Monday, May 24, 2010

Design Tips: Surge protection, a dull topic that pays off bigtime

Whooo. Last night the power blinked at my house. Pop, dark. By the time I got up to see if it’s just my house or the whole neighborhood, the lights flashed back on. 10, maybe 15 seconds maximum.

Then the beeping began.

Flashing 00:00’s on all the appliances, dvd players, and clocks. If I removed everything out of my house that plugged in there wouldn’t be a lot left, it seems!

What’s beeping? Not the smoke detectors, not the refrigerator… oh, the battery backup/surge protecter that I put on the laptop! Well, guess that’s OK, the TV, fine, stereo, fine, oh, hmmm, the home office not so fine. No lights, dead computers.

The next day, a replaced old outlet later (note to self, replace all the old outlets, they do go bad after a while and my house is almost 60 years old!) we have lights and one of the computers, but not the other.

The surge protector is dead.

New surge protector, still dead. Oh, rats! Oops, just forgot to turn it on. Silly me. The computer fires up, no harm, no foul, just a bill for a new outlet and surge protector. The protector did its job and saved me a bundle of money for a new computer, scanner, printer and whatever else was plugged into it… but even better, I’m thinking of the time it saved me from replacing the computer, trying (!!!) to salvage the digital files and information!

Weeks! And piles upon piles of headaches. Wow. Major bullet dodged, because I opted for the full-on surge protector rather than just an extension cord with a bunch of outlets on it. The $40 at the time seemed like a lot more money than the $9.99 for just the extension cord.

If it’s electronic, and you value it, it’s worth protecting. Today, that 40 bucks looks like a bargain.

Belkin makes good ones, even ones that protect phones and faxes or even with timers that will shut off your computer and all its peripherals so you don’t have to. Think about the energy savings of that!

Just think about what you need to plug into the protector and the sizes of the transformers (those beefy boxy plugs). From small units to large, there’s sure to be a configuration that will work for you. Easy to install, too, just plug it in. And available almost anywhere office supplies are sold.

But of course, even with a surge protector, you still need to consider total electrical load on a given outlet. Don’t go overboard, check with a professional electrician if you’re not sure.

You can even purchase whole-house surge protectors that a professional electrician will install next to your electrical panel. (That's not one shown at left.) Apparently, surges from the grid can come in multiples… I think I was lucky in that there was only one and my electronics were protected at the outlets, but I don’t know what would have happened if there were additional surges. A quality whole-house protector may stop multiple surges, a cheap one may not.

The Powerworx E3 is a unit I’m considering. I like that it will likely protect all my stuff from power surges and spikes, and it will help even out the quality of electrical flow… “electrical noise” that can diminish the lifespan of sensitive equipments and lights like dimmers and halogen fixtures, computers, stereos and TVs. The Continental Power Corporation also suggests energy savings, too, though online reviews argue this point.

But the surge protection is important enough to make installing this product worth considering. Even though it’s not as flashy as a new TV or computer, it might be worth a lot more!

Until next time!

--Elaine Bothe


Continental Power Corporation’s Powerworx E3 website

All photos courtesy of Belkin’s website

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posted by Jennifer Adams Design Group Blog @ 12:01 AM 


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