Surge Protector

What is a Surge Protector?

A device that shields computer and other electronic devices from surges in electrical power, or transient voltage, that flow from the power supply. Standard American voltage for home and office buildings is 120 volts. Anything over this amount is considered transient and can damage electronic devices that are plugged into an outlet. Even though power surges are so brief that they are measured in nanoseconds, they can cause considerable damage to electronic equipment.

How it Works

A surge protector works by channeling the extra voltage into the outlet’s grounding wire, preventing it from flowing through the electronic devices while at the same time allowing the normal voltage to continue along its path. Electrical surges can damage computer equipment by burning its wires or gradually over time wearing down the device’s internal components and even wipe out any saved data. Surge protectors can also protect telephone and cable lines as these also carry electric current.

Surge Protectors and Lightening

It is a common misunderstanding that surge protectors will protect systems from lightning, the most familiar source of power surges. Even the most effective surge protectors can not protect equipment from the sudden increase in electrical pressure of millions of volts that lightning can supply.

The best way to prevent damage during from lightning storm is to unplug devices that could be irreparably damaged. Surge protectors more commonly protect equipment from lower-voltage surges that occur frequently in modern electrical wiring. For example, 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 faulty equipment at the power source (utility company) can all cause power surges as well.

Surge protectors are also called power strips, surge suppressors and transient suppressors.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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