SURGE Protection: How Safe Are You?
by Leslie McLaughlin
If you own a computer system one piece of standard equipment you should have is a surge protector. Most designs serve one obvious function — they let you plug multiple components into one power outlet. With all of the different components that make up a computer system, this is definitely a useful device.
Surge protectors safeguard your computer and are essential for all workstations because they are the most vulnerable to a power failure causing damage and costly repairs.
A surge protector works by channelling the extra voltage into the outlet’s grounding wire, preventing it from flowing through the electronic devices, allowing the normal voltage to continue along its path. Electrical surges can damage computer equipment by burning wires or gradually wearing down the device’s internal components and even wipe out any saved data. Surge protectors can also shield telephone and cable lines since these also carry electric current.
It is a common misunderstanding that surge protectors will save computer systems from lightning — the number one source of power surges. However, even the most effective surge protectors cannot shelter equipment from the sudden increase in electrical pressure that lightning can supply. The best way to prevent damage during a lightning storm is to unplug your electronic devices.
Surge protectors more commonly protect equipment from lower-voltage surges that occur often in electrical wiring. Devices such as refrigerators and air conditioners require large amounts of energy to switch motors and compressors on and off, creating surges in power that disrupt the steady flow of voltage. Faulty wiring, downed power lines and defective equipment at the power source can all cause surges as well.
A computer is a sensitive electronic device, and though they usually have some form of surge protection built in, it’s hardly as effective as it should be. Every computer workstation should have at least one surge protector for their power outlet.
A surge protector adds outlets for the appliances such as a stereo system, computer, monitor, printer, scanner and many more. Secondly, by having many appliances in one wall power socket, it requires a surge protector to prevent fuse breakdowns.
People often confuse a surge protector with a power strip. They often look very much alike, but one is just a bunch of outlets and the other offers protection from power surges.
Many people think they should buy the best surge protector for their computer but that is not true at all, since everybody has different needs for their computer workstation. Depending on the peripherals and appliances that you will be plugging into a surge protector, you have to look carefully at the energy ratings. Many of the packages will give you an idea which surge protector will be right for your needs. For example, if you have a computer, scanner, printer, desk lamp, monitor and speaker system, then you would need a surge protector that has the protection of at least 1100 Joules. If you’re not sure which surge protector is right for you, ask a sales representative at your local electronics shop for assistance.
There’s no question about it . . . if you own a computer you need a surge protector!
Leslie McLaughlin is a Web Developer and Internet Applications Programmer for Mighty Community. For more of Leslie’s articles and computer hints and tips, visit www.accesscentre.ca.