What Does a Surge Protector Do?

The purpose of a surge protector is to shield your electronics from damage caused by an unexpected increase in voltage. In most cases, they work by rerouting the extra voltage into the ground wire, where it is safely absorbed.

Because different surge protectors offer different levels of protection, knowing which type you have installed is crucial.

Even if you have a surge protector, it may not be able to prevent damage if a particularly large power surge occurs or if another event, like lightning, occurs close to your home.

To protect against spikes in electricity, it may be necessary to install a whole-house generator.

How Does Surge Protector Limit The Voltage?

The use of a surge protector is a smart preventative measure for any home. If you don’t have surge protection and there’s a power spike or outage that lasts more than five minutes, any electronics you happen to have could be fried.

Having one is essential because it can be difficult to prove to insurance companies that a power surge caused the death of your refrigerator and air conditioner.

The prevention of voltage spikes is crucial for the safety of any building. A brownout, however, presents a problem. Don’t we need to take these kinds of things seriously as well?

When the power grid isn’t providing enough voltage to your system, you’ll experience a brownout, which will cause the lights to flicker for a few seconds before returning to normal. Should this happen to be considered a potential risk associated with power outages? 

In the short amount of time that electronics like computers and televisions are left on during “browning outs,” they are at risk of being damaged.

What is a Brownout?

Contrast that with a brownout, the opposite of a power surge. We call these situations “brownouts,” and they occur when the voltage drops too low.

There should never be a reduction in the power capacity of our grid, either intentionally, as in an emergency load reduction, or unintentionally, as when numerous large facilities turn on their lights (or at least not for long).

The first symptom of a brownout is dimmer lights. This is because the voltage is lower. Depending on where it starts and how long it lasts before it’s fixed, these can last anywhere from a few minutes to an entire day!

What to Do During a Brownout?

It’s not unusual for there to be a brownout at any given time. Inconvenient as they may be, they pale in comparison to the alternative of being plunged into darkness when the power goes out.

Fortunately, this article will give you advice on what to do in the event of a brownout, so that your home won’t sustain extensive damage and your appliances won’t be fried by an uncontrolled event caused by the brownout.

Blackouts may be unusual (depending on your location), but they always occur during tense situations, such as during severe weather.

Restoring power after a blackout can take days, weeks, or even months, adding more stress to the situation.

Bad Effects of Brownouts

Computers and other expensive electronics can be easily damaged. If there is a brownout, turn off all of your electronics, even if they are plugged into surge protectors, because the fluctuating voltage can and will cause immediate damage.

When electricity is restored after a low-voltage outage, it is common to experience another power surge. To prevent fires caused by overloading, it is important to have a properly sized breaker or fuse box installed close to any extension cords.

Given their usefulness, power strips are a must-have item in any home. When a brownout occurs, you can easily turn off everything that is plugged into that strip by simply flipping a switch. Thanks to these ingenious gadgets, you won’t be overwhelmed if the power suddenly returns.

How to Choose the Best Surge Protector For You

Have you ever wondered how your various surge protectors varied from one another? Let’s go over the fundamentals of what to look for in a new one.

There are many places to purchase protectors from, each with their own price points, and this can make it difficult to settle on a trustworthy one. To what end, then, does this occur? What characteristics should one consider prior to making a choice or buying something?

Indicator Lights

If you care about the integrity of your electronics, you need a surge protector. You never know when you’re going to need one, so it’s crucial that it’s always up-to-date and functioning properly.

If your surge protector doesn’t have an indicator light on it, there may be a problem. If that’s the case, it’s probably time to get a new surge protector before disaster strikes.

UL Rating

When shopping for electrical surge protectors, look for the UL symbol.

Be wary of transient voltage surge suppressors as well; many of these products will have a solid safety record but fail to offer sufficient protection against surges and spikes, despite being UL-labeled.

Clamping Voltage

If a surge protector detects a Clamping Voltage, it will begin to divert power away from the connected devices.

A surge protector with a clamping voltage of 400 volts or less is suitable for use in a home, and it will activate sooner than one with a higher voltage, protecting your electronics from damage more quickly.

Joule Rating

You need to get a surge protector that has enough joules to protect your home. The higher the rating, the more power it can handle before protecting you from surges in the future.

You need at least 600 Joules so that they can still be used in an emergency.

Response Time

A reliable surge protector will be able to quickly identify any electrical fluctuations and protect the devices you have plugged into it.

Avoid having a response time of less than 1 nanosecond if at all possible, as this will reduce the amount of time you have before power surges begin to damage your electronics. Don’t risk having your electronics fried!

Where to Use Surge Protectors?

In the event of an electrical spike, a surge protector can shield expensive equipment by redirecting the extra current elsewhere.

While some of these features are already integrated into power strips, you may also find them in separate, stand-alone devices.

You want to make sure your laptop is always safe, but you don’t want to go through the trouble of installing a complicated security system.

Not only can surge protectors prevent damage from power surges, but they also provide extra outlets for people who need them and USB charging ports, so you’ll never lose your charger again.

All those expensive electrical components require surge protectors. Over time, you’ll spend less money and avoid damage to your electronics thanks to their use. When selecting a protection, make sure it is compatible with your current setup.

Conclusion

Any house would benefit from installing a surge protector as a preventative measure. A brownout occurs when your system’s voltage drops because the power grid is under stress. If the voltage drops too low, a brownout will occur, which can last anywhere from a few minutes to an entire day. An electronic surge protector is a necessity if you care about the longevity of your electronic devices. There could be an issue with your surge protector if there is no light on it to indicate its status.

Having a breaker or fuse box that is adequately sized can protect your home from fires caused by overloading. A surge protector’s clamping voltage must be lower than 400 volts for safe use in a residential setting. It will protect electronics from damage sooner than one with a higher voltage because it will activate sooner. In addition to providing additional outlets for those who need them, surge protectors also feature USB charging ports, ensuring that you will never be without a means of power again.

Content Summary

  • The purpose of a surge protector is to shield your electronics from damage caused by an unexpected increase in voltage.
  • Because different surge protectors offer different levels of protection, knowing which type you have installed is crucial.
  • Even if you have a surge protector, it may not prevent harm from a large power surge or nearby lightning.
  • To protect against spikes in electricity, it may be necessary to install a whole-house generator.
  • The use of a surge protector is a smart preventative measure for any home.
  • If you don’t have surge protection and there’s a power spike or outage that lasts more than five minutes, any electronics you happen to have could be fried.
  • The prevention of voltage spikes is crucial for the safety of any building.
  • Should this happen to be considered a potential risk associated with power outages?
  • In the short amount of time that electronics like computers and televisions are left on during “browning outs,” they are at risk of being damaged.
  • It’s not unusual for there to be a brownout at any given time.
  • If there is a brownout, turn off all of your electronics, even if they are plugged into surge protectors, because the fluctuating voltage can and will cause immediate damage.
  • Given their usefulness, power strips are a must-have item in any home.
  • Have you ever wondered how your various surge protectors varied from one another?
  • Let’s go over the fundamentals of what to look for in a new one.
  • You never know when you’re going to need one, so it’s crucial that it’s always up-to-date and functioning properly.
  • Be wary of transient voltage surge suppressors as well; many of these products will have a solid safety record but fail to offer sufficient protection against surges and spikes, despite being UL-labeled.
  • If a surge protector detects a Clamping Voltage, it will begin to divert power away from the connected devices.
  • A surge protector with a clamping voltage of 400 volts or less is suitable for use in a home, and it will activate sooner than one with a higher voltage, protecting your electronics from damage more quickly.
  • You need to get a surge protector that has enough joules to protect your home.
  • In the event of an electrical spike, a surge protector can shield expensive equipment by redirecting the extra current elsewhere.
  • All those expensive electrical components require surge protectors.
  • When selecting a protection, make sure it is compatible with your current setup.

About Blake Sutton

Blake has worked as an electrician for over 10 years, receiving his Journeyman Electrician license in 1998. Looking to take his professional electrical career further, in 2008 he received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) from the University of Texas in Austin. Blake now works full time as an electrical engineer, specializing in power systems.