01 May What is Surge Protection
When it comes to commercial electronics, the very last thing you want is failure. In a business, fine margins can mean the difference between a quarterly profit and a net loss, so damage to costly and sensitive electronic equipment pose a huge threat.
One of the most common pieces of equipment for protecting electronics are surge protectors, which typically come packaged in power strips, or on their own as dedicated devices, but do they actually work?
It’s a question we’re often asked, and so in this guide we’re going to explain what a surge is, what damage they do and how surge protectors save your electronics. Let’s dig in.
What is a ‘surge’?
When we speak of a ‘surge’, we’re actually talking about a power surge. Sometimes known as transient voltage, a power surge is an increase in voltage that’s significantly above the designated level of electricity.
In the UK, the standard mains voltage sits at 240 volts, which is just slightly above the European standard of 230 volts and double the US standard of 120 volts. A power surge is when the number of volts delivered is significantly above these levels.
Officially, a power ‘surge’ is when the increase lasts three nanoseconds or longer, whilst an increase which lasts for only one to two nanoseconds is called a ‘spike’.
What causes power surges?
Electrical power surges can be caused by a number of factors, but the most common are:
- Lightning strikes nearby
- Power returning after a power cut
- Switching on a major electronic appliance (this is known as an internal power surge)
- Tree limbs touching power lines
- Animals getting inside a transformer
What damage can power surges do?
Power surges can have a devastating effect on sensitive electronic equipment, in particular electronics with microprocessors.
Almost every item of consumer electronics and the vast majority of modern industrial equipment feature microprocessors in order to function, and these vital components can be affected by a mere 10-volt fluctuation in power.
Whilst large power surges can cause the “frying” of circuits, melting internal metal and plastic parts, small power surges cause electronic rust to build up, which in time can cause the failure of your equipment.
It’s worth noting that these small surges can occur dozens of times a day, making protection vital.
How do surge protectors work?
A standard surge protector passes on the electrical current from the mains to an electronic device connected to it. If the voltage from the mains surges or spikes, the surge protectors diverts the extra electricity into the outlets grounding wire.
In most surge protectors, the component which redirects the extra electricity is called a metal oxide varistor, or MOV.
When comparing surge protectors, it’s useful to note the amount of protection they offer. Each surge protector will offer a different amount of protection. Measured in joules, you’ll find that the more joules of protection your surge protector offers, the greater protection they’ll offer for your electronics.