An electrical surge essentially is a spike in electrical voltage in which the spike exceeds the electric current levels. Electrical surges generally are caused by power outages, lightning strikes and short or tripped circuit breakers to name a few. Whilst a power surge typically cannot be prevented (unfortunately we cannot stop mother nature and it’s lightning storms), there are a few surge protection steps which can be implemented to protect your electrical devices and in this case, your hard earned pennies, as the cost to replace your electrical devices will definitely exceed the costs of installing surge protection.
Risk of Power Surges
Within most New Zealand households the standard voltage is 240 volts. If the voltage levels rise above this amount it can result in serious damage to your home electrical devices and appliances. Typically what you can expect to happen is that the wires may burn out which will impact the functionality of the devices and in some cases, completely ruin the devices. Even though power surges are often very brief (measured in nanoseconds), they still can cause a considerable amount of damage to electrical devices that are connected to the power source.
An electrical spike can happen at any moment and can occur within the main power grid of the building or within your own business. Therefore, it is vital that surge protection is fitted within the two locations as by installing it within your business’s own fuse board, it will prevent voltage fluctuations in the main power grid from affecting your equipment.
What are Surge Protectors?
Surge protectors are a device that shields electronic devices/appliances from power surges, ensuring that no damage occurs, saving you from receiving a hefty electronic replacement bill at the end. Not only were they designed to detect excess voltage, but have also been designed to divert the excess current to the grounding wire. Therefore, it is vital for surge protectors to be used at all times, especially for expensive electronic devices that you don’t want to run the risk of potential damage. Not only that, but from an aesthetic side, surge protectors are a great way to clean up excess cables and reduce the clutter that tends to come from having multiple cables.
How does a Power Surge Protector Work?
First, let’s explain what the surge protector is made up from. It has a main power line which is connected to the ground wire (also known as the earth wire) by a smaller connecting link. The ground / earth wire is the wire that protects the circuit and sends the unwanted current back into the earth (where it came from). A surge protector is typically inactive and only begins to work when it detects a larger than normal voltage. This larger voltage is diverted to the ground through the earth wire. It does this by using a voltage-dependent resistor (or varistor as it is also commonly known as) that is made from a metal-oxide semiconductor which is a bad conductor of electricity. When an excessive voltage is present, the semiconductor turns into a good conductor and starts to conduct electricity in a normal manner, sending the damaging electric current into the ground for the entire surge period. Once the electric current has returned back to normal, the semiconductor turns back into a bad conductor, therefore meaning that it only works when there are abnormally high amounts of voltage present.
A common misconception or factor that people tend to forget is that surge protectors do not last forever. Over time they wear down and essentially stop working, meaning that to ensure that your electronic devices are always protected, it is important to replace them every few years. If you are unsure whether you have power protection installed within your own homes or organisation, reach out to the UPS specialists, Northern Lights Data. For all power protection solutions, get in touch with our consultants and let us customise a solution that meets your power management needs.