An electrical surge refers to a significant increase in electrical voltage beyond the designated level of the flow of electric current lasting at least 3 nanoseconds. Generally, the standard voltage for most office and household wiring is 120 volts. Thus, when this voltage goes beyond 120, an electric surge occurs that can potentially damage electrical materials.
In instances where the surge is too high, electronic devices, as well as wires, may be subjected to wear and tear while a severe surge can destroy them. For this reason, it is advisable to ensure that you have a surge protector in place. Surge protectors are designed to not only detect the excess voltage but also divert the excessive electric current to the grounding wire.
Therefore, surge protectors should be used at all times especially for expensive devices that come with intricate microprocessors such as televisions, computers, stereo systems, high tech kitchen appliances and media centres among other things. Additionally, surge protectors can also be handy in reducing cluttering of cables while improving your organization of electronics as all cables are directed in one direction thus allowing for neat handling.
The Difference between Power Strip and Surge Protector
A surge protector is not to be confused with a power strip. A power strip is plugged into the wall outlet to allow multiple electronic devices to be plugged into the power source. Power strips are particularly useful where you do not have enough outlets to enable you to use more than two devices at the same time. That is, a power strip lets you split your power outlet into multiple ports for more plugs. On the other hand, the surge protector supports multiple electronic devices even though it serves a major function of protecting electronic devices from a power spike or a temporary high increase in power lasting a fraction of a second. A power surge may be caused by power outages, lightning strikes, short circuits and tripped circuit breakers among others. Even then, some people assume that the power strip serves the same function as the surge protector.
How Surge Protectors Work
A surge protector comprises a main power line that is also referred to as a live wire or hot wire. In addition, there is an extra connection linking to the mainline and feeding it to the ground wire that is commonly referred to as the earth wire. The earth wire is also the protective wire in the electric circuit that is responsible for sending unwanted current into the earth safely.
The surge connection is usually inactive and only becomes functional when there is a larger than normal voltage detected and it produces an excess electric current. This current is then diverted to the ground safely through the earth wire. Consequently, there will be no more excessive current flowing through to your appliances receptacles as they are duly protected from potential harm.
So then how does the surge protector determine when to divert the current? Through a voltage-dependent resistor that is also known as a varistor and is made using a metal-oxide-semiconductor that is a bad conductor of electricity. In the event of excessive voltage, the semiconductor within the varistor becomes a good conductor of electricity effectively beginning to conduct electricity normally. This semiconductor will continue to channel the harmful electric current into the ground for the entire period that the semiconductor will last. When the flow of electric current is restored to normal, the semiconductor assumes its role of being a bad semiconductor once again. Ultimately, your electrical devices are not only protected during the surge but also when the power supply is stable.
Why Surge Protectors are not all the Electrical Protection You Might Need
A common misconception about surge protectors is that they will fully protect your electronics from damage associated with excessive power voltage and lightning. However, the truth is that even surge protectors that are deemed most effective may fail to protect your equipment from a sudden increase in the electrical current that is supplied.
Therefore, the best way to ensure that your devices are adequately protected from potentially irreparable damage occasioned by power surges is by unplugging your devices from the power supply especially in the wake of a storm. This is especially true of those devices that require a lot of energy to switch compressors and motors on and off thereby resulting in surges that disrupt the steady flow of voltage.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing your surge protector:
- Clamping voltage – This is the measure of voltage prompting the surge protector to redirect excess electricity from the devices that are plugged.
- Joule rating – This refers to the maximum amount of energy that can be absorbed by the protector. The higher the rating the better.
- Response time – This is the length of time it takes for a surge protector to detect a possible surge hence a lower response time is better as it means a faster response.
In conclusion, electrical surges are bound to occur in various electrical grids for one reason or the other thereby damaging electronics. Thus, surge protectors play an important role in keeping the surges under control. Most importantly, surge protectors will help protect your valuable and complex electronics from damage. Even then, it is important to keep in mind that having a surge protector is not enough, rather ensure that you go for one that is rated properly.