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When it comes to our beloved gadgets and electronics, we all want to keep them safe and functioning correctly. But let’s be honest - our tech is in constant danger, with the threat of damaging power surges lurking in our faulty electrical systems. A rogue surge can quickly become hazardous and fry your precious devices.

So what’s the solution? High-quality surge protectors. These trusty tools defend against surges and spikes, helping prevent premature trips to gadget heaven. This guide will discuss how surge protectors block those harmful voltages from reaching your electronics. We’ll clear up some common misconceptions about whether they protect you from nasty electric shocks (spoiler alert - they don’t - that’s your circuit breakers’ job).

Most importantly, we’ll walk through smart surge protection strategies you can use today to create a safe space for all your tech gear. Knowledge is power when it comes to avoiding catastrophic cases of surge-slaughtered devices.

You’ll be ready to arm your electrical system and send those voltage villains running by the end. Let’s banish the threat of zapped gadgets and keep your gear in peak performance.

What Is A Power Surge?

A power surge is a sudden and significant increase in voltage that can damage, deteriorate, or destroy the electronic equipment plugged into your outlets. Common causes of power surges include:

  • Lightning strikes - Powerful lightning can induce sudden extreme spikes in voltage on power lines.
  • Downed power lines - Fallen electrical wires and infrastructure damage lead to spikes.
  • Grid/transformer issues - Problems with electrical grids and transformers can cause surges.
  • Utility equipment cycling - Power returning online from outages or maintenance can surge.
  • Heavy appliance cycling - Large motors/compressors turning on/off causes dips and spikes.
  • Electrical accidents - Short circuits, wiring issues and electric accidents induce surges.
  • EMI/RFI - Electromagnetic interference from motors, transmitters, etc, introduces spikes.
  • Bad electrical wiring - Outdated, damaged or poor household wiring amplifies surges.
  • Weather issues - Storms, heat waves, and cold snaps can strain electrical grids.
  • Rodent damage - Rodents chewing wires lead to short circuit surges.

Power surges can inflict havoc on electrical appliances, potentially leading to electrical fires if not appropriately managed.

The Role of Surge Protection Devices

Surge protection devices (SPDs) are designed to protect your electronic equipment from the excess voltage of power surges. These devices divert the extra electricity from the connected devices, preventing damage.

Surge protectors work by utilising specialised internal components that rapidly detect and respond to sudden spikes in voltage. One key component is a metal oxide varistor (MOV). MOVs are designed to identify increases in voltage above normal levels. When they detect a surge, they act like a pressure release valve - instantly short-circuiting the excess electricity straight to the ground wire before it can reach your electronics.

Power Cord Exploding

Other components like gas discharge tubes and thermally activated fuses also provide backup layers of protection. They all work together to shunt potentially hazardous surges safely away from devices. The goal is to clamp the excess incoming voltage to a regulated, harmless threshold before it passes through to your equipment.

Quality surge protectors can react incredibly quickly, diverting surges in mere billionths of a second. This prevents connected devices from seeing spiked voltage levels that could damage their sensitive internal components.

So, in simple terms, surge protectors rapidly short-circuit electricity exceeding safe levels, keeping only average voltage flowing to the outlet. This safeguards your gadgets from surges that could otherwise degrade or destroy them. The result is protected and properly functioning tech.

Can Surge Protectors, Prevent Electrocution?

A common question is whether a surge protector can prevent electrocution. While surge protectors are adept at handling overvoltage, it’s crucial to understand that they are not designed primarily to avoid electric shock.

Devices such as residual current devices (RCDs) are specifically tailored for this purpose, providing overcurrent protection and preventing electrocution by detecting earth leakage.

Different Types of Surge Protection

There are a few common types of surge protection used in Australian homes and businesses:

Surge Protector

Whole-House Surge Protection

  • Installed at main meter box or switchboard
  • Protects all wiring and devices in the house
  • Uses heavy-duty surge diversion technology

Point-of-Use Surge Protectors

  • Plug-in or hard-wired protectors for appliances
  • Diverts surges for individual devices/outlets
  • Affordable, portable, easy to replace
  • Look for ones meeting Australian Standards

Lightning Arrestors

  • Protects infrastructure from lightning strikes
  • Often used for phone, network and antenna lines
  • Grounds sudden highly high voltage to earth

Industrial-Grade Protection

  • For heavy machinery, servers and sensitive electronics
  • Swift reaction times measured in nanoseconds
  • Designed to withstand frequent, very high-wattage surges

Ideally, a multilayered approach combines hard-wired whole-house defence with secondary protection methods for the most vulnerable gear. This provides complete, overlapping fortification tailored for Australian conditions.

Installing Surge Protectors in Your Home

For the best protection against electrical surges, surge protectors should be professionally installed and integrated with your existing safety systems. Most Australian homes already contain safety measures like residual current devices (RCDs), ground fault circuit interrupters, and circuit breakers, which work by cutting power when an electrical fault is detected.

Electrician Switchboard

Surge protectors provide an additional layer of defence by diverting excess voltage before reaching connected equipment like your TV, computer or kitchen appliances. Hard-wired, whole-home surge protectors installed at your switchboard ensure all wiring and outlets have adequate protection. More vulnerable devices can also benefit from point-of-use surge strips plugged directly into wall outlets.

Safety switches and surge diversion technology provide robust, compliant fortification against dangerous voltage spikes when layered together correctly. This prevents fires, equipment damage, and other electrical disasters that surges can cause.

For worry-free protection tuned for Australian installations, have an electrician assess your situation and integrate the right surge solutions into your existing infrastructure. This provides comprehensive, seamless guarding tailored for your home and family.

The Importance of Surge Protection for Large Appliances

We depend on workhorse appliances like refrigerators, ovens and air conditioners day in and day out. But did you know that cycling these heavy-duty devices on and off can generate power surges back into your home’s electrical system?

When switched on, the compressors and motors in appliances draw huge bursts of current. This can stress your wiring and cause voltage spikes that damage other sensitive electronics and appliances. It becomes a vicious cycle - without protection, surges degrade appliances faster, leading to even more harmful spikes.

Large appliances benefit greatly from industrial-grade surge protectors explicitly designed for their high wattage demands. Protectors sized for air conditioner or refrigerator circuits help suppress the nasty surges they produce, allowing them to turn on smoothly. This defence also shields the units from external spikes travelling in, extending appliance lifespans.

Protecting Your Devices from Lightning

Lightning strikes can induce power surges that are catastrophic to electronic equipment. Direct lightning strike protection requires a specialised setup, as the energy involved in a lightning hit is immense. Surge protectors can offer a first line of defence, but it is often recommended to unplug sensitive electronics entirely during lightning storms.

Maintaining Your Surge Protection System

Installing surge protectors is just the first step - maintaining your system is crucial for long-term performance. While quality surge diverters are designed for years of use, they degrade over time.

Always periodically check protectors for any physical damage or scorch marks that indicate they’ve been overwhelmed. Most units have indicator lights that flicker off when components need replacing.

Additionally, routinely replace all surge suppressors every 3-5 years as an essential precaution to account for gradual wear. Don’t wait for a spike event or failure - proactively swapping depleted equipment ensures your safety net remains intact. Also, replace any protector immediately if it has blocked a significant, high-energy surge from reaching your devices - even if it still works. Its protective elements have likely used up their designed lifespan in that scenario.

Investing a few minutes into occasional inspections and routine system updates keeps your protectors in prime health. This simple maintenance lets them reliably divert hazardous voltage, preventing expensive gadget damage and potential electrical fires. Think of it like changing the oil in your car - regular proactive care means your system will keep you protected for years to come.

Protect Your Electrical Investments, and You!

Surge protectors play a vital role in our daily lives, shielding our homes and devices from the potential dangers of power surges. However, they should be part of a larger safety system that includes RCD and circuit breakers to prevent electrocution and protect against electrical faults.

Understanding and implementing the right surge protection strategy can enhance your appliances’ longevity and ensure your household’s safety.

As you contemplate the health of your home’s electrical system, consider consulting with a professional electrician to evaluate your surge protection needs and ensure that your setup is up to date. If you are in Melbourne, speak with our electrical experts at WP Electrical!

Surge Protection FAQs

What is the difference between a residual current device (RCD) and a surge suppressor?

An RCD monitors for electrical current leakage and cuts power to prevent shocks. A surge suppressor diverts electrical surges to protect electronic equipment from voltage spikes, usually caused by events like fallen power lines. RCDs focus on human safety, while surge suppressors focus on equipment protection.

How can I tell if a power strip provides surge suppression?

Check if it’s labelled as a surge suppressor or surge protector. Suppressors contain components like metal oxide varistors that divert excess electricity. Most power strips only extend outlets without diverting surges, providing no extra protection during events causing electrical surges.

Do surge suppressors protect against power from generators?

Not necessarily. Electric generators can produce "dirty power" with more voltage spikes than standard wall outlets. Some lower-end surge suppressors may struggle with these irregular surges. Invest in industrial-grade suppressors explicitly designed for generators to ensure proper protection of electronic equipment.

My residual current device (RCD) and circuit breakers trip frequently. Do power surges cause this?

Possibly. Frequent tripping can result from electrical surges overloading wires and triggering safety devices. Surge suppressors installed at your switchboard shunt excess electricity before it reaches circuits and causes issues. Suppressors provide extra defence while letting safety features like RCDs and breakers do their core job of preventing fires and shocks.

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