A surge protector is an electrical appliance designed to protect electrical equipment from surges in power, or voltage spikes. A surge protectors tries to limit the voltage supplied to the appliance by either blocking or shorting to ground the unwanted voltage.
Surges in power generally come from:
Internal tripping events, such as lights being turned on and off
A high in-rush of energy could generate a surge around the circuits
A surge protecter doesn’t last forever; it’ll only absorb so many surges before it stops working itself, although it is practically impossible to tell when this will happen; the longer it has been in use the more at risk you are from it not being effective. If you are aware of it absorbing a power surge it is recommended you replace it.
A surge protector is an appliance made to protect your devices from voltage spikes. It’s designed to keep unwanted voltages away from your electronic devices.
How does a surge protector work?
The equipment you plug into your sockets rely on a consistent voltage of electricity. However, the sockets can’t guarantee this steady flow of electricity, so to protect sensitive electrical equipment, such as IT equipment, we use a surge protector. This device ‘defends’ your equipment from voltage spikes by rerouting unsafe energy so that only the normal amount of electricity will pass through your device.
When should a surge protector be used?
Whether you need a surge protector depends on the equipment you are using. Surge protectors are designed to protect your computer. Laptops and desktop computers are both packed with voltage-sensitive components that a power surge could easily damage. Without a surge protector, a power spike or power surge could shorten the life of your computer, wipe out all of your data, or even completely destroy your system.
When we carry out PAT testing on computers, we look for surge protective devices being used, and test them too. Be aware that all extension blocks are not surge protectors; they need to display the sign that they are, and don’t get caught out by those masquerading to be – we come across many cheap blocks claiming to be surge protectors that aren’t. Usually if an extension block is very cheap, the surge protector may not be as effective.
In fact, you should use a surge protector with any high-end electronic device. You should always use a surge protector with gaming consoles, for example. By doing so, you’ll extend the life of the device and prevent possible damage.
Remember, a sensitive electrical appliance plugged into an electric socket is at risk of serious damage if there is a voltage spike, so protect it with a surge protector.
Richard Ayre is an experienced PAT testing engineer with many years experience and the Managing Director of DRA PAT Testing Limited based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Richard is also the Operations Director for the UK's Portable Appliance Testing Trade Association.