Surge protectors how to avoid shocking damage


CHOICE says many Australians who have electrical equipment worth thousands of dollars plugged into the mains may need to protect them from power surges.

CHOICE computer tested 12 models of surge protectors ranging between $15 and $300 to see how well they safeguarded home electronics from damaging mains power surges.

While they might look like a typical powerboard, a surge protector will only let a ‘safe’ amount of electricity through and excess voltage is shunted into the earth or ground wire. Some claim protection even against lightning, but others specifically say they won’t offer that high level of safeguard.

The good news was that top four ranked boards in the high-voltage CHOICE tests were reasonably priced, ranging from $39 to $65. These performed the same or better as boards costing up to three or four times as much.

Less impressive were some of the insurance offers bundled with the boards that offer up to $300,000 for damage to any connected equipment if the surge protector fails to do its job. But the fine print reveals a few shocks of its own.

For example, one board’s $300,000 warranty only lasts three years and the cover is limited to just $10,000 per claim. It means to reach the limit of the coverage you’d need to make 30 successful claims within 36 months!

CHOICE computer says surge protection is particularly important in outlying suburbs, regional and country areas where long high-voltage links give a more direct path for lightning strikes to follow. In cities the power grid and other infrastructure can help dissipate the charge.

A massive surge can immediately short out your system but smaller spikes and surges are far more common and can be just as damaging in the long term. Although lasting only a few billionths of a second, they can gradually weaken electronic components and cause them to fail. Surges have many causes, including lightning strikes, switching operations and faults in the electricity network.

In a lightning storm it’s good practice to unplug equipment completely from power outlets but if you’re not able to do so, a quality surge protector can provide an equipment-saving second line of defence.

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How much do you need to spend to keep your expensive equipment safe?

30 Apr 2009 | They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place — but it doesn’t have to. A direct strike on your home can burn out every piece of electrical equipment you have connected.

 

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