It’s probably happened to you or someone you know. You’ve been on the computer for one thing or another during a storm. Lightning strikes, your power cuts out, and then it comes back on. But not your computer. You try the tried-and-true off-and-on-again approach, but it doesn’t seem to do anything.

You’ve been told to use surge protectors for the electronics in your home. You know that they’re there to defend the appliances from electrical surges, but how does that work? And are they really necessary?  


Violent Voltage

Power surges are also referred to as transient voltage. These surges can happen for a number of reasons. Quite often it can occur from lightning strikes during storms (like the example above) or a malfunction in the equipment outside your home. But they can also happen within your home. Transient voltage can instantaneously overload a circuit, causing damage, or it can slowly deteriorate your electronics over time.

Major appliances turning on and off are a common factor for transient voltage. Notice the lights dimming in the kitchen when you start your dishwasher? Or maybe it happens when your A/C kicks on in the summer. Those appliances are pulling so much energy for their own use that they create small surges each time they come into play. With time, they decrease the lifespan of other electronics in your home.


Your Surge Protectors’ Job

Typically, the voltage in our homes is set to flow at 120V in single-phase, alternating current. With the alternating current, the voltage varies between 0V and peaks at 169V. However, when a surge happens, the voltage reaches beyond the limit, and some level of damage occurs. The increase in electricity can create an arc of current, and the heat generated from it can damage the circuit boards and electrical components. Of course, the damage depends on how long the surge lasts and how powerful it was.

Surge protectors stop the surge before it reaches your electronics and causes any kind of damage and redirects the excess voltage back into the grounding line. Take a look at your surge protectors’ electrical plug when you get a chance. The round prong on the plug is what connects to your home’s grounding line and stops any accidental shocks. That line also creates a way out for any sudden rushes of electricity.

So then the question is: how do they work?


MOV: the Mediator

Most surge protectors function with a middle man: the MOV. The MOV (metal oxide varistor) works inside the power strip between the hot wire and the grounding wire. It has variable electrical resistance so it can adjust any incoming voltage that may be too high or low. If it’s too high (like transient voltage), the MOV will direct any extra voltage to the grounding wire. The safe voltage can continue through to its intended appliance, uninterrupted.


Layers and Layers of Surge Protection

No matter what surge protectors you choose to go with, they will make a difference – from a whole-home system to a simple power strip. However, no surge protector is full-proof during every surge. So it’s a good idea to layer your protection.

An easy way to start: integrate a whole-home surge protection system. They are exceedingly effective at redirecting any surges that make their way in from outside the home. Then add surge protector power strips or adapters to electronics for added protection. They will bring some extra defense to your home by reducing the amount of damage from any internal surges.


If you want to improve your home’s electrical system, we’ll be happy to set up a consultation with you. We’ll help you create a space of safety and efficiency to give you greater peace of mind.

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