What is a Surge Protector and Should You Get One?
Last Updated on November 29, 2021 by Marc Edwards
In my line of work, I have come across some homeowners (mostly clients) who have no idea what a surge protector is. They also do not understand why they need one at home or in the office.
In this article, not only will I explain what is a surge protector, I will help you understand why you should get one (or a few) for your home or office.
I will also briefly list out what to look out for when shopping for the best surge suppression device.
What is a Surge Protector?
Simply put, a surge protector device (also known as SPD) is essentially a power strip or single/multi-plug with a certain amount of surge suppression capability built-in so that any plugged-in electrical devices are protected from power surges.
How do Surge Protectors Work and Why Should You Care?
Surge protectors work by performing their one and only job well. And that is to continuously protect all connected electronics from harmful effects of power surges that come through the power lines.
So in a nutshell, getting a surge protector is like buying an insurance policy. When its surge protection modes are not triggered, a surge protector is just an ordinary-looking power strip or multi-plug.
But when an excessive power voltage rushes through the power line into the hot (live) wire, which is in excess of the usual 120V/240V safe threshold (depending on where you are in the world), the surge protection device will, in a matter of nanoseconds, triggers its built-in component called voltage-dependent resistor (also known as metal oxide varistor) to help diverts excessive power voltages into grounding wires (also called earth wire).
The earth wire will channel all the unwanted voltages into the ‘earth’ (ground wires).
And while this diversion of excessive energy is going on, it is business as usual for all your plugged-in electrical devices and appliances running off their standard current.
If you do not have a single surge protection device at home, it is like really leaving the front door open when you go to bed at night.
Should a strong power surge come through, all your electrical appliances and devices are at risk of getting fried or the components of affected devices severely damaged.
Hence if you really care about the safety of your home electronics, it is highly recommended to invest in a few surge protection devices (if you have lots of electrical appliances and equipment at home) plus a whole house surge protector for holistic protection against all sorts of power surges except for a direct lightning bolt.
When there is a storm raging outside your house, the only safest way to combat power surges from direct lightning bolts is to unplug all your household electrical appliances and equipment.
All of these risks can be mitigated by understanding what is a surge protector and why do you need one for a start.
Why Do You Need a Surge Protector?
Before I further explain why you need a surge protection device at home or office, it may be easier to first understand what is a power surge?
If you are like most people, you are not wrong in assuming that most power surges come from lightning bolts. Well, the truth is, most power voltages originate from power-hungry electrical appliances and equipment.
Whenever such high-power consumption electrical appliances (think washing machines, televisions) are powered on or off, a sudden surge of electricity (sometimes you may even notice your room light flickers) will cause an “imbalance” at the power grid and electrical surges or spikes are hence triggered.
When lightning bolts hit your home, it is very unlikely that any electrical components will be spared. The only way to protect your electrical possessions during a thunderstorm is to unplug all of them. 🙂
Power line irregularities and high-frequency electromagnetic noise can also cause electrical transients which are damaging for our electronics at home or in the office.
Did you know that telephone and cable lines could also be victimized by power surges? Once the electrical surges get through, they will cause untold damages to electrical devices or equipment like fax machines and Internet routers, etc in the office.
Now that you understand how power voltages come about, I hope it is clear why surge protection devices are needed for protecting our electrical devices.
Having no knowledge of what is a surge protector can be pretty awful when you see your precious and costly electrical devices go up in smoke.
Without a surge suppressor, your costly home theater system or 8K HD TV may get fried next time a thunderstorm comes about. Worse still, the damaging electrical voltages that come through the power line may even cause your electronics to overheat and catch fire if they have zero surge protection.
I hope I have managed to convince you why a surge protector is needed both at home and in the office. The next time a lightning storm comes by, you will be glad you have all your electrical appliances at home protected.