Surges - What the heck are they and why does it matter?
You know you've been thinking it: what exactly is the point of surge protection, and why is it so important? We know you've been pondering this because many of you have called and emailed us asking. So, to start, let's address what a power surge is and how/why it damages your equipment.
A power surge, or spike, is a temporary increase in voltage in an electrical line that can originate from outside or inside a home or office. While they are most notably caused by lightning strikes, they are often the result of brownouts. A brownout is the partial reduction in electrical power due to storms, mechanical failure, shortage, or even overuse by consumers. This can be outwardly noticeable in the periodic dimming or flickering of lights. As a brownout event returns to full power, there can be a brief surge of electricity that occurs on the back-end. Surges can also be the result of power transitions in appliances, the swinging of power lines in the wind or even simply flipping a light switch.
While a single, large power surge can cause damage to your equipment (think: lightning strike), the real problem is the cumulative effect of small surges over time. When surges repeatedly reach your sensitive electronic equipment (high-definition plasma, LCD or projection TV, computer, stereo, home theater system, MP3 player, game console, etc...), they will eventually cause an effect called “electronic rust” to occur. This is the gradual decay of electronic components due to repeated exposure to small transient surges. The damage may not occur immediately or be outwardly evident, but over time your equipment will fail as the sensitive components are degraded. Ultimately, you end up with a very expensive heap of useless junk! Rats!
"So what can one do" you ask?
Most equipment damage from surges and spikes can be prevented by the use of a surge protector. So, the simplest way to protect your equipment is to insert a surge protector such as the PowerSquid Surge 3000 Calamari Edition between the wall outlet and your consumer electronic equipment. There are a variety of features that should be considered when evaluating your surge protection needs, but one critical feature to consider is how much protection are you going to get from any given surge protector.
Joules and MOVs: The most common way of rating the amount of protection that a surge protector will provide is to look at its joule rating. Although it may be easy to compare a surge protector's relative ability to protect (100 joule rating vs. 1000 joule rating), understanding what a joule is and what its associated joule rating actually means may come in useful.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a joule is, "A unit of electrical energy equal to the work done when a current of one ampere is passed through a resistance of one ohm for one second." Hmm, kind of technical...
So what does this mean with regard to surge protection? Well, a typical surge protector (PowerSquid included) utilizes Metal Oxide Varistors (MOVs) to redirect electric currents above a specified voltage (clamping voltage) instead of allowing the surge to enter the connected equipment. The MOV absorbs the excess electrical energy - here is where the joule comes in - and dissipates it as heat energy. MOVs are rated by the number of joules that they can absorb, which is a finite number. Ultimately, after the MOVs absorb all of the joules that they can, the surge protector will activate its Tripwire Circuit and sacrifice itself for the betterment of the connected equipment. In other words: you will have to replace your surge protector, which is almost always better than having to replace your 70" LCD Wide-Screen HDTV! All Flexity PowerSquid models offer high joule ratings (1080 - 3240 joules) and the latest in MOV technology (ULTRA MOVs with 25% greater capacity) - providing the best in surge protection.
Surge Protector or Surge Suppressor:
People often tell us that they're confused when comparing products
as some items items are labeled surge protectors while others are labeled as surge suppressors. We're often asked "what's the difference?" and "should I care?" The answer is simple, the terms surge protector and surge suppressor are interchangeable. The term surge suppressor is likely to be used in a more technical context. It is, in actuality, what all surge protectors do - suppress power surges to a manageable level so that the connected equipment is protected. The term, surge protector, is more widely used in the consumer market. We chose to use this term as it seems to more clearly describe what our PowerSquid surge protector products do: protect your sensitive electronic equipment against power surges. But we don't mind if you want to call your PowerSquid, a PowerSquid Surge Suppressor.
Here are some essential things you should be on the look out for while shopping for a surge protector for your equipment:
Clamping voltage This tells you what voltage will cause the MOVs to conduct electricity to the ground line. A lower clamping voltage indicates better protection. There are three levels of protection in the UL rating -- 330 V, 400 V and 500 V. Generally, a clamping voltage more than 400 V is too high for protecting your consumer electronics. All PowerSquid models offer a clamping voltage of 330V to best protect your gear.
Energy absorption/dissipation: This rating, given in joules, tells you how much energy the surge protector can absorb before it fails. A higher number indicates greater protection. We highly recommend finding a surge protector that is at least rated at 400 joules. For the greater protection, look for units with a joule rating of 1000 or more. All Flexity PowerSquid Surge Protectors offer joule ratings of 1040 - 3240.
Response time: A surge protectors won't react to a surge or spike immediately; all surge protectors have a very small delay in their response times. A longer response time denotes that your computer (or other equipment) will be exposed to a surge for a greater length of time. It is important to find a surge protector, like the PowerSquid Surge Protector, which responds in less than one nanosecond (or: < 1 nanosecond).
Indicator Light: You should also look for a surge protector with an indicator light that tells you if the protection components are functioning. All MOVs will burn out after repeated power surges, but the surge protector will still function as a power strip. Without an indicator light, you have no way of knowing if your surge protector is still functioning properly. All PowerSquid Surge Protectors offer a red LED surge status indicator so you can always be sure if your unit is protecting your sensitive electronic equipment.
Performance Guarantee: Quality surge protectors usually come with a guarantee of their performance. If you're shopping for a new surge protector, it is wise to narrow your search to those that comes with some form of Connected Equipment Warranty. This way, if the surge protector fails to protect your equipment from a harmful surge, the company will actually replace it. In contrast, a Manufacturer's Warranty warrants only the surge protector to be free from defect and will therefore only replace the surge protection unit - not your damaged equipment. While this isn't total insurance, of course, it is an excellent indication of the manufacturer's confidence in their products. All PowerSquid Surge Protectors come with Limited Connected Equipment Warranty's ranging from $200,000-$500,000 to cover losses to your connected equipment in case the PowerSquid fails to protect.
Connectivity: Many damaging power surges enter through information lines, including your phone, DSL or cable connection, rather than power lines. These dangerous power surges or spikes can ruin your phone system, answering machine, computer, game console, cable box, VCR, Tivo or HDTV. Some surge protectors offer protection for these types of information lines via additional connectors. The PowerSquid Surge 3000 Calamari Edition, for example, provides phone line surge protection with an integral line splitter and high-quality gold plated Coaxial cable connectors for the utmost in signal transmission and surge protection for all such connected equipment.
Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) in the electrical current has been shown to hurt equipment performance and be a source of errors. Additionally, this form of interference can also cause damage to sensitive components over time. Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) can cause distortion or hissing in audio playback and streaming. Every Flexity PowerSquid® Surge Protector features Purestream™ power filtering technology to protect your equipment and enhance picture and sound quality.
For more in-depth information on the subject, Google any of the key words in this section, check out: howstuffworks.com and look up 'surge-protector', or surf to Wickipedia.org and look up 'voltage spike'.