Surge Arrest-Performance Series
Surge Arrest-Performance Series
Just 6 feet away from the
house, this lightening strike took out several computers despite
the typical office strip surge protectors which provided a false
sense of security.
Review by Steve
spend fortunes on our editing bays and home theater systems.
Many of us often think nothing of spending 3 thousand here and
4 thousand there but we don't give a heck of a lot of thought
to actually protecting our equipment. I have been guilty of the
same thing myself, using several daisy chained inexpensive strips
in my editing bay.
Most people use surge protectors simply because they afford you the ability to add multiple components into one power outlet. However, it is the protection a good surge suppression device can provide that is their most valuable asset.
A power surge, or transient voltage,
is an increase in voltage significantly above the designated
level in a flow of electricity. The normal office or household
wiring in the U.S. is 120 volts. If the voltage rises above 120
volts, there may be a problem, and a surge protector helps to
prevent that problem from destroying your computer.
Voltage is a measure of potential
electric energy. The current travels from one source to another
destination with one end of the line having more potential energy
than the other. This is basically the same principle that allows
you to use the hose in your garden. The water is under pressure
to flow out of the hose. The nozzle adjusts the pressure from
a greater degree to a lesser degree depending upon how you want
the water to come out, lightly and spread over a large area,
or with greater pressure for a more direct stream. Thus, voltage
is like an amount of electrical pressure.
A problem with voltage may come
about when different elements cause an increase, no matter how
brief, in the voltage itself. Should the voltage increase last
more than 3 nanoseconds, it is called a surge. Should the voltage
increase last one or two nanoseconds, it is then called a spike.
If either a surge or spike were high enough, damage could occur
to your equipment. Power surges usually occur when something
boosts the electrical charge at some point in the power lines.
This results in an increase in the electrical potential energy,
which may then increase the current flowing to your wall outlet.
When we think of electrical surges,
we usually think of lightening. When lightning strikes near a
power line, the electrical energy can boost electrical pressure
by millions of volts. This causes an extremely large power surge
that will overpower almost any surge protector. If there is a
lightning storm, do not rely on your surge protector to save
your computer. The best thing you can do is to unplug your computer.
However, according to my research, lightening is one of the least
common causes of surge or spikes. Common household appliances
such as air conditioners and refrigerators are a far more common
cause of surge and spikes due to the high amount of energy needed
to run them and the switching on and off of their motors and
components. This switching creates sudden, brief demands for
power, which upset the steady voltage flow in the electrical
system. While these surges are nowhere near as powerful as a
lightning surge, they can be severe enough to damage components,
immediately or gradually over time.
Other sources of power surges include
faulty wiring, problems with the utility company's equipment,
and downed power lines. Between the system of transformers and
lines that brings electricity from a power generator to the outlets
in our homes or offices, there are dozens of possible points
of failure that can cause an uneven power flow. In today's system
of electricity distribution, power surges are an unavoidable
occurrence. During the summer, when so many resort to their air
conditioners and other appliances to keep them cool, tremendous
strains are placed on the electric companies resources and our
appliances. This often results in 'brown outs' where the voltage
can vary with alarming frequency.
However, how many use these AC
strips that we hope will protect our equipment should a lightning
strike close by? If a poll were taken, my bet is that most people
take a big chance on the little power strips that they hope will
prevent their gear from frying.
I walked into my computer sanctuary
the other day and had an epiphany. The market has been depressed
for a year, my funds are drying up and I won't be able to buy
new equipment for some time. I thought that I'd better do something
more than I have done, to make sure that the computer and peripherals
I own stay in excellent working condition. Part of that meant
providing significantly better protection against surge and other
electrical anomalies than I have provided in the past.
Getting my hands on the APC Surge Arrest
surge protector was a definite step in the right direction. Not
all surge protectors are built the same or are as capable of
providing the protection you need. The type of surge protection
strip often found in business offices and the home, while offering
some protection, is really quite limited as they are usually
rated at around 1000 joules. Those would be fine for protecting
small kitchen appliances and the like. However, for your computer
equipment or home theater, you will want the absolute maximum
of protection and the APC Surge Arrest goes a long way to provide
that. The Performance model that I installed offers 3400 joules
of protection. And just what does that mean? At first I wasn't
quite sure myself so I had to do a little digging. The common
method used today to rate surge protection performance is the
Joule rating. APC, however, does not believe it is the best way.
The most commonly used component in a surge protector is the
Metal Oxide Varistor or "MOV". These components absorb
excess energy, thereby reducing the amount of the surge or spike
that gets through the outlets to the connected equipment. They
are rated, in part, by how much energy they can withstand before
failing. This energy is measured in Joules. So a Surge Protector's
Joule rating essentially is the amount of energy it can withstand
before it breaks down. It says nothing, however, about how much
of that surge or spike can get through to your equipment. My
sources at APC informed me that its possible to design a surge
protector with a very high Joule rating, but it might still let
most of the transient energy right through the outlets. A common
practice is to add up the joule rating for each AC power mode
(Line to Neutral, Line to Ground and Neutral to Ground) and combine
it with the Joule rating of the data line protection circuit
to make one gigantic number. If a power spike happens to come
in between Line and Neutral, the user thinks they are getting
all the Joules of protection to stop that transient when, in
fact, the number of Joules of protection for Line to Neutral
is much smaller than the big number printed on the product box.
Its been known that companies will add several big high voltage
MOVs to the design simply to inflate the Joule rating when, in
reality, these MOVs will never see any power transients that
may occur. So, Joule ratings can be misleading...they don't really
get to the heart of the matter which is: when lightning strikes,
how much of that spike will reach my equipment?
A good Surge Protector will use a variety
of components to reduce these surges and spikes to harmless levels,
and will be capable of doing so many, many times before needing
The rating that addresses this point
is called, the Let-Through Voltage Rating. This is the rating
system which APC believes is the best way to judge surge protection
performance. Its based on an IEEE test where a surge protector
is subjected to a 6000V spike (about the max you'd see at an
outlet downstream of the house or building electrical panel.
It then measures how much of that spike passes through the outlets
of the surge protector. So, the lower the number, the better
the performance. APC's ratings for its surge protectors are "<330V"
for the Essential SurgeArrest family (good), "<85V"
for the Home/Office family (better) and an amazing "<40V"
for the high end Performance SurgeArrest family (best) which
I am reporting on. APC employs a variety of components to suppress
surges. In addition to MOVs mentioned above, most of the APC
products also use capacitors and inductors to reduce transients
to harmless levels. In fact, the vast majority of transients
can be mitigated by these two components. Yet, there are no Joule
ratings for them, so a Joule rating does not reflect their benefit
in protecting you. The MOVs are typically only engaged for very
high energy surges like that experienced during a lightning storm.
All of the APC surge protectors are guaranteed for life and are
more than capable of handling thousands of large hits. To provide
users with further peace of mind, they offer a lifetime equipment
protection policy. If your properly connected equipment is damaged
as the result of the APC surge protector failing to provide protection,
APC will pay to repair or replace that damaged equipment. If
the surge protector "gives its life" in the line of
duty, APC will replace it with a brand new one free of charge.
The APC Surge Arrest which I installed
is certainly heads and tails above that which I was using. It
allows for 11 AC inputs, with the outside 6 spaced well enough
apart to allow for those dust collecting transformer blocks.
Any outlet on the surge Arrest which is not in use has a sliding
shutter preventing dust from getting in and accidental contacts.
The Surge Arrest can be left flat on the floor or easily mounted
as its' AC cord swings 180 degrees in either the left or right
so you avoid kinks in the wire and keep it closer to the wall.
A small feature, but one I really liked. In addition to the 11
AC outlets, there are 2 coax and 3 telephone surge protection
jacks to prevent damage to cable modems, satellite receivers
and fax machines.
There are also a few warning lights which
may alert you to problems before they even start. The 'Protection
Working' light assures you that all is well, while an 'Overload'
indicator illuminates should you overload the circuit. Should
this come on you unplug equipment until the light goes out. The
third indicator is the 'Building Wiring Fault' which comes on
should there be potentially dangerous wiring conditions, a reverse
polarity or missing or overloaded ground. For this one, it is
suggested you contact an electrician.
And finally, since most other surge suppressors
continue to let power through even after their circuits have
been damaged, leaving your equipment exposed to future surges,
with the APC SurgeArrest, once the circuit has been compromised
the unit disconnects equipment from the power supply ensuring
that no damaging surges reach your equipment.
For almost all of us, once we have installed
a power strip, we never pay any further attention to it. After
I have educated myself on the subject, I realize just how lucky
I have been to live in San Diego where we don't get too many
lightning storms. But, I sure use the fridge a lot and now count
my blessings that I have never fried my computer. Having installed
a quality surge suppressor such as the APC Surge Arrest is really
my bottom line for proper protection. Perhaps it should be yours
Steve Douglas is a certified Apple Pro for Final
Cut Pro 6 and underwater videographer. A winner of the 1999 Pacific
Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004
Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious
2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, where he
also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater
Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver
on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed
footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, and productions
for National Geographic and the History channels. Steve is also
feature writer for Asian Diver Magazine and is one of the founding
organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition. He is available
for both private and group seminars for Final Cut Pro and leads
both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with
upcoming excursions to Kenya in Aug.09, the Red Sea and Egypt
for Nov.2009, Truk Lagoon and Yap in Micronesia for July, 2010.
Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve
on any of these exciting trips. www.worldfilmsandtravel.com
copyright © Steve
This article first appeared on www.kenstone.net
and is reprinted here with permission.
All screen captures and textual references are the property and
trademark of their creators/owners/publishers.