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Do I Need a Surge Protector?


With summer storms approaching, it's important to protect your appliances and electronic devices from power surges and the damage they cause. One of the best ways to do that is by using surge protectors. But what is a surge protector, and how do you use it?

What Is a Surge Protector?

As electricity flows from your outlet into your devices, it ranges anywhere from 0 to 120 volts. However, if the voltage exceeds that amount for just one or two nanoseconds, it's called a power spike. Three nanoseconds or more is a power surge. This can happen due to a lightning strike, or during power grid switching by your electric company. Though quick, they're also dangerous. They can cause wires to heat up, damaging the outlet and the appliances plugged into it, and can even cause fires.

A surge protector is designed to protect against this damage. It senses when voltage exceeds normal levels, and diverts the extra power into a grounding wire, through the third prong on the plug (the grounding pin).

When to Use a Surge Protector

The real question isn't when to use a surge protector, but where. Not every device requires one, but the ones that do, should use them all the time. Small, cheap appliances like lamps, can be plugged directly into the wall. But bigger or more important items, as well as appliances that require constant power, such as computers, printers, televisions, and refrigerators, should all use surge protectors. Any device that you don't want to lose in the event of a power surge, or that would be expensive to replace, should be protected.

Surge Protector Vs. Power Strip

Many people use the terms "surge protector" and "power strip" interchangeably. However, the two are not the same. Power strips are relatively inexpensive, and allow you to plug multiple items into the same outlet safely. They include a basic circuit breaker, which cuts power to avoid overloads, but other than that, don't provide any real protection against power surges or spikes. If you want to keep your appliances safe from electrical storms and other power increases, be sure to buy a surge protector, not a power strip.

Choosing the Right Surge Protector

Here are some factors to look at when shopping for a surge protector:

  • Joules. The more joules, the more electricity your surge protector can take safely. A rating of 600 joules or more will provide the best protection, and last the longest.
  • Indicator Light. This is one of the most important features you can get. As long as the indicator light is on, that means it's still working. When the light goes out, it's time for a new one.
  • Clamping Voltage. This is the amount of power your surge protector needs to reach before it starts redirecting it away from your plugged in devices. The clamping voltage should be below 400 volts.
  • Response Time. The faster the response time of your surge protector, the more quickly it can react to electrical surges, reducing the amount of time your appliances are exposed to them.
  • UL Rating. Underwriters Laboratories is an independent product safety organization that tests electronic devices to see how well they function. Look for a surge protector with a high UL rating, to be sure it's high quality, for maximum protection.

Surge protectors are essential in any room where you keep large, expensive, or essential appliances. If you want to learn more about surge protectors and how to choose the best one for your needs, our team of electricians can help. Contact David Gray Electrical Services online, or call us at (904) 724-7211.

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