Is surge protection really a necessity in our homes and small businesses, or is it merely hype by manufacturers to sell their products? Some of us have probably never used any surge suppression products in our homes and never had any problems with damaged electronics equipment, and of course there are those that have. I personally think it is worth the small investment with 4 and 6 way economy surge strips retailing at £5-7 in the UK. If you can find power strips without surge protection they probably wouldn’t cost much less.
If you have expensive audio and video equipment permanently connected to the mains power supply then you might want to invest a little more money on better quality surge protection equipment, after all you may have invested many hundreds or thousands in the audio and video equipment, so a small investment to protect that equipment is surely worth it.
What are we actually protecting against? Well, nothing is perfect in this World and your electricity supply is no exception. With the best will in the world your electricity supplier cannot guarantee a perfectly smooth power supply and the system is very complicated. So we do get short voltage spikes from time to time, which are a momentary increase in voltage which sometimes can be significant. It is not just protection against surges in voltage but also reduction in voltage or a short dropout of the supply, which we refer to as brownouts. These could cause equipment to fail, or maybe even data to be lost, particularly on computer systems that don’t have any kind of battery backup like most desktop computers. Fortunately most notebook computers do have a battery backup and the battery will immediately continue to supply power during brownouts and even longer periods of power loss. This will however not protect against potentially damaging voltage spikes. This is where surge limiting or surge protection devices come into their own.
So what does the surge protector actually do? The device is normally placed in the line between the electricity wall outlet and the electronic device it is designed to protect. It is even possible to protect such things as telephone or data lines with some of the devices simultaneously. Many things can be a cause of electrical fluctuation including Short Circuits, Complete power outages, Lightning strikes, tripping circuit breakers and unexpected fluctuations in the supply from your electricity supplier.
Even surge protection would probably not save equipment connected directly to the power supply, but residual surges from nearby strikes would normally be protected against. Power surges cause by problems within the electricity suppliers network are often in the order of several hundred volts, which should be comfortably dealt with by a quality surge protection device.
You will normally see a rating on the packaging of any device designed to protect against voltage spikes. This rating is usually quoted in Joules, where a Joule is a unit of energy. It describes how much energy can be absorbed when the surge protection device is brought into operation.
better the protection and typical ratings for surge suppression devices designed for the home should have ratings in the order of 200-600 Joules. Any device should have a rating of at least several hundred Joules, if not several thousand.
It is worth noting that surge protectors have a limited lifespan depending on how many times they have had to deal with a voltage spike, the peak voltage and the duration of spikes. It is not easy to gauge how long this will be, it depends on how reliable your electricity supply is. There are some devices that have a visual indication in the form of an LED that lets you know that your consumer or business devices are still fully protected. If you fail to see this indication then it is time to replace the unit.
So, are you fully protected? Do you think you really need it? Are you willing to take a chance. I suggest you make sure you have at least the basic protection just for that eventuality that you may need the protection.