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Your home electronics are attacked multiple times on a daily basis by invisible threats. While we often warn about viruses and malware, an even more universal danger is electrical surging. Most of us recognize that lightning produces tremendous electrical discharges. The power of lightning is so great that even the best surge protectors simply fail to withstand the forces of nature. During a lightning storm, the only way to be absolutely sure that your devices won’t be damaged is to unplug them.
The more common and more manageable electrical surges are generated by electrical devices that require lots of power to operate. Overvoltage, brownouts, power surges and voltage spikes occur five times a day on average. For instance, you may notice that your lights occasionally flicker when your air conditioner, pool pump or major appliances are switched on. Even smaller power surges can cause small permanent damage to sensitive electronic components. Over time, cumulative damage can induce erratic performance or even complete failure of your digital TV, your computer or the computers controlling your household appliances. Over 50% of equipment failure can be attributed to power surges. If an electrical surge destroyed all of the devices connected to your outlets, which would distress you the most? Protect those expensive or critical items with a surge suppressor. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t get power strips and surge protectors / surge suppressors confused. Both have multiple outlets, but power strips have no protection built in. Check to see that the product you purchase is labeled as meeting the UL 1449 standard – the Underwriters Laboratories minimum acceptable performance for surge suppressors. Select a protector with enough outlets to protect your device and associated powered accessories plus a few extras. Make sure that all connection types are protected! Power surges can travel through your cable, telephone or satellite TV lines and your home network cables, too. You should easily find an acceptable product in the $20 to $40 range.
Surge suppressors don’t help if your power fails. Consider getting an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which combines a surge suppressor with a battery. This temporary power can provide enough time to save your work and properly shut down your computer. The added feature will bump the price up at least another $50 – $100.
If you suffer a large, noticeable power surge, you should replace your surge suppressor immediately, since it undoubtedly sacrificed its life to protect your equipment. You may never notice that your surge suppressor routinely blocks a large number of small surges every day. These small surges slowly erode your surge suppressor’s ability to protect your equipment, making it more vulnerable. Experienced hardware technicians advise routinely replacing your surge suppressor after it has been in service for 3 or 4 years.
If you can’t remember when you bought the surge suppressor you’re currently using, it’s probably already overdue and I urge you to replace it ASAP! Replacing a $25 surge suppressor is cheap insurance – and a whole lot better than replacing a $1,000 TV!