Since we live where severe weather regularly causes power fluctuations and our local electrical providers do not always provide clean and consistent power, we need real protection for our electronics.
Additionally, if you live in the higher elevations, don’t kid yourself, lightning will strike your property. The only question is, where and how much damage will it do.
Power surges can happen in the time it takes to blink your eye and that surge in the current flowing through the wires of your home can cause damage to your electronics. Power surges and lightning strikes result in more than $1 billion in insured losses every year worldwide. In certain geographic areas, the largest threats come from outside the homes, in the form of lightning strikes and damaged power lines. While lightning is considered the most dangerous of all electrical events, it is not the most common.
Interior power surges occur more frequently, and large appliances that cycle on and off automatically, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, and clothes dryers, generate surges through circuits that are shared with other electronics. All your electrical outlets are susceptible to surges, which is why you should not be content with surge protection only at your main electrical panel. Surge protection devices, (SPD’s) should be installed throughout your entire home in order to protect your more sensitive electronics, such as plasma TVs, computers, and small appliances which can malfunction or burn out prematurely from internal electrical surges.
Whole-house SPD’s can protect against up to 40,000 amps of current flowing into your home from sudden surges, such as lightning strikes or damaged power lines. Whole-house SPD’s connected to your main circuit breaker panel detect excess electrical current and safely divert it through your home’s ground circuit. Electrical surges can enter your home through cable TV and phone lines as well, so if you are using electrical devices that are plugged into coaxial cables or phone lines, like a modem or cable TV converter, make sure to obtain SPD’s that have inputs for electric, telephone and cable connections.
Scaled-down versions of whole-house SPD’s, with additional electrical outlets for various electronics, can be plugged into your home’s electrical outlets. You need to understand that there is a big difference between a standard power strip and a surge protector. All power strips offer are more outlets, while surge protectors provide real protection and they should have UL safety ratings. Surge protectors cost a little more than power strips; for instance, a 6-outlet power strip can cost less than $10 while a quality 6-outlet surge protector will cost around $20.
Surge protection devices come in various sizes and legitimate surge protectors should offer three ratings that you need to consider.
Clamping Voltage –This tells you how much voltage will trigger the surge protectors metal oxide varistor, (MOV) so that it begins to absorb an electrical surge. A lower clamping voltage indicates better protection, so look for a device that will absorb 400 volts or less.
Energy Absorption – This rating, provided in joules, indicates how much electricity the surge protector can absorb. A higher number indicates greater protection. Look for a protector that is rated at a minimum of 1000 joules.
Response Time – Surge protectors don’t kick in immediately; there is a very slight delay as they respond to a power surge. A longer response time tells you that your computer or other connected electronics will be exposed to the surge for a greater amount of time. Look for a surge protector that responds in less than one nanosecond.
Additionally, look for devices that are rated by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). This global independent safety science company defines how surge protectors should safely operate. The standard let-through voltage for basic 120 V AC electronics is 330 volts. The lowest three levels of protection defined by UL ratings are clamping voltages of 330, 400 and 500 volts. According to UL testing standards, power line surges inside a home can be up to 6,000 volts, and deliver up to 90 joules of energy, including surges from external sources, but not direct lightning strikes.
Remember, no surge protector can prevent damage from a direct lightning strike, but weighed against the damage that common power surges can cause, surge protection devices are well worth their cost.
The writer, Tom Rosenberger has traveled throughout Costa Rica for 24 years, inspecting homes and condominiums for people who want to purchase existing property or build new construction.
If you would like to contact Tom you can send him a message by clicking here.