How to Protect Your Home Appliances From Electrical Disturbances

We get 120 volts of AC power in the US and this power is usually very evenly delivered to our wall outlets. However, there are many things that can cause this voltage to spike, including short circuits, lightning hits, even poles that are knocked down by accidents. When this happens, the voltage can suddenly jump to thousands of volts for a split second. This is called a voltage “surge” and it is capable of destroying or damaging your appliances. Your appliance has the tolerance to withstand minor fluctuations up or down from the 120 volts but a surge can damage the controls and even cause a fire in some situations.

With all the sensitive electronics in our homes nowadays, we should be familiar with the term “surge protector”, something that electrical engineers call a “surge-protective device”. Another name that should be familiar is “surge suppressor” and the technical name for these is “transient voltage surge suppressor”. However, since it is really impossible to “protect” from or “suppress” an electrical surge, what really happens is that the surge is diverted to the ground where it can do no harm. Technically speaking, these devices should be called “surge diverters” but this was deemed not to be an effective marketing name, so we are stuck with surge protector.

So what kind of surge protector do we buy? Depending on your device, there are three basic options:

1) Buy a surge protector from the electrical or appliance store and plug your appliance into it. This is the simplest kind of solution and come with a fuse that will disconnect upon failure due to a surge and either cut the appliance power off or disconnect the failed element but maintain the power output. Here is where you need to make a decision-do you want to maintain power after an element failure and risk going without surge protection or do you want your appliance shut down so you can replace the protection? In any case, you will probably know when the surge takes place so you should be alerted to the fact. home appliances electronic city

2) You can opt for a single surge protector at the main service panel (or “breaker box”) instead of having multiple surge protectors for different appliances. You can install this yourself in most cases because it will typically only need the plugging in of a snap-in surge protector that takes the place of two breakers, but you should be aware that it is common for the protector to only fit a breaker panel of the same manufacture, perhaps even the same model. Also, in order to install this type of protector, you will need to check with your local authorities on whether and how you can do this yourself or whether you are required to hire a licensed electrician to install it. Local codes vary.

3) Your power company may offer you the option of a surge protector with a special adapter to fit between meter and its socket. This is something that you cannot do yourself of course and you will need your power provider to put in in for you.



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