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8 Facts about surge protection for your gear

Between thunderstorms, blackouts and load shedding, chances are you may have already experienced the results of a powerful surge on your equipment. In modern electronics, almost everything is networked in some way or other, and those connections greatly expand your risk of damage from electrical surges. You can reduce the cost and risk of repairs, downtime and lost data by protecting power and signal/data inputs, and ensuring that protection devices are bonded together to an electrical earth.

Check out these 8 facts and tips when considering surge and lightning protection for your gear:

1. Protect all inputs and outputs

When using a Surge Protection device, protecting all input and outputs of your equipment is crucial. A Surge can come from any copper line running into your home, so make sure to protect your telecommunications and data connections, not just your power connection. If you’re protecting your TV, make sure to protect incoming lines from your Satellite dish or aerial as well. Try getting a unit that has all these inputs and outputs in one device, thus your installation is referenced to one unit and protection can be guaranteed.

2. Save some money?

Some routers may come with a protection unit, or cheaper surge protection models are available from large stores and manufacturers. It’s all about the Joules! Many cheaper models are just not capable of providing the protection needed against lightning, thus throwing the consumer into a false sense of security. A good surge protector is worth the peace of mind.

3. A warranty…on your stuff

Some manufacturers like Clearline offer a Connected Equipment warranty of up to R25 000. So if lightning hits and the surge protector didn’t work, they will replace your equipment to the value of R25 000.

4. A UPS won’t help against a lightning surge

It is a common misunderstanding that a UPS will provide sufficient Lightning and Surge Protection. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. While some UPS’s do provide a degree of isolation and surge filtering, this is mostly for internal protection and doesn’t come near to the kind of protection required for higher voltages experienced from Lightning strikes. Consumers should be very careful and aware of the protection capabilities of their UPS device. Most UPS devices are simply just “change over” units, meaning that the AC supply is connected directly to Eskom. Most well respected UPS manufacturers actually state in their product specifications the maximum rated surge inputs and these are usually below what is commonly experienced from a lightning surge. UPS systems were never intended to be subjected to the level of transient energy contained in lightning currents.

5. Undervoltage hurts

Trip connect

A brownout is a partial loss of power similar to a blackout, but with less intensity, which may cause lights to flicker, electronic devices to turn on/off spontaneously, etc. Brown outs are common when dealing with unreliable power providers and are often experienced after load shedding and in some cases can last for minutes. This can cause damage to sensitive electronic equipment. Clearline has selected devices with their patented Trip-Connect Technology that offer disconnection on over-voltage (Surges, etc.) and under-voltage (brownouts).

6. Always get more outlets than you need

You’re always going to need more outlets, and you’ll undoubtedly add more gear, without necessarily getting rid of your current gear. Plugging additional standard multiplugs into your surge protector could compromise warranties and protection. That’s not to say that if you think you need 4 outlets get a 12, but a 6 is probably a good number.

7. USB is great, but check the amps

USB charger multiplug

Purchase a surge protection device with USB connections, so you can charge your mobile devices. This is handy, for sure, but check what the output amp rating is. Generally, you would want this to be more than the standard 0.5A charger we get from our devices, which is how much flow you can get through the pipe, so to speak. For most of your mobile devices, 1 amp is enough and will charge it quicker and safely.

8. Multiplugs are portable

Take your multiplug with you when traveling, or purchase a more portable traveling protection device for your laptop. Most hotels or even conference and training centers normally won’t have surge and lightning protected outlets. Taking your multiplug along gives you peace of mind and some additional plug points, and could offer direct USB charging (depending on your product).

Bottom Line

South Africa has lots of thunderstorms and unfortunately an unreliable power provider, so your gear is probably more likely to experience power surges and possible damage. Even appliances are susceptible to power spikes, so there really is no reason not to get a proper surge and lightning protector.