Surge protectors, are they really necessary?

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  #1  
Old 04-06-15, 09:06 AM
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Surge protectors, are they really necessary?

Since I got a computer 20 years ago, people have been preaching surge protectors use for everything. usually I have one, but often I don't. It got me thinking… I've never heard of anyone's electrical equipment being damaged by "surges". Does anyone have any real world experience with their equipment being damaged by "surges" or is it all hypothetical and hearsay?
 
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Old 04-06-15, 09:35 AM
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Hi jonas,
First, there are different grades of surge protection, so not all will protect the same. Better is better. Second, surge protectors can't protect everything that comes down the line. From mistakes involving the power company to lightening, surges can be significant.

Having said that, yes, I have real world experience with surge protectors doing their job. One of the banks we serviced was hit by lightening. All of their pcs and related printers which we installed were plugged into top rated surge strips. All survived. The recessed lights in the foyer exploded and showered the people below with glass. Most of the other electronics without surge protection was dead.

I have had many pieces of electronics come in for repair and determined that the cause was the storm the night before. Does it always help? I can't say, but I won't install and expensive or critical piece of electronics in my house or anyone else's without a very good surge protector.

Bud
 
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Old 04-06-15, 09:38 AM
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Does anyone have any real world experience with their equipment being damaged by "surges" or is it all hypothetical and hearsay?
I lost both a TV and a central A-C unit in storms over the years. I am a firm believer in whole house protection. Your computer equipment will operate fine without a surge protection device, but in the event of a damaging surge you may have to replace it unexpectedly. Many surges originate right inside your own home from things like A-C compressors or refrigerators starting up and there are continual surges coming through your main service panel from the utility. A few of those surges may not cause any damage at all, but repeatedly exposing your equipment to surges will likely be problematic eventually.
 
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Old 04-06-15, 09:50 AM
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Not sure if you mentioned what type of whole house surge protection you had from one of my previous posts,but which one do you have? I believe another very important factor is a quality ground to dissipate the charge.
Geo
 
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Old 04-06-15, 10:10 AM
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The utility companies are tight-lipped about how common surges are. Where I work they replaced old magnetic ballasts with efficient electronic ones and immediately they started failing. We lost at least 50 the first 12 months before the power company admitted the 700V spikes we sometimes caught on peak-storing meters was due to their switching equipment.
 
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Old 04-06-15, 11:23 AM
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Did they make good on the ballasts?
Geo
 
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Old 04-06-15, 11:50 AM
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Surges are real and wreck control boards in appliances all the time. Furnaces and refrigerators are common victims. Power supplies in flat panel displays can get damaged. Good surge protection is definitely worth it.
 
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Old 04-06-15, 07:40 PM
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The utility companies are tight-lipped about how common surges are.
You don't have to ask the power company to know that surges are very real and come from many sources including normal high voltage switching. It's not a fault of their equipment, but a normal thing that just happens when switching heavy loads. There are a number of good whole house surge protection devices on the market, but I like the ones that plug into the service panel like a circuit breaker. There are also some good ones that mount outside the panel and wire into a 15 or 20 amp 2 pole breaker. I have a BRSURGE from Eaton/Cutler-Hammer in my panel here at home plus supplemental surge protection for electronic equipment that plugs in for TVs and computer.
 
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Old 04-06-15, 11:17 PM
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Surge protection is good. Power strips not so great. I recommend getting one of those KVAR "energy saver units" and install it at the main service panel, this will surge protect your whole house and some claim that you can save money if you are using older appliances (non-energy star), but I don't know about that part. They will surge protect your entire electrical system and save you some bucks on individual surge protectors. I personally bought a pickup-truckload of APC UPS's and kept enough for every outlet in the house but resold the rest of them. I keep them turned off mostly, unless in use of course. I recommend uninteruptible power supplies, since a main source of damage to equipment is repeated startups... meaning if the power goes off and on and off and on over and over and something in your house is going off and on with it, this ultimately is not good for the device, especially computers with hard drives, etc... and there is a surge associated with power failure restarts as well. That said for whole house surge protection look up "power saver kvar" on ebay. The power save part is controversial, but the surge protection provided is physics.
 
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Old 04-07-15, 12:17 PM
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Notice fears posted without numbers. That is how scams get promoted.

How often is your bathroom GFCI, furnance, clocks, and recharging phone damaged by a surge? Potentially destructive surges occur maybe once every seven years. Other anomalies so hyped in advertising and hearsay are already made irrelevant by protection standard inside all appliances. Using numbers that were defined long before PCs even existed.

Surges that can overwhelm that protection are not averted by power strip protectors. Only properly earthed protectors (ie 'whole house') will protect from that rare anomaly. Including mistakes involving the power company to lightning, and stray rodents and cars.

Another assumed power strips did the protection. Nonsense. Those near zero joule power strip were protected by other electrical devices that were damaged. Surges, permitted inside a building, will hunt for earth ground via appliances. That surge is incoming to everything. But not everything is damaged. Only damaged are appliances that also provided a best 'outgoing' path to earth. A surge incoming to a TV and VCR only damaged the VCR. Why? VCR made the better connection to earth via its cable. VCR acted like a surge protector for the TV.

Protection is always about the incoming and the other outgoing path to earth. Most recommendations for power strips ignore that reality - the all so important outgoing path.

Protection exists only when one can say where hundreds of thosuands of joules harmlessly dissipate. How many joules does a power strip claim to absorb? Hundreds? That near zero protection gets promoted when one does not learn, for example, why printers and its near zero power strips were protected by recessed lights.

Facilities that cannot have damage always use the 'whole house' solution. Some might even fire an employee for using power strip protectors. Because near zero joule protectors sometimes created fires. What happens when its hundreds or a thousand joules tries to stop or absorb a surge that is hundreds of thousands of joules. Again, useful replies include these numbers.
 
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Old 04-07-15, 02:14 PM
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@westom: My reply got far too long so I'll avoid posting it and just say, I disagree. Most of what you are referencing is energy related lightening, yet static electricity from walking across a carpet can take out electronics. As others mentioned, power company switching often hits our homes with damaging spikes.

As for power strips being useless as you suggest, I'll repeat, you must buy good ones. Just because they say they offer surge protection doesn't mean they do it the best way.

There are many people who don't have the option to install whole house protection. For them, quality battery backup systems with surge protection and/or quality power strips do offer a level of protection worth the investment.

Bud
 
  #12  
Old 04-07-15, 03:20 PM
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This is a pretty good read: MANA Eng. Co. Reliable Data Center & Power Solutions

I design electronics that needs to survive in substations. It is a difficult environment. Automatic load tap changers, switched capacitor banks, large motors turning on and off. All these cause line transients described in the white paper above. At the residential end of the string, you have some filtering by distance, and your local transformer helps with some transients. However, you can now add in lightning as a large risk for transients. In my opinion, there is no good reason to NOT have whole house protection, it's under $100 if you install it yourself. That's less than one appliance service call. If you live in a high lightning risk area, put more spike absorbers at points of use, especially TV's and other hi value electronics. If you feel lucky about thunderstorms you don't need to go nuts. Isobar are very good corded units for point of use.
 
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Old 04-08-15, 10:25 AM
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Power strips do not even claim to protect from static electricity. And need not. Since protection superior to anything on its power cord is already inside appliances. For example, this datasheet says how many volts a low voltage data signal interface IC must survive without damage. 15,000 volts. Did a power strip manufacturer forget to mention that? Yes, when selling a products that claims near zero (hundreds of joules) protection, they forget to mention plenty of well proven facts. Including numbers found at the top of this semiconductor datasheet:
http://datasheets.maxim-ic.com/en/ds...7E-MAX491E.pdf

To promote myths, the naive are told major household appliances also create surges. Again, a myth that exists only where people believe only what they are told (ie do not learn from datasheets and ignore numbers). If appliances are creating surges, then we all are replacing dimmer swithes, clocks, the furnace, TVs and recharging phones hourly. Why do bathroom and kitchen GFCIs work for decades without failure? Because those sensitive electronics are not harmed hourly by mythical surges from appliances.

Install protection for destructive surges. An anomaly that can happen maybe once every seven years. Created by stray rodents, falling trees, utility errrors, stray cars, and lightning. Only solutions that protect from destructive surges also come with an answer to this routine question. Where do hundreds of thousands of joules harmlessly dissipate? If your protector cannot answer that question, then it is for transients (ie static electricity, household appliances) that are already made irrelevant by what is routinely found in all appliances. If your protector does not have the all so critical low impedance connection to single point earth ground, then its manufacturer hopes you never ask that question.

So what is a good power strip? The $80 or $120 one from Monster is electrically equivalent to one selling in Walmart for $10. Why do you know it is a profit center? Where is the what only quality protectors have? A low impedance (ie 'less than 10 foot') can dedicated wire connection to single point earth ground. Any protector that does not have that essential connection to earth does not answer a fundamental question. Where do hundreds of thousands of joules harmlessly dissipate?

The informed have already properly earthed a 'whole house' protector. Since even those 'quality' power strips (only hundreds of joules) need that protection.
 
  #14  
Old 04-08-15, 10:52 AM
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Weston, I guess I take exception to you referring to me (and others) as naive and uninformed. I have no interest in your background and you apparently have no interest in what others have to say. For me, your rant has diminished your credibility to zero and this is just a self promoting opportunity for you to pat yourself on the back.

I'll save my replies for the op,
and my apologies to the forum.
Bud
 
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Old 04-08-15, 11:14 AM
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Where do hundreds of thousands of joules harmlessly dissipate? I never accused you of anything. Defined were the naive and uniformed people (in general) who know by ignoring facts and numbers. The challenge was simple. You made a recommendation. Where are those manufacturer specifications that justify 'quality'?

Where do hundreds of thousands of joules harmlessly dissipate? That makes no accuastion. The naive and uniformed, who do not know this stuff, routinely ignore numbers (such as joules). Cannot say where hundreds of thousands of joules harmlessly dissipate. And recommend power strip protectors to do what even the manufacturer does not claim.

Please stop taking personal insult because you posted claims without supporting facts and numbers. Please respond, as challenged, in an adult manner to relevant technical facts. Please do not recite popular myths promoted by advertising.

Unfortunately others, who make recommendations without first learning this stuff, then take personal insult where none exists. Others who do not know the hows, the whys, and cannot post relevant technical numbers with each claim are naive and uniformed. Meanwhile, you believe those expensive power strips are quality? Good. Then reply with manufacturer specification that you learned before making that claim. Please demonstrate how those protectors somehow absorb and dissipate hundreds of thousands of joules. No personal insult. A routine technical challenge one should expect when making a recommendation without the reasons why and spec numbers.

Show me the numbers - not your emotions.
 
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Old 04-09-15, 03:09 PM
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Westom, you said a lot of words yourself, lot of theory, but not much facts or figures. Only your belief that this is a lot of hype.

So here is a real world response rather than theory. 5 years ago my house took some type of power anomaly (unable to determine surge or other) after a couple of very active thunderstorm days. Casualties included: wall oven circuit board, garage door opener, battery back-up (APC) unit for computer, clock radio, & strip surge protector that had TV & other entertainment devices plugged into it. There was no rhyme or reason to the items damaged. I have analyzed it numerous times & ways but could not come up with any commonality to them. The computer (plugged into the battery back-up unit) & other electronic devices that had power strips were unharmed.
Afterwards I installed the Leviton whole house surge protector (device) that attaches to the first couple of circuit breakers in the main panel. I have not had any problems since I installed the whole house protector. However per westom I have another 2 years (on average) til my time comes up again. I guess I should have waited until the end of 2016 to install that device!!

Westom, if the strips & battery backup units were worthless (since they were so "under joule'd") why were those items damaged while the electronics that were plugged into them were not. Further, the other items that ended up being damaged were "unprotected". Makes a pretty good case for some type of protection on your various electronic items, which is a lot given today's electronic age. That along with whole house protection / device.

FYI, my house is only 11 years old, complies with all the then & most of today's electrical codes. Its earthen grounding meets the codes. If there was something further that could be done (within a reasonable cost) I would expect the codes to include them. My experience / recommendation, take the precautions to protect your electronics. At a minimum a couple of mid-priced strips are cheap compared to the cost to replace the things that are plugged into them. Mike
 
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Old 04-09-15, 06:32 PM
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> if the strips & battery backup units were worthless (since they were so
> "under joule'd") why were those items damaged while the electronics that
> were plugged into them were not.

For that logic to work, then all other unprotected items also must be damaged. Also damaged were furnace, air conditioner, smoke detectors, dishwasher, every clock, etc. If not, well, your damage is classic of how surges do damage. Your damaged list are devices that made that connection to earth. That is a comon factor.

APC battery backup has same circuit found in power strip protectors. Why was it damaged? Again, damaged are the items that made a best and destructive connection to earth. Garage door openers, for example, are easily damaged due to its good earth connection.

In each case, damaged were items that a surge found as the best path to earth. That is the common factor.

Mid priced power strips do not even claim to protect from this type of surge. In fact, a surge also incoming to an attached appliance may be too tiny to overwhlem its superior protection. But easily damaged an undersized power strip. Undersizing a strip then gets naive consumers to assume "it sacrificed itself to save my appliance." Nonsense. Surge was too tiny to harm the appliance. Same current damaged the strip.

A perfect example was a network of powered off computers powered through strip protectors. How was the strip earthed? A surge was incoming on AC mains. If a current was incoming to the strip, then same current was outgoing from strip into computer. Then out that computer via network cable. Into another computer. Out to earth ground destrutively via a phone line.

Replaced was each surge damaged part restoring all computers functional. Confirmed is why items get surge damaged. In every case, while a current was incoming (ie via a power strip protector), current was also outgoing to earth. Much later, something in that path fails. That internal failed part always has an incoming and an outgoing path. Without 'theory', then no conclusion is possible. That theory explains why appliances get damaged. Why mid priced power strsips do not even claim to protect from destructive surges. And why (in the above example) power strip protectors acutally made damage easier; bypassed protection in those computers.

Makes little difference whether a house complied with codes. Codes are only for human safety. Codes say nothing about transistor safety. No reason exists to believe codes say anything about protecting appliances. Furthermore, one guru in this topic says in his book (1980s) that he sees no prospect for any code to require that necessary protection. Same dismal future still exists today.

Best protection costs about $1 per protected appliance. How much for those power strips? $20 per? Monster sells equivalent products for maybe $80 per. Meanwhile, effective 'whole house' protection costs about $1 per.

What determines protection quality? Not any protector. This concept applies to appliance protection and to structure (lightning rod) protection. Protection increases when earth ground is upgraded / expanded / improved.

Just because it has only been 5 years says nothing. If protection is minimally sufficient, then nobody even knows a surge existed. If damage occurs, then a resulting search for that human mistake starts with what defines p;rotection. Not a protector. Earth ground.

BTW, nobody said strips are worthless. A properly earthed 'whole house' protetor does somewhere between 99.5% and 99.9% protection. Those power strips do maybe another 0.2% protection. I never said worthless. Ineffective. To do something useful, power strips must be used when a 'whole house' protector is earthed.

Nobody here has yet to provide even one reason why a power strip does effective protection. Or how such protectors have made damage easier. Ignored were fires created by those strips. All reasons why a properly earthed 'whole house' protector is essential to even protect those power strips.

Protection is always about earthing. Above discussed 'secondary' protection. Informed homeowners will also inspect their 'primary' protection layer. Each layer is defined by only item that does protection - earth ground. A picture demonstrates what to inspect:
Florida Power & Light and BellSouth

Every post has described the one and most essential protection. This should have been obvious. A protector is only as effective a its earth ground.
 
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Old 04-09-15, 08:28 PM
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Enough already! Take all these silly technical discussions (and yes, they are silly to the average poster asking a question here) to an engineering/technical discussion site.

Westom, you are obviously intelligent and educated (as are most of the others who have worked in their fields for many years), but your posts are not helpful to the average poster. They come across as technical papers or blogs and do not really contribute as they should. Perhaps if you used laymans terms like "grounding" instead of "earthing" (yes, I know the difference and usage of terms in different countries) and kept to the meat of the matter, it would help. If you feel that's an imposition...well, that's for you to deal with.

Everyone else...please stop the arguing and anecdotal statements.

Read the posting rules...give your best advice based on your knowledge and experience and do not get in crosstalk discussions unless information is obviously incorrect or a danger of some sort.

Any more of this and these threads will be closed, which helps no one.
 
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Old 04-09-15, 08:45 PM
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For those who only want to be told how to think: earth one 'whole house' protector. Plug-in protectors can make surge damage easier and have a history of creating fires. Effective protection that has been done for over 100 years is properly earthed. A superior solution that also costs tens of times less.

BTW earthing is significantly different from grounding. If not obvious, then please ask why that is not obvious. The difference is essential to understanding appliance protection.
 
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Old 04-09-15, 09:05 PM
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Enough Westom! Maybe you need a break. I said I understood the difference between earthing, grounding (and bonding for that matter).

See you in a month...maybe.
 
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