The Threat of Power Surges and How to Guard against Them
Technology has an invisible enemy. The power surge. Of course, any device needs an external power source, even if it's only to charge a battery. Electricity is like oxygen for technological devices. No matter how 'smart' our phones, televisions and computer systems become, they all need, at some point, to be plugged into a wall.
Surges flow through other types of connections as well. HDMI cables, USB cables and any wiring that conducts electricity are subject to surges.
Any time a device is connected to a power source, it becomes one small component of a giant ecosystem of electrical energy. A system that seems to have a mind of its own. Occasionally, suddenly and without warning, it can turn against your devices, unleashing a devastating surge.
What is a power surge? Put simply, it's an unexpected jump in the voltage flowing through power lines. When that happens, the energy flowing through your wall outlets spikes as well, and that can fry the circuitry in your various devices.
Surges result from a number of causes. Lightning strikes are the most obvious, though the least common. Interference with outdoor lines from weather, traffic accidents or even animals crawling into places they shouldn't can disrupt the power system and send surges into your home outlets.
High-energy home devices, such as air conditioners and refrigerators can also cause smaller but still hazardous surges as they switch on and off.
There are two types of protection that you can buy, to keep your home or office technology safe from destructive surges. A point-of-use surge protector is a power strip or box with multiple outlets into which you plug several devices. The first detail to notice when purchasing a surge protector is whether it is, in fact, a surge protector. Many consumers mistake a common strip, which is basically just a fancy extension cord, for an actual surge protector.
Once you've determined that the device you're about to buy has surge protection capabilities, look at the level of protection it offers. For $15 to $25 you can buy a basic power strip that will shield your devices against minor household surges, but leaves your equipment vulnerable to more intense surges.
A larger investment gets you a larger box, or surge station. These can be rather bulky and can run upward of $100 or even $150, but provide a much higher level of safety.
After you install the right surge protector, you should also add an uninterruptable power supply. A UPS might include surge protection, but the real value of this device is that, in the case of an outage, the UPS keeps your equipment running on battery for five to 15 minutes, long enough to shut the devices down properly. The best way to protect against surges is to simply turn your devices off.
Of course, that's not possible most of the time but when a surge may be coming, as often happens when power returns after an outage, shutting down your equipment is the best option. A UPS lets that happen.