Things You Didn't Know About Electrical Surges

Electricity fuels most of what we do in our day to day lives. Whether we’re watching Netflix, or working at a desk, just about everything involves an electronic device. Most of the time, we’re not considering what’s powering these devices, just pay the power bill and carry on. A majority of the time, our electronics charge, play, and function like they’re supposed to. At least, they do until a thunderstorm rolls in, and knocks out the power in the neighborhood, and suddenly the television won’t power on. Or the computer is emitting a faint smell of burning plastic (yikes). In the technological world we live in, this can be disastrous, especially in a workplace. How do we prevent this? 

What’s an effective procedure to remove this risk, and save hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in repairs?

An electrical surge, a short burst of energy, that causes a sudden change in the current flowing through an electrical circuit can be caused by a variety of things. Outside sources, like a lightning strike, a fallen power line, or a car wreck into a transformer can be an outside source of electrical surge. Internal interference can also wreak havoc on devices currently linked to a power grid. Operating too many appliances on a circuit breaker can cause an unexpected electrical surge to discharge throughout a home or office. Refrigerators, freezers, water pumps, heavy machinery, heaters & more can be the cause of a power surge in the home or office if proper wiring and protections are put in place.

That’s where we get into surge protection devices. Growing up, we may assume that a surge protector is a surge protector, and that’s all there is to it. Let’s look at some of the things we may not have known about electrical surge protection.

Surge protection devices (SPDs) operate by attempting to successfully divert large spikes in current. These devices have ratings, which is a measure of how much energy the device can divert away from traveling directly to televisions, game consoles, appliances, and more. This rating is usually measured in joules, one of the measurements used for calculating electrical current.

How effective is a surge protection device and how long can it be expected to last?

A surge protection device (SPD) can endure a limited amount of electrical surge, and that limit is dependent of the quality of SPD that is in place. This measurement begins to degrade over time, as it does it’s job absorbing and diverting whatever small surges it encounters. Even a high-quality surge protector loses effectiveness after a few years. If you have a low-quality power strip with a menial amount of protection that was purchased at the grocery store, we may previously have thought this was sufficient. However, if lightning were to strike nearby that power strip doesn’t stand a chance at diverting anything away from your brand new 4K TV, effectively destroying it.

So, how do we know what a good quality surge protector is, without getting ripped off? The answer varies. In a large home with 5 televisions, 5 cable boxes, multiple gaming consoles and multiple refrigerators or an office with a dozen desktops and printers, it’s encouraged to have a Type 1 SBD. This means a device that stands between the building and the main power grid. This is a whole home surge protection solution, which would be able to stop and divert large electrical surges before it even enters the home. This solution can be on the pricey side and may not be suitable for some homeowners and renters. However, it can save a home from burning down in the event of an electrical fire, and save tons of money on equipment replacement.

There are three main types of surge protectors. Type 1, Type 2, & Type 3.

Next in line is what’s known as a Type 2 surge protector. It is a permanently installed device located on the load side of the breaker panel, effectively able to protect against internal and external electrical surges. These are often used both commercially and residentially and provide a wide range of electrical surge coverage. Keep in mind that high current appliances like water heaters, space heaters, and clothes drying machines can often be the cause of internal power grid surges. 

Alternatively, SPDs like a high-quality battery back up surge protector is a small step below. These are considered Type 3 SPDs. What does the higher range in joules rating look like? A top of the line SPD would have a rating anywhere from 5,000 joules to 10,000 joules. Products in this range often come with an equipment protection policy for the connected devices. Many of these products also have a battery storage, and ethernet/cable pass through, keeping you online, and protected.

What kind of power strip solutions are being used in your home or business?

Take a look at the surge protection devices you have currently installed, if any, and find the joules rating on them. Some power strips we buy generically from the local home improvement store may not have a rating at all. A good rated SPB would range anywhere from 1,000 joules to 5,000 joules. Something in this range is affordable, and effective against smaller electrical currents. If you’re in a location prone to severe thunderstorms, you may look into higher rated SPDs to protect against nearby lightning strikes.

In some cases, we’ve seen situations where multiple power strips are being utilized in a “daisy-chain” fashion. This is a fire hazard, and very against fire code. We strongly recommend resolving any daisy chaining of surge protectors as soon as possible. A surge diversion failure can easily lead to an electrical fire, causing a lot more loss than just a TV.

Technology Resource Group 

Moral of the story? Check your power strips. If they are more than 5 years old, or don’t have a decent joules rating (at least 1,000 joules) it’s in your best interest to invest in a whole-home surge protection solution or make sure you have decent quality SPBs installed between your most expensive and important equipment and your exterior power grid. Technology Resource Group is a team of highly trained technological experts that have been working with electrically powered devices for many years. We would be happy to provide consultation services regarding your home or business. If you have questions, concerns, or would like to make an appointment, please reach out by phone or email and we’d love to help you. We value each and every client, no matter how big or small.