It’s Time to Check Your Surge Protector

  • Comments: 0
  • Written on: May 24th, 2008

No one really thinks about the surge protector that lays quietly in a pool of dust and pet hair under your desk.  At least once a year we try to highlight the need for surge protectors on your computers and other high-end electronics and some of the myths that surround them.

To completely understand what a powerful surge can do to your computer, take a look at what happened to this computer that came into our Lincoln Service Center for repair.  Needless to say you must have a surge protector, but how do you know if yours is still up to the challenge?

How to Tell if Your Surge Protector is Bad:

Most surge protectors have a light of some sort.  Newer models will have an LED, while older models may have a standard light bulb.  If your light is burnt out, dim, or flickering, your surge protector has taken a surge and is no longer fully capable of protecting your PC.

Surge protectors do not heal.  Once they are damaged by a surge their ability to keep your high end electronics safe is directly reduced by the cumulative amount of the surge damage it has absorbed.

With that said, if your light is rock solid and bright or you have a fancy UPS battery backup system that doesn’t mean you are safe.  Some cheaper surge protectors have a “protected” light that is simply a power light.  If these are more than a year old, it’s time for a replacement.  Your UPS is only a battery backup with a cheap surge protector strapped on it in most cases. While the batteries in these units last for years, their surge protection does not.

Whole House Protection is a Myth:

There is no such thing as “whole home surge protection” despite what your electric company tells you.  Whole home protection keeps you safe from outside surges from weather, transformer malfunctions and rabid squirrels.

They do not however protect against surges generated by high voltage appliances like your refrigerator, mixer, washer or drier. As these units switch on and off they can create surges on your line that act like Chinese water torture to your computer.

What Should You Look For When You Buy a Surge Protector:

Surge protectors are rated by the number of joules of energy they can absorb before they die completely.  For home use I recommend between 3,000 and 4,000 joules of protection.  You can get away with less, but that just means you will have to replace them more frequently. The cost over the long run of buying cheap protectors is greater than the cost of doing it right the first time.

Aside from the number of joules, the damage alert mechanism is also important.  At a minimum a protector should have a light that WILL GO OUT when the unit is damaged.  These can be tough to find because most models today offer a “protected” light that is really just a power light.  Look for 2 lights on the unit for a true protected light.

I prefer the audible alert surge protectors whenever they are available.  These units will actually chirp when they need to be replaced.  This is desirable because most people tuck surge protectors out of sight, so a dimmed or extinguished light may be difficult to see.

For a limited time Schrock Innovations is offering our preferred surge protectors for $25.  They typically cost $50 each, so we will sell them until they are gone.  Our shipment is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday of next week.

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