Surge Protection – The nature of how electrical equipment is used in homes and at work has evolved; with daily duties relying on electronic equipment.
Products such as computers, printers, televisions, mobile phone charging equipment, alarms, microwaves and washing machines are industrial control equipment such as PLC’s common place. These can all be vulnerable to transient overvoltages, which can significantly reduce the equipment’s lifespan through degradation and damage.
A transient overvoltage or surge is a short duration increase in voltage measured between two or more conductors. In short this means anything from microseconds (millionths of a second) to a few milliseconds (thousandths of a second) in duration.
Frequently Asked Questions regarding surge protection
What does surge protection do?
A surge protection device is designed to protect electrical devices such as computers and TVs from voltage spikes. The surge protection device (SPD) attempts to lessen the voltage supplied to an electrical device by either blocking or shorting to ground any unwanted voltages above a safe standard.
Can a power surge damage a TV?
Yes, electrical surges have the capacity to overload and short out any electrical equipment in a home, significantly degrading the life of the equipment. Anything that is plugged into a wall can be affected by electrical surges.
Do you really need surge protection?
If electrical equipment is used then a surge protection device is definitely needed as electrical equipment comes with sensitive components that could be damaged very easily. A surge protection device will increase the longevity of electrical equipment.
How long do surge protectors last?
This will very much depend on how many surges the device will have to deal with, so there is no definitive answer.
The product standard requires the device to cope with a minimum of 15 surges at its rated value. However, a surge at the rated value would be a very large surge indeed. Most events are much smaller than the maximum, but it is these events which degrade sensitive equipment over time. Because the likely surges are smaller than the maximum, it is likely the device will last for many years.
Surge protection devices are equipped with an indication ‘window’ which will turn red when the device has reached its end of life. Usually, it is a simple case of replacing a cartridge at this time. It is recommended this window is checked from time to time especially after a lightning storm.
Surge Protection Devices (SPD’s)
SPD’s protect electrical and electronic equipment against transients, originating from lightning, switching of transformers, lighting and motors.
These transients can cause premature ageing of equipment, downtime, or complete destruction of electronic components and materials.
Most SPDs have an indication window that they are operational. If the indicator is green they are providing protection. If they are red then they have reached ‘end of life’ and will need replacing. Often there is a replaceable cartridge which can simply be withdrawn and replaced with a new operational device.
Just for the geeks
18th Edition Requirements
Protection against transient overvoltage shall be provided where the consequences caused by an overvoltage could
(i) result in serious injury to, or loss of, human life, or
(ii) result in interruption of public services and/or damage to cultural heritage, or
(iii) result in interruption of commercial or industrial activity, or
(iv) affect a large number of co-located individuals.
For all other cases, a risk assessment according to Regulation 443.5 shall be performed in order to determine if protection against transient overvoltage is required. If the risk assessment is not performed, the electrical installation shall be provided with protection against transient overvoltage.
For a single dwelling unit it will be a decision for the house owner to make whether they consider the small additional cost of the surge protection device justified to protect their installation and equipment against these damaging overvoltage.