Surge protectors are something you have likely heard about and may even already use. However, do you really understand what they are, how they work, and how important they are? Power surges are a common occurrence that should be taken seriously. Surges in electrical currents can ruin items in your home and task you with many costly replacements. Make sure you understand how electricity works in your home and consider help from a professional electrician like Arc Angel Electric to ensure that all of your devices are protected.
What Is the Purpose of a Surge Protector?
Surge protectors are devices that allow you to plug in many different items using just one outlet. However, their biggest feature is protecting these items from power surges that can cause severe or permanent damage to your electronics.
If you plug an electronic into a standard wall outlet without any type of protection, you could end up damaging your device to a point where it doesn’t work as well or where it doesn’t work at all, requiring replacement. Surge protectors can help save you time, money, and frustration.
What Are Power Surges and When Do They Happen?
Power surges are exactly what you would assume: surges in power. Technically speaking, a power surge (transient voltage) happens when there is an unpredictable increase in voltage. It can vary in intensity and in how it affects your devices.
There are three main ways a power surge takes place, including:
- Interruption in electrical flow before it resumes again
- Voltage getting sent backward into your system
- Increased voltage going through the power system from internal or external causes
You may hear about internal power surges and external power surges. Internal surges can occur many times throughout the day when motors turn on and off, sending electricity to other appliances and devices throughout your house. One example would be a refrigerator motor starting up and stopping, sending surges of power to other appliances.
External power surges occur when events outside of your home cause your electricity to surge. This could include lightning strikes, downed power lines, animals interfering with electrical equipment, and much more. During hot summer days when it’s storming, surges can be very common, especially when there is lightning. For many, these types of storms will ruin TVs, phones, and other important household items.
How Surge Protectors Work
Surge protectors work by passing electricity from your outlet to all of the items plugged into the protector. And if the voltage surges, it will redirect the electricity to the grounding wire of your outlet. The grounding wire is meant to give electricity a safe place to go when there is an issue. This keeps the electricity from flowing through typical wires that could cause damage.
In technical terms, surge protectors have a metal oxide varistor (MOV), which detects voltage levels. If high levels of electricity are detected, the MOV will reduce resistance and redirect excess voltage as needed.
Keep in mind that surge protectors are not the same as power strips. Power strips will let you plug in multiple devices, but they won’t offer you electrical protection. In other words, power strips will offer you the same level of convenience, but not any type of protection. Pay attention to which one you’re buying, and if it comes down to one of the other, you’re better off purchasing a surge protector.
Items You Should Plug Into a Surge Protector
With a basic understanding of what power surges are and how surge protection works, you may wonder what should be plugged into a surge protector. It’s usually a good idea to plug any expensive electronic devices into a surge protector. This includes:
- Desktop computers
- Gaming systems
- Tablets or phones that are charging
- Stereo systems
- Theater systems
- Digital devices
- Other items with microprocessors
If you’re unsure of how your devices should be installed, plugged in, or charged, consult a professional electrician. The experts at Arc Angel Electric can help ensure that you’re using electricity safely throughout your entire home.
There are also many items you should avoid plugging into a surge protector, including:
- Refrigerators and freezers
- Microwaves and microwave ovens
- Washing machines and dryers
- Space heaters
- Sump pumps
- Coffee makers
- Food cookers
- Electronic hair styling tools (blow dryers, hair straighteners, etc.)
- Air conditioners
- Other high-powered appliances
The issue with these items is that surges in electricity can cause the surge protector to overload, trip breakers, cause overheating, or result in an electrical fire. Every surge protector has an ampacity rating. The amount of voltage going into the surge protector can’t exceed this rating, or it will cause an overload. Voltage varies by country, but the United States sits at 120 volts. Most surge protectors are 120 volts and have ratings of 12 amps.
Risks of Not Using a Surge Protector
There are a lot of problems that can occur if you don’t use a surge protector. Power surges or power spikes can shorten the life of your electronics or completely destroy them.
After a power surge, you may notice your device acting odd. All of your storage may be gone (files, photos, memory, game progress, etc.), or the device may not turn on at all. In many cases, your devices might seem fine, and then slowly decline over time. This could be a result of multiple power surges causing wear and tear.
Many people consider surge protectors necessary for their homes. Electronics can be very costly and important to entertainment, communication, work, and other day-to-day activities. Protecting them can help ensure your happiness and convenience for years to come.
Whole-home Surge Protection
If your home uses many electronics, you’ve experienced many power surges in the past, or you’re just looking to be proactive, you might consider whole-home surge protection. Whole-home surge protection is an intricate setup. A surge protection device (SPD) is connected to your electrical panel. The SPD allows normal electrical currents to pass through but blocks currents that could be too high. This prevents potentially damaging voltage from passing through your electrical system.
If you’re interested in widespread protection for your home, consider reaching out to an electrician at Arc Angel Electric. We can help with whole-home surge protection installation to protect electronics throughout your house.
There are some additional considerations to keep in mind when you decide to use a surge protector. One of the main things to consider is if you’re going to be using the protector inside or outside. Many surge protectors are only made for indoor use. This means you shouldn’t use them for lights, fans, heaters, or other devices you’re using outside.
You should also be wary of daisy-chain surge protectors and extension-cord protectors. These are more often seen with power strips, which can also be very dangerous. While they might seem more convenient, they’re often against code and dangerous, putting you, your home, and others at risk of an electrical-related incident.
Electrical projects are not something to be taken lightly. At Arc Angel Electric, we can ensure that your home is operating as it should and prevent any issues that could damage your valuables and put your safety at risk. Arc Angel Electric also offers other services, such as help with electrical panels, generators, indoor lighting, EV charging, smart home automation, remodels, new construction, and other residential and commercial work. Call us today for more information.