Surge protectors are important for protecting your home and your plugged-in electronic devices from sudden voltage spikes or power disturbances.
Electrical power disturbances can occur in any number of ways,
but they generally fall into one of these four categories:
- Voltage Dips, also sometimes called sags or brownouts
- Power Surges, otherwise known as transient voltages or voltage surges
- Electromagnetic Interference
- Radio Frequency Interference
Surge protectors help to protect your appliances and devices by diverting any extra voltage that might unexpectedly pass through your electrical grid system. Despite the standardized 120-volt system in the U.S., with a 60Hz single phase alternating current, electricity does not always run at a constant 120 volts; it can run anywhere from 0 to 169 volts, depending on utility grids and local usage demands.
A power surge is defined as currents above 169 volts. While many electronics and appliances are designed to withstand variations in voltage, very high surges can sometimes cause extensive electrical damage.
Surges sometimes happen when utility providers are switching between power grids. Some very powerful ones are even caused by lightning. But surges can originate from inside your home, too. Some 60% to 80% of all voltage surges occur when large appliances, such as air conditioners, turn on or off.
A lack of surge protection can lead to appliance damage or electrical fires. Electrical distribution systems are the third leading cause of home fires, and insurance claims for this type of damage can often exceed $10,000. A main service panel surge protector to protect your whole home, on the other hand, only costs around $250.
Even small fluctuations of voltage fluctuation — as little as 10 volts — can impair proper functioning of sensitive electronic devices that include small microprocessors, which is true of many common tech gadgets today.
Surge protectors can protect your devices, but they don’t last forever. Their efficacy and absorption rate decrease with every hit of joules — which is why it’s best to replace them around once every two years.