Most people have heard of the term ‘surge protector’ but what are they, how do they work, and are they necessary in the factory,commercial area or our home?

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What is a surge protector?

Surge protectors are designed to limit the voltage supplied to an electric device. Surge protection devices (SPDs) are designed to prevent electric shock and prevent excess voltage from damaging an installation’s wiring infrastructure. It does this by either blocking or shorting to ground any excessive voltages above a safe threshold.

What are surges?

Electricity moves along a wire in a similar way to water running through a pipe. As the electricity flows it creates areas of low and high pressure - in electrical terms this is known as high and low electrical potential energy. The difference in this potential energy is measured by voltage and if it rises above the normal voltage for 3 nanoseconds or more, it is known as a surge. During a surge the voltage increases and will surge through the system heating up the wiring which can cause fires or damage to equipment. It can even destroy equipment or wipe data from it. The surge protector is designed to pick up any excess voltage and divert the excess electricity into a grounding wire. For this reason, a surge protector must be properly grounded to work correctly.

What causes electrical surges?

 There are several things that can cause an electrical surge. Many people will immediately think of lightning as a cause. Lightning certainly is a common cause of electrical surges but in fact most power surges come from within your home or building. The main causes of surges (Transients) include turning on or off electrical devices, faulty or damaged wiring, downed power lines or a fault at the power source.

Do you need protection?

It all comes down to choose, but a surge protector is advisable. All electric wiring deteriorates over the years and equipment/appliances such as fridge freezers motors etc are known to cause surges as well. Then, there’s always the possibility of a lightning strike. An SPD is a relatively inexpensive device that puts itself in harms way to protect the equipment that really matters.

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