So, you might be asking yourself, does that $ 100 Monster surge protector you bought from Best Buy for your new HDTV and electronics actually work or not? Fortunately, most of us will never experience a power surge to test if our hardware will survive, which is good.
However, if you own a lot of expensive technology, don’t feel protected from power surges just because they haven’t happened to you yet. Recently my NAS got fried during a thunderstorm and it was a cool $ 1000.
I’ve never had a problem with this before, and my NAS was plugged into a surge protected power strip. As you can imagine, I was very upset that my NAS was still burned out due to the power surge.
On top of that, the so-called â€œinsurance guaranteeâ€ was complete nonsense. First, I had to fill out a 30 page form to file a claim with the extension cord manufacturer. I sent them a surge protector and they said they tested it and said there was no indication that it failed. Wow, thanks a lot. Now I really loved it!
But in the end, after doing a lot of research, I realized that it was my own fault. Not all surge protectors are created equal, and no surge protector in the world can handle lightning.
In this article, I want to share a little bit about what I have learned about how surge protection devices work and what you really need to do to protect your expensive equipment.
Do surge protectors work against the lighting?
The short answer is no. At least no surge protector you can buy for your home. Even a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) with overvoltage protection will not be able to cope with a nearby lightning strike.
Does this mean you don’t even need to worry about surge protectors? No, then you need more! Here’s what I learned and did.
First, nothing should be fried unless it’s connected to some kind of power source. Unless you really need to do something important, you should turn off any device you want to keep during a thunderstorm. There is simply no better protection.
Secondly, there is such a thing as a surge protector / limiter for the whole house. What the heck is that? It appears to be hardware that is installed at your home’s point of service.
This means it installs between the main board and your home’s separation point. Basically, wherever an electrical panel is in your home, this thing will go away sooner. I wish I had known this before! These devices cost between $ 150 and $ 300, but they are well worth it.
You can even buy them at Home Depot! Of course, I didnâ€™t try to install it myself as I didnâ€™t want to be fried, so you have to spend a little extra money to install it professionally.
So what’s the real advantage? Well, before you dive into that, let’s talk about what overvoltage really is and how overvoltage protection devices work.
What is a mutation?
Basically, a power surge is when something causes an increase in electrical charge on a power line, which then increases the current going into your outlet. What could cause the surge? A lot of everything. You always hear about lightning, although this is not a very common cause of power surges.
Another reason, and the most common one, is electrical devices that require a lot of energy. For example, refrigerator, air conditioner, etc. When they turn on and off, they absorb a lot of energy and disrupt the constant flow of voltage in the system.
Have you ever noticed how sometimes the lights in your home dim for a second or two when the air conditioner turns on? I have a huge printer in my house, and whenever it turns on to start printing, it actually completely cuts out one of the electrical outlets in the same room!
How do surge protectors work
So how do surge protectors work? Basically, electrical current flows from the wall to the surge protector and then to your electrical devices. In the event of a power surge, additional voltage is discharged to the ground conductor inside the surge protection device. Usually there is a device inside the surge protector that performs this process of switching to ground when the voltage is too high.
It sounds simple, but that’s what matters when it comes to the price of these devices. Basically, there are three factors that differentiate between surge protection level and cost:
1. Clamping voltage – the lower the value, the better. This is basically at what voltage the forwarding will trigger. 330V is a good low value, while 500V is too high because by then your electronic equipment may have burned out.
2. Energy is a rating that shows how much energy the surge protector can absorb before it burns out. It is expressed in joules and ranges from 200 joules for basic protection to thousands of joules.
3. Time. Some overvoltage protection devices operate with a short delay, thereby exposing the equipment to overvoltage for a longer time. You need a surge protector with very fast response time.
Another good thing to look out for is the indicator on the overvoltage protection devices. If it burns out and can no longer protect your devices, you really don’t want to keep using it. If the indicator is off, you may never know that your surge protector is no longer working.
How to really protect yourself with surge protection
If you really want to save equipment, even from lightning or power line surges, there are a few things you need to do. Note that this will require you to call your electricity / utility company and ask them for help.
1. Proper grounding. The point where the power goes from the power lines to the box outside your home must be properly grounded. If the box is not properly grounded, any surge from the power lines will go straight into your home and fry everything.
You can call your energy company and they usually run the test for free. I didn’t know that, but it’s true! You can also get improved grounding if your power company offers this service.
2. Prevention of direct hits. The best situation is when lightning never strikes your home. You can do this with a lightning rod. You can buy these bad guys online and attach them to your rooftop or elsewhere along with a ground connection.
Instead of hitting the house, there will be a hit on the rod that will drive everything down the ground. Again, something you probably have to install professionally, but this is the only real way to truly protect yourself from lightning strikes without having to shut down everything in your home.
3. Guarding the whole house is what I mentioned above. It can be the third protection against overvoltage protection or the first protection if you can’t or don’t want to spend money on # 1 and # 2.
4. Linear surge protectors are your last line of defense. You can buy Ethernet surge protectors, coax surge protectors, and more.
Remember that an entire home safety device cannot protect against power surges in the home unless it reaches the main electrical panel. This is why you need to install surge protectors at all points in your home to truly protect your equipment.
What do you think about overvoltage protection? How did you set up your home and equipment for surge protection? Let us know in the comments. Enjoy!