that perform two critical roles. The first is to enable several components to be plugged into a single power socket. The second, and more critical, role is to safeguard electronic equipment such as your television or computer against a high-voltage power surge. A power surge or spike occurs when the voltage in the flow of electricity rises over a certain level.
How a Surge Protector Works?
A conventional surge protector distributes electrical current down the outlet to the many devices connected to the power strip. If the voltage exceeds a safe level, the protector will send the excess power to the outlet’s grounding wire. Parallel to the hot and neutral wires are grounding wires. They act as a conduit for electrical current in the event that the system of hot and neutral wires that ordinarily transport it fails.
“When a surge in voltage occurs, such as from a lightning strike or damage to a power line, a surge protector monitors the extra current and securely diverts it down the grounding channel of the house.” A straightforward sentence that sounds fantastic, but what does it mean? How does a surge protector figure this out? To get this, we just need to simplify some terms…
Understanding voltage and amperage can assist you in comprehending how surge protectors operate:
- Voltage: Using the water in a hose as an analogy, voltage is the electrical equivalent of pressure.
- Amperage, in the same instance, is the rate of flow, or the amount of fluid flowing through the hose.
- Surge Protectors: Eliminating Extraneous
- Applying excessive pressure on a hose, using our trusted hose analogy, can eventually cause it to rupture. Rather than exploding, electrical cables and appliances, on the other hand, burn up or at the very least deteriorate over time in the presence of electrical excesses. Surge protectors protect cables and appliances by redirecting excess pressure in the hose (your home’s wires). They require the assistance of specialized components to do this.
Managing the Pressure
How is all of this pressure or extra electrical energy redirected? When voltage hits a specific level, surge protectors simply redirect the excess energy via a pressure-sensitive valve. When the voltage is right, current flows normally, but when there is a spike or surge, the device quickly kicks in and redirects the surplus. Metal oxide varistors (MOV) and gas discharge arrestors are frequently employed in surge protectors to manage this pressure, as they allow electrical equipment to continue operating while channeling excess energy to grounding wires.
Multi-Layer Protection Is Required
Due to the nature of surge protection devices, adequate protection requires all three of the following surge protection categories – or at the very least Type 2 and Type 3 devices:
- Type 1: Protection for the entire house. Installed between the street’s electricity wires and your meter.
- Type 2: Whole House Protection. Installed between the meter and the breaker box.
- Type 3: Point-of-purchase. Utilize smaller protectors at wall outlets where appliances are plugged in.
Isn’t that excessive?
No. A whole-house surge protector cannot protect against 100% of surges. A modest amount of extra voltage can cause a leakage of up to 15%. Additionally, they are incapable of withstanding surges within your house. They suppress surges from external causes, such as utility company and transformer problems, but they cannot defend against the plethora of surges generated within your house by your equipment – for example, when your A/C or refrigerator turns on and off.
What Is the Distinction Between a Surge and a Spike?
A surge occurs when the voltage increases for three nanoseconds or greater. A spike occurs when the voltage increases for only one or two nanoseconds. That is the distinction. However, those nanoseconds, or billionths of a second, can do significant harm to a system if the surge is sufficiently strong.
What Is the Typical Cause of a Surge or Spike?
Although lightning is extremely rare, it is one of the most well-known causes. The use of high-power devices such as air conditioners, elevators, and refrigerators is a more prevalent cause. Compressors and motors included within them demand a great deal of energy to turn on and off.
When switching occurs, it generates rapid, transient power demands, disrupting the present steady voltage flow. The damage often happens in the electrical system of the structure and might be instantaneous if the system is not safeguarded, or it can occur gradually over time.
Faulty wiring, equipment malfunctions at the utility company, and downed power lines are all major causes of power surges. There are several sites along the complicated system of transformers and wires that transport electricity to your home where a mistake might result in an uneven power flow, eventually resulting in a power surge.
Is There a Difference Between a Surge Protector and a Power Strip?
It’s essential to keep in mind that not all power strips provide surge protection. While they may appear to be identical, a power strip’s main purpose is to offer additional plug space. Oftentimes, it’s impossible to determine the difference if it isn’t explicitly stated. When determining what you are acquiring, you might examine the package. A surge protector’s package should provide a joules rating.
The unit of energy measurement is the joule. They determine the duration of protection for your equipment. The numbers or joules function similarly to a reservoir. When the guardian performs its function, it takes a hit, and the joules deplete over time. It might take just one huge surge to push it over its limitations, or it can take numerous little surges.
Surge Protectors: How Long Do They Last? How Am I to Determine When to Replace Them?
Maintaining a log of spikes and surges can assist in determining whether to replace a protector. As previously stated, following a significant impact, the joules may be depleted and no longer capable of protecting your equipment. Additionally, it is critical to know when your surge protector was purchased. A decent surge protector can survive up to five years (depending on the frequency and severity of surges). However, a general guideline is that they should be replaced every two years. This is because the majority will continue “functioning” in the absence of security and without you being aware that your devices are at risk. If you’re lucky, your guardian will alert you or will automatically shut down if their protection falls below a safe level.
Is it permissible to connect a surge protector to an extension cord?
Technically, yes, if the cord is capable of handling the same amount of energy as the surge protector, if not more. You should not, though, as this is a fire danger. It should be emphasized that this is against both OSHA laws and the National Electrical Code (NEC).
What About Adding an Additional Surge Protector?
Again, it is against OSHA and NEC standards to connect one surge protector to another. Additionally, it negates the objective. When another device is hooked into a surge protector, the surge protector’s protective capabilities can be compromised, perhaps to the point where neither device can do its duty correctly. Most warranties will also be cancelled if it is discovered that the malfunction occurred as a result of putting them in on top of one another.
Without the appropriate changes, a surge protector will not help older homes with ungrounded outlets or homes with incorrect wiring and grounding. Even the strongest surge protector will fail if there is no adequate path for excess power to exit via grounding. If your home has grounding difficulties, solve them immediately, since the cost of wiring repair or upgrade will be negligible in compared to the expense of replacing fried items.