Power surges in the electrical system in your home or office are more common than you think. These surges can cause severe damage to electronic devices if they are left unprotected.
Where do power surges come from?
1. Lightning strikes
Over the past 5 years, almost 9 billion lightning strikes have been documented globally. Some regions experience more activity than others with India, South East Asia, Australia, Equatorial Africa and parts of South America getting more than their fair share of lightning strikes.
The United States also made the list as a lightning hot spot. Lightning strikes somewhere in the contiguous 48 U.S. states an average of 20 million times per year and about half of all flashes strike more than one spot on the ground, leading to at least 30 million strikes per year, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL). It translates into one strike per second.
2. Damage to utility lines
Another common cause of power surges is damage to utility lines from natural forces or human errors, such as tree limbs (or any object) touching power lines, rodents getting into a transformer, or when utility companies are performing routine maintenance.
3. Power restoration after an outage
In addition, when the power comes back on after an outage, the burst of energy required to turn power back on for a whole street or neighborhood leads to power surges.
4. Electronic devices
Power surges resulting from devices are more common. They happen when appliances that have motors or compressors power on or off, such as refrigerators and air conditioners. It creates a surge of power either to the appliance or the diversion of power to other devices.
Even smaller devices like hair dryers and some power tools draw enough power to cause surges.
Faulty wiring is another common cause, often resulting in tripped circuit breakers and short circuits that cause surges.
While a single internal surge may not be powerful enough to destroy an appliance or device in one shot, the cumulative effect of many small surges can cause damage to electronics and appliances over time.
A strong defense: surge protector and UPS
There are two main options for protecting your appliances and electronics from surges: surge protectors and uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs).
The most common surge protector is a power strip with surge protection built in. These come in various number of outlets and level of protection. The power absorption level is measured in joules, with the higher rating being more powerful. A higher joule rating surge protector is recommended to protect your expensive and sensitive electronics, such as televisions, home entertainment systems and computers.
Some surge protectors also provide protection for telephone and data lines, including coaxial cable. That’s important because surges can travel along those lines as well as electrical circuits. Also, look for models that have USB ports for safely charging phones and tablets.
Another alternative is a UPS, which provides surge protection along with backup power. A UPS is a good solution for a home or home office, for example, as it can provide battery backup power for computers and network equipment in the event of a power outage. It can also power the router/modem that supplies WiFi so that you can stay connected and entertained, even during an outage.
Depending on the UPS model, you get anywhere from a few minutes to several hours of backup power. The choice depends on whether you just want enough time to safely shut down devices such as computers or if you want to be able to keep devices working during the outage.
Learn more about UPS and surge protectors
Surge protectors and UPS are small investments that offer sound protection for your electronic devices, which are collectively worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. To learn more, visit home solutions page, where you’ll find information on surge protectors and UPSs that bring Certainty to a Connected World.
Oh, and if those lightning statistics left you frightened, don’t worry – if you live to be 80, the odds of being struck in your lifetime are only 1 in 13,000 (assuming you don’t regularly golf in a thunder storm).