Tag Archives: Surge Protectors

Do surge protectors save energy?

Most modern electronic gadgets are not meant to be switched off. Rather, they are placed in a state of suspended animation called standby. Gadgets in standby perform some basic background functions until their user recalls them for full functionality. The benefit to the user is an instant response from the unit against having to wait for it to resuscitate.

However, all this comes at a price. Units in standby mode need power, however small, to keep them ticking. For those powered from a battery, need to replace or re-charge their batteries more often. Those drawing power from the utilities’ outlet, consume a tiny amount of power in the standby mode, and if the design of the gadget is not proper, this may amount to energy up to one-tenth of their normal consumption when fully operating. Multiply this with the number of such gadgets all over the house or office, and you will notice the standby consumption forms a substantial chunk of the yearly electricity bill.

People use surge protectors to save their expensive electronic gadgets from going bust with high-voltage surges appearing on the power outlets in homes and offices. These are long strips of connectors allowing plug-in of multiple gadgets. Equipment connected to these strips are saved from the marauding surges because the strip has a device called an MOV inside it followed up with a fuse. The MOV shunts the high-voltage surges and prevents them from reaching the plugged-in equipment.

Apart from the connectors, MOV and fuse, the surge protector strip also has a master switch with which all the gadgets connected to the strip can be switched on or off. Irrespective of the individual gadgets being in full operation or in standby, flipping the master switch to the off position cuts off power to all equipment connected to that strip. This essentially means none of the equipment can draw any more power, not even for their standby operation.

Switching off all equipment from the wall outlet with their individual switches can be a daunting task, especially if there are a number of gadgets connected and the wall outlet switches are difficult to access. After a few days of diligence, people usually give the switching off routine a miss and the equipment remain in a standby mode, consuming their share of energy.

Since surge protectors have a master switch, it is simpler to switch off a number of gadgets at a time, and thereby, cut down on the consumption of standby power. For example, you may have a TV, a few computers, a printer and a few battery chargers hooked up to one surge protector strip. When leaving at the end of the day, switching off individually would be troublesome. However, flipping the master switch on the surge protector strip may not be a big deal.

Therefore, the proactive user is actually saving the energy by remembering to flip the switch on the surge protector strip. If the user forgets to flip the switch, the surge protector strip does not save any energy.

Protection with Surge Protectors – Why and How

If you have once had your TV, audio system and other electronic equipment destroyed by a voltage surge during a thunderstorm, you will surely know how to prevent this from happening once again. For preventing such drastic accidents, it is common to use a device called the surge protector, and to have the maximum protection, it is important to know why it is required and how it works.

Most people know of a surge protector as a long strip of electrical power connectors, which power sensitive electronic gadgets. However, two components inside the strip provide the actual protection. One of them is the Metal Oxide Varistor (MOV), and the other is the familiar fuse. The combination of an MOV and the fuse protects your electronic gadgets by limiting the voltage delivered.

Normally, all households and offices experience power surges many times during the day, including at night. The surges are generated when nearby appliances are switched on or off. Appliances such as microwave ovens, air conditioners, refrigerators and pumps switch on and switch off periodically. When they switch, they create a disturbance in the electrical supply lines, causing either a voltage dip or a voltage spike, or both. Since all electronic gadgets have a limit to the level of voltage they can withstand, any spike over and above the limit will have a damaging effect.

A thunderstorm is another factor generating a power surge. Even if lightning does not strike a home directly, it is enough if it hits a power line nearby. The power lines feeding a home can carry this surge in and can cause massive damages. Using a surge protector largely prevents all this.

The MOV inside a surge protector has a special property. As long as the voltage across it does not cross its specified limit, the MOV remains a passive device, with a very high resistance. When a surge arrives, and is above the voltage limit, the MOV lowers its resistance immediately. This causes a massive current to flow through the MOV. The increased current also flows through a fuse, which precedes the MOV, causing the fuse to blow and cutting off any further supply to the MOV and any connected gadget. In the absence of a fuse, or the fuse not blowing because of improper rating, the MOV may burn out allowing further spikes to be passed on to the gadget.

An MOV has a specific voltage rating and the spike expected at the point of use defines the rating selected. The telephone industry uses a special type of surge protection, known as Gas Discharge Tube or GDT, at specific points where the telephone lines enter a building. A GDT operates at a much higher voltage as compared to an MOV, and offers protection from higher voltage surges.

For working satisfactorily, an MOV and a GDT both need a good electrical earthing and a proper earth-wire connection.