We all Need Surge Suppression in Our Homes
Over the previous decade, home automation systems including smart energy management has created great advances in electrical protection . Rising costs have driven utilizers to seek convenient paths of tracking and saving energy to cut power bills and feel they are contributing to the efficiency of the power grid. While it’s vital that we are energy conscious, what often disappears in the discussion is perhaps the most pivotal aspect when it comes to ROI—surge protection.
The most important factors in determining the performance, reliability and longevity of any type of electronic equipment are Surge protection and power conditioning—and therefore both are imperative and extremely cost effective.
As more and more electronics are placed within a house the sensitivity to electrical surges require addressing.
Lightning isn’t the greatest Danger.
Most folks realize their electronic equipment can be zapped or destroyed by unwanted lightning strikes because it is an awesome example of transient voltage. However lightning only accounts for about 5% of all incidents, and that surges account for 56 percent of all power disturbances.
Surges could be happening now.
These frequent and random hits to your equipment contribute to what is known as electronic rust, the decay or weakening of electronic components due to the cumulative effect of unseen low-level energy surges. The damage may not occur immediately or be outwardly evident, but over time a home’s equipment will fail as the sensitive components are continually degraded. Parts won’t melt and fuses won’t blow, but equipment that’s supposed to last 10-plus years might only last five to seven. Such inductively produced transients are like an oil leak in a car; they degrade performance over time and damage electronic equipment when they find their way onto a circuit board, eventually causing much larger issues.
Inductively produced transient voltage travels through a home’s wiring and are commonly produced by HVAC systems, refrigerators, microwaves and other equipment containing motors or other inductive elements that cycle on and off.
The science behind this is quite interesting. When any piece of equipment that contains an inductive element, such as a motor, transformer or coil is switched off, a “back-EMF” (electromotive force) is produced. This back-EMF, caused by the collapse of a magnetic field, is the result of one of the most basic laws of electricity, Faraday’s Law of Induction. The voltage thus produced can be several times the original voltage applied to the inductive element before it was switched off.
A home is filled with items susceptible to these power surges—and anything containing a microprocessor is especially vulnerable, from TVs to audio/video systems to cordless phones, computers and even seemingly “low-tech” appliances like dishwashers, washing machines and refrigerators. The digital components in these home products are so sensitive, that even a tiny 10-volt fluctuation can disrupt proper functioning.
Your surge protection could be limited.
It’s important to know the differences between power protection devices and their technologies. Most contemporary surge protectors simply divert harmful energy from the hot line to the neutral and ground wires, while passing through lesser amounts of energy directly to connected equipment. The hot line is the only source of dangerous external surges, as the neutral and ground are bonded together and fastened to an earth rod at every service entrance. Unfortunately, this “3-mode protection” process diverts high-energy powerline surges directly into reference grounds in audio/video systems and the delicate, low-voltage data lines in computers.
Computer data lines are particularly vulnerable because they use the powerline ground circuit for their reference voltage, while audio/video systems will encounter distorted images, humming, buzzing and noise interference. In addition, the surge protector itself will degrade every time it is hit and eventually fail. As it degrades, its suppression level falls lower and connected equipment absorbs more surge energy. There is no way to know what level it is functioning at or when it completely fails, leaving a home’s valuable equipment vulnerable.
There’s a sound case for Series Mode Protection.
A more effective option for surge protection is Advanced Series Mode (ASM) technology, which operates in a fundamentally different way than conventional single-stage technology. The term “Series Mode” is taken from the fact that the main protection element is in series with the AC line. ASM eliminates surge energy without the use of sacrificial components, ground or common mode contamination. Therefore, connected equipment always receives power within standard line voltage guidelines, avoiding damage and degradation. In addition, the protector does not sacrifice itself when hit with transients, so it does not degrade over time. ASM provides true protection that doesn’t have to be maintained or replaced. It is also designed to minimize “noise” that can cause erratic equipment operation. This, along with other technologies such as electromagnetic or radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI) filtering, inrush current elimination and catastrophic over/under voltage shutdown provide the most robust protection available.
Proper protection equals cost savings.
Disruption and downtime of home electronics can be troublesome, costly and dangerous. Developing a solution to protect equipment from anomalies produced within a home is much more practical than planning for a catastrophic lightning strike, especially if the equipment is sensitive, costly or provides an application which absolutely must remain operational. Safeguarding equipment with proper surge protection not only prevents catastrophic failures such as lightning strikes, but more importantly improves the reliability and lifespan of electronic equipment by preventing degradation and premature failure of integrated circuits.
There are several surge protection options.
Fortunately, there are a variety of power protection and intelligence solutions available to meet any need. From branch circuit, to standalone units, to rack systems, to whole-home surge protection, there’s a solution that can fit any need or budget. Builders and integrators can install these before any additional electronic systems enter a home, or retrofit into existing homes. With options like temperature testing, email reporting of system health, on/off scheduling, remote management and remote system reboots, smart energy management can also be incorporated into a service plan to generate additional RMR.
There’s no doubt that savings are possible through smart energy management. But as much as we all want lower utility bills, the highest ROI we can achieve comes from surge protection and power conditioning that improves the performance of connected equipment—and keeps it running for as long as possible without disruption. When considering energy management solutions for a home, it is most important to safeguard the functionality and performance of valuable home electronic equipment and systems from disturbances, so don’t skimp on surge protection.