Computers and other electronic equipment found in nearly every home and business are susceptible to surges in voltage and current. These surges may show up as minor voltage spikes, short power interruptions or current distortions that are difficult to find, even if you know where to look.
Lightning strikes to homes or nearby locations are a primary cause of damage to equipment. Other causes, like voltage spikes and multiple grounding paths can also create problems. Even minor surges can create a malfunction which can require a device to be reset or possibly cause permanent damage. While there are different causes for surges, it is the responsibility of the homeowner/ building owner to protect against them. While getting your home ready for the cold months ahead, add protecting against power surges to your fall to-do list.
The surge protection system outlined in this article could apply to nearly any residential or commercial setting as well as agricultural buildings.
A properly installed transient surge suppression system includes several levels of protection. No single surge protection device can protect all the equipment in a building from all causes of electrical surges. Instead, a whole-building protection strategy, consisting of point-of-entry and point-of-use devices, is necessary to help guard against disturbances from inside and outside the home.
Protection should be placed at the site of the utility service entrance, and also to each of the building’s service panels, sub-panels and individual circuits that supply electricity to delicate equipment. Each level of protection is designed to remove a portion of the surge not eliminated by the preceding level.
The last level of protection should be placed at the individual circuit. This is where the lowest level of harmful disturbances will be filtered out. Many buildings won’t need all the levels of protection, but providing protection only at the circuit level is not sufficient to guard against high-energy transient surges.
Should the building contain critical electronics that are affected by any change in current or voltage levels, the best bet is to provide protection at all levels.
As a minimum level of protection, experts recommend the following components be included in any surge protection system:
• Lightning arrestor on main service pole
• Adequate grounding for service entrance and main service pole.
• Surge arrestor for the building service panel.
• Secondary arrestor for the individual circuit to which the electronic controls are attached.
Before buying a plug-in surge protector, make sure it follows these criteria:
1. The highest Joule rating. A suppressor rated for use with a computer will have at least 750 Joules capacity, and can be rated into the thousands of Joules. This indicates how much energy the suppressor can absorb before passing a transient to your equipment.
2. Clamping response time of one nanosecond or less. The faster the surge suppressor responds, the better.
3. Voltage clamping level of 330 volts or less. The lower the amplitude of transient voltages reaching your equipment, the lower the chances of damage. Separate suppressors are recommended for your cable and phone lines. Those will protect your phones, TVs and fax machines, since phone or cable lines can carry a voltage spike into your home just as easily as a power line.
Whole-home surge protectors are also available. The system should be hard-wired into your electrical system by a licensed electrician. To learn more, contact Cass County Electric Cooperative or a local electrician.
Remember, no amount of surge protection will guarantee absolute reliability. But by understanding the causes of power quality problems, and the components needed in a well-designed protection system, you will be able to avoid costly losses in equipment and income.