How to prevent damage this storm season using surge protection devices
Power surges, voltage transients, load switching and lightning can seriously harm electrics and electronics unless you use surge protection devices. But how do they work anyway? And what should you consider before choosing a surge protection device for your home or business?
High temperatures and occasional thunderstorms – it’s that time of year again in Australia. It’s also the beginning of storm season when the dangers of power surges lurk around every corner. So, whether you’re at home or at work, before heading out, make sure you take all the safety measures to protect yourself and your electrical equipment.
What are the surge protection devices standards?
In general, electrical and electronic equipment follow strict manufacturing standards in our country. However, a 99% guaranteed power within specification still leaves 5256 minutes a year of potential risks. When dealing with lightning strikes, exposed wiring or other energy-hungry devices, all it takes are microseconds of unregulated power to damage your assets.
Despite the fact that there are no mandatory surge protection devices national certification standard, Australia uses mainly ANSI/IEEE C62.41. In addition, the Risk Assessment AS/NZS 1768 and the Australian Lightning Protection Standard AS1768:2007 are both important resources you can relate to.
What is an SPD and how does it protect your electrical equipment?
A surge or lightning protection device, also known as an SPD, is a shield against surges or transient voltage flowing from the power supply. In other words, it blocks or redirects surge current to the ground instead of passing through the equipment.
Technically, most surge protectors operate with the help of a Metal Oxide Varistor (MOV). This is basically the link between the SPD’s hot wire and its grounding wire. With a variable electrical resistance, the varistor can adjust the incoming voltage that is either too low or too high. For example, when it’s too high, the MOV redirects the excess voltage into the grounding wire, letting it dissipate safely. Then, a normal level of voltage continues to flow through. Metaphorically speaking, the MOV acts as a pressure-sensitive valve that only opens when there is too much pressure.
Therefore, the SPD ensures uninterrupted use of your electronics and appliances while protecting them from overcurrent degradation.
What should you consider when purchasing a surge protection device?
Around Australia, there are thousands of storms each year. Some of them are severe enough to seriously damage or destroy your electrical devices. That’s why power boards that come with surge protection are a quick option for protecting your equipment from random power spikes.
Typically, when searching for an SPD for your home or business, you can come across different terms, such as:
- Surge arrestors
- Surge protectors
- Transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSS)
- Transient voltage surge diverters
- Surge filters or surge reduction filters
Whilst some of them are slightly different, their main purpose is to minimise the risks of damage from lightning strikes, power surges and transient voltages. In addition, make sure to check technical features, like:
- Indicator lights, showing whether the SPD is working properly or not
- UL rating, to test the safety of electronic devices
- Clamping voltage, which is the level at which the SPD starts redirecting the excess electricity away from the plugged-in devices
- Response time (how long it takes for the surge protector to detect a surge in electricity).
What you should know about installing surge protection devices
First and foremost, SPDs should be installed as close to the equipment as possible. Also, cable lengths must be short and straight in order to minimise the resistive path of the circuit to ground. Remember that a solid connection to the system grounding conductor is essential for proper operation of the SPD.
For maximum safety and protection, all surge protection devices should only be installed by a licensed electrician that is familiar with the equipment and its use. This way, your home or business will be safe at all times!