Surge protectors save your electronics from power surges or increases in voltage significantly above the intended level in the flow of electricity. While power surges are commonly associated with lightning and storms, surge protectors have everyday purposes. Power surges, unfortunately, can happen at any time of day, regardless of weather.
High-powered pieces of equipment are more likely than lightning to cause power outages. These powerful electrical devices, such as air conditioners and refrigerators, require a lot of energy to turn on and off quickly.
While these surges are not as intense as lightning surges, they can be severe enough to damage equipment and technology. But the damage often could have been mitigated if the consumer had used a surge protector.
When lightning strikes near a power line — whether it’s underground, in a building, or along poles — the electrical energy from the lightning can boost electrical pressure by millions of volts. Most surge protectors can’t tolerate extremely large power surges. So, for further protection, your REMC recommends unplugging important electrical devices. Surge protectors are perfect for protecting your electronics during less powerful and unexpected power surges.
Other sources of power surges can include faulty wiring and downed power lines.
Any spike in voltage can harm your electrical devices if the increase is above the device’s intended operating voltage. The excess voltage can cause an arc of electrical current, which heats and damages the device. Smaller surges may still damage electronics and gradually shorten the device’s life. While power surges can destroy electronic devices, they can even start a house fire.
Point-of-use surge protection devices, the most common type of surge protector, protect the items that are directly plugged into it from electrical surges. This surge protector can’t stop the surge, but it instead diverts the surge to the ground, away from your electronic devices. The best point-of-use surge protectors have an indicating light and/or alarm that shows when it should be replaced.
Another option is service entrance surge protection devices, which protect your home’s entire electrical system and are mounted on your main electrical panel at the base of the electric meter. This option protects what can’t be plugged into a point-of-use device, such as outlets and light switches. Whole-house surge protectors can handle surges from outside the home of up to 20,000 volts; standard outlet surge protectors typically can’t handle more than 6,000 volts.
Surge protectors serve as safeguards to protect your electronics. Although they are not 100 percent effective during thunderstorms, surge protectors are inexpensive and can save your valuable electronics during common, everyday surges.
Sources: Electrical Safety Foundation International, howstuffworks.com