In today’s technology-driven world, our homes and offices are filled with valuable electronic devices. These gadgets have become part of our daily lives, from computers to televisions to smartphones and gaming consoles. However, when power surges and voltage fluctuations hit, our devices become vulnerable. That’s where surge protectors come in. Let’s learn what a power surge is and why you should protect your electronics from one.
What is a Power Surge?
A power surge refers to a sudden increase in the flow of electrical current into your home. This can vary from a minor uptick of five or ten volts, like when you switch on a hair dryer, to a substantial surge of thousands of volts, which can occur if lightning strikes a transformer. Essentially, it’s a disruption followed by a resumption of electrical flow. Let’s look at the two types of electrical surges your home may experience.
These are more common. They happen within the home and often go unnoticed. They occur dozens of times a day, usually when appliances with motors start or stop, redirecting electricity within the house, for instance, with air-conditioning units or refrigerators.
On the other hand, external surges originate from events outside the home. These could result from a range of factors, such as a damaged power line, a lightning strike on utility equipment, or a blown transformer.
What Do Power Surges Do to Electronics?
Internal and external surges can affect the performance of electronic devices in your home. Any device containing a microprocessor is vulnerable to damage from a significant voltage fluctuation. While a minor surge might not visibly harm your devices, it can cause what’s known as electronic rust — a gradual deterioration of electronic components due to small, repeated electrical surges.
What Do Surge Protectors Do?
Surge protectors act as a barrier, preventing excessive voltage from reaching the devices plugged into them. They absorb the surplus voltage into components called metal oxide varistors, which then redirect it safely into the ground wire. This protects your electronics from potentially damaging voltage levels.
It’s worth noting that surge protectors have a limited lifespan. Each time they absorb a power surge, their capacity to withstand future surges decreases. For instance, a 1,000-joule surge protector can handle either a single 1,000-joule surge or multiple hits totaling 100 joules.
While surge protectors don’t display the exact number of joules they can still handle, most models feature an LED indicator to signal whether they are still effectively protecting your electronic devices.
Given the substantial power that modern devices draw, surge protection should be taken seriously to prevent electrical issues or even hazards like fires.
What’s the Difference Between a Surge Protector and a Power Strip?
A power strip and a surge protector may look alike, as they both offer multiple device connections. However, a power strip simply extends a wall outlet, accommodating more plugs in a limited socket. On the other hand, a surge protector expands connections and shields electronics from power spikes and surges.
It’s important to note that recurring circuit breaker overloads may signal underlying home electrical problems. In that case, you should call a professional electrician to inspect your circuit breaker.
Is a Whole House Surge Protector Worth It?
While whole-house protectors can’t completely stop surges, they significantly mitigate them. A whole-house surge protector is a discreet gray box installed near your home’s electrical panel. Its function is to sense voltage irregularities, diverting excess voltage into the ground before it reaches your electronics, shielding them from harmful spikes. Unlike plug-in surge protectors, which are user-friendly but only protect the devices that are plugged into them, whole-house protectors protect everything in your house that’s plugged in.
Plug-in surge protectors can be bought and set up by anyone at any time – you probably have some in your home right now. However, whole-house surge protectors should only be installed by licensed professional electricians.
What Products Should You Use With Surge Protectors?
Items in your home, particularly those with sensitive microprocessors, should be plugged into surge protectors to safeguard them from damage. While appliances like coffee pots or alarm clocks don’t require surge protection, it’s still recommended to prioritize the electronic devices that are most susceptible to voltage irregularities.
Here’s a list of the most common home devices that should be plugged into surge protectors:
- Desktop computers
- Gaming systems
- Charging phones
- Medical equipment
- Routers and modems
- Office equipment
- Smart small appliances
Call John C. Flood for All Your Electrical Needs
The expert electricians at John C. Flood are ready to help you with all of your electrical safety needs. We’ve got you covered, from regular electrical inspections and upgrades that prevent future problems to whole-house surge protector installation. We’re the #1 electrical professionals in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia areas. Call today at 703-214-5611 for same day service!