Power Surges Explained

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If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ve probably picked up that I’m a proud gadget-geek. But despite all the technology I have at home, I’ve never actually purchased a power strip with ‘power surge protection.’ You see it being marketed in all the stores, but do you really know what it means? The Web site HowStuffWorks.com has a great series on power surges. I’ve summarized some key points below, but you can access the full article on their site.

What are power surges?

A power surge happens when there’s interference in the grid that causes a sudden increased electric charge in a power line. These interferences can come from a variety of sources like lighting, operation of large equipment (refrigerators, air conditioning units, etc), wiring issues or downed power lines. These electrical bursts travel all the way through the power line, through your wall outlet and into your computer, TV and anything else plugged into that circuit.

How does a power surge cause damage?

Similar to a fuse, certain delicate components in your electronic devices (like microprocessors in your computer) can be blown out from these sudden electrical bursts causing both hardware and potentially software damage.

How do I avoid damage from a power surge?

If you have expensive electronic equipment, hook them up to a power surge protector with an indicator light that tells you the protector is functioning. The power surge protector will act as a barrier between the electrical burst and your equipment. The wires in your electrical outlet aren’t the only ones that are susceptible to power surges. If you have phone and cable lines connected to your devices, you should consider getting surge protectors for those outlets as well or choose a surge protector with those inputs built in.

Will a power surge protector protect from all power surges?

In the event of a severe storm, the electrical bursts created by lightning can be quite large and beyond the capacity of your surge protector. The best solution for protecting equipment during severe storm activity is to unplug them completely.

Power surge protectors can run anywhere from $5 to $150 so make sure to research which one is suitable for you. The Underwriters Laboratories (UL) ratings is a means by which you can validate the quality of the power surge protector.

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