What is a Surge Protector and How does it Protect your Home?

Modern life comes with a wide range of electrical gadgets that make our life easier. But with more and more devices invading our homes, we must make ourselves aware of the safe use of electrical appliances. There can be various electrical safety concerns in an average household; one of the most serious – is a power surge.

A power surge happens when an acute power spike occurs in an electrical connection. It is a dangerous electrical malfunction that can damage your electrical appliances and even the wiring in your home. Here’s some essential information about power surges and surge protectors that can help you safeguard your appliances and your family against this electrical safety hazard.

What is a Power Surge?

A power surge is an unexpected rise in voltage. When the voltage of electricity flowing through the electrical devices in your home rises above the standard 120 volts – it is known as a power surge.

Your home may experience hundreds of power surges, big and small, in a year. But it is unlikely to come to your notice until an appliance is affected by it. Even if power surges don’t damage your devices, they may strain the internal components of your electrical appliances, causing them to fail sooner than you expect.

Reasons for a Power Surge & the Dangers of a Power Surge

Usually, the reasons for a power surge are – downed power lines, changes in electricity consumption of nearby factories, using power-hungry devices like electric dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, etc. On rare occasions, if a lightning strike occurs close to your home, you may experience a dramatic power surge that can cause significant damage.

A high voltage arc is the existence of a high amount of voltage in the contacts separated by a small gap and it may cause a strong electric discharge across the gap. Constant power surges can be dangerous. They may cause heating, melting, and eroding of other appliances and wiring; and even fire in rare cases.

What is a Surge Protector?

A surge protector is a device that protects your expensive and high-powered electric devices from power surges and voltage fluctuations. The primary function of a surge protector is to pull the current from one outlet and pass it through to the devices plugged into the surge protector.

Surge protectors contain metal oxide varistors or MOV. The MOV works like a pressure-sensitive valve; it reduces resistance during high voltage levels and increases it during low voltage levels. The beauty of this technology is that MOVs kick in automatically to redirect excess voltage.

How Does a Whole House Surge Protector Work? Where is it Installed?

A whole-house surge protector connects directly to your home’s electrical service panel. A MOV has three components, including metal oxide linked to your power and grounding line by two semiconductors. The semiconductors have variable resistance that causes the electrons to move to change the resistance when the voltage gets too high or too low. The metal oxide varistors help shunt the excess voltage away from the central electrical systems of your house.

Whenever the MOV detects voltage higher than 120-volts moving through the control panel, it diverts the extra power through your home’s grounding power line. Smaller surges can easily be shifted without the need to reset the switches, but in the case of more significant surges, you may need to reset the controls.

Look for a system with a warning light or alarm that alerts you when it’s been triggered. Usually, whole house surge protectors are installed near the main electrical service panel, but they may also be installed in more convenient places for easier access.

what is a surge protector

Parts & Characteristics of a Surge Protector

The essential components and features of a surge protector include:

  • Iron Core Transformer – An iron core transformer transfers alternating current (AC) power but cannot absorb sudden surges.
  • Zener Diode – A Zener diode helps protect against common circuit spikes and is sometimes combined with a transient voltage suppression diode.
  • Metal Oxide Varistor (aka MOV) – The voltage gets limited by a Thermal fused MOV, limiting up to three to four times a regular current. The Parallel MOV connection improves life expectancy and also increases current capacity. When exposed to many large transients or numerous small transients, MOVs can self-destruct.

What Events Does a Surge Protector Give Protection Against?

A surge protector protects your home appliances and wiring against all events that may cause malfunctioning owing to high voltage.

  • Fried Circuit Boards – Sudden spikes in voltage can fry circuit boards of electrical appliances like washers, dryers, stoves, fridges, dishwashers, computers, etc.
  • Mini power Surges – Small spikes in power that contribute to almost eighty percent of the power surges in your home can slowly erode the appliances and shorten their lifespan.
  • Overvoltage – Overvoltage from downed utility lines and other homes in your area affect the flow of current into your home and result in damaging voltage fluctuations.
  • Direct Lightning Strikes – Sudden lightning strikes can cause massive spikes in voltage in your area and damage your electrical appliances.

Items That Can be Protected

Here are some examples of items that a surge protector can protect –

  • Refrigerators
  • Computers
  • Televisions
  • Home entertainment systems
  • Microwaves
  • Washing Machines / Dryers
  • Modems/routers
  • Video game systems (such as a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One)
  • High-end audio equipment

Surge protectors may not offer a hundred percent protection against rare power surges caused by lightning strikes. But in all other fluctuation scenarios, surge protectors are practical and useful. They help prolong the working life of all your electrical devices and offer protection against voltage spikes. Find a good quality surge protector to save your electric equipment and prevent any electrical fire accident in your home.

Author Bio: Jeson Pitt works with the marketing department of D&F Liquidators and regularly writes to share his knowledge while enlightening people about electrical products and solving their electrical dilemmas. He’s got the industry insights that you can count on along with years of experience in the field.

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