Western Electric & Air Western Electric & Air

Surge Protection

What causes power surges and power spikes?

Power surges and power spikes can occur at any time, not just when the power is restored after an outage. Surges and spikes can also result from lightning strikes, downed power lines, and even your household appliances.

Why do I need special protection for my home?

With the proliferation of sophisticated and expensive computers and electronic equipment found in so many of today’s homes, the protection of one or more surge protectors is a definite necessity. Electronics are becoming increasingly sophisticated and utilize technology that was not even conceived of just five years ago. Items including televisions, stereos, modems, microwaves, home computers, VCRs, and telephone systems are damaged by even small voltage changes. Part of the danger is that the damage from small surges can add up over time and may eventually shorten the life of your equipment or even destroy it.

Don't fuses and circuit breakers protect against these surges?

No. Fuses and circuit breakers (both thermal and magnetic) respond to heat and currents caused by faults within the home. They do not protect your household appliances and electronic equipment from surges and spikes that come from outside the home or through the phone or cable lines.

Is it just my computer that needs protection?

No. Any microprocessor device is vulnerable to damage or disruption and should be protected. You will also want to be sure to protect all phones, as a person can be seriously injured while talking on a phone during a storm.

What is a microprocessor?

It is a small computer processor contained on a single integrated circuit chip. Microprocessors are the heart of any computer or most other electronic devices that require more than simple ON/OFF control. Computer processors are capable of processing input data and responding with programmed decisions to control a device, such as an electronic coffee maker programmed to turn off when brewing is completed. Microprocessors can do three basic things:
  • perform mathematical functions,
  • move data,
  • make decisions and move to a new set of instructions based on data.

What is a transient?

A brief (sometimes one second or less) spike or dip in electrical voltage (strength) or electrical current (flow). A surge protector is necessary to protect electronics against "dirty" electricity. Electrical power has a standard voltage for most residential uses of 120 volts, and it remains relatively steady. But when that power makes a sharp and brief jump for any of a variety of reasons, the resulting sudden alteration in voltage can seriously damage delicate circuits.

It doesn’t take much to damage electronic circuits. A surge is defined as a voltage increase that lasts for as little as three nanoseconds (one nanosecond is one billionth of a second), and significant damage can be done in that miniscule amount of time if the voltage surge is strong enough. A spike – which lasts for only one or two nanoseconds – can also do its share of damage, especially when several spikes occur repeatedly over an extended period.

Voltage surges and spikes occur for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most common is the sudden jump in voltage that occurs when high-power appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners first start up. The appliances need quite a bit of electrical energy to activate compressors, and that sudden and sharp increase in flow through the lines will be felt by your electronics.

What does the Whole House Surge Device protect?

The whole house device is the first stage, heavy-duty filter for power line disturbances. It will help protect household items such as refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, dishwashers, trash compactors, air conditioners, garbage disposals, and electric stoves.

How do I protect all my devices?

We recommend a dual stage approach to protection against harmful surges. We recommend both stages in order to adequately protect your house form the danger of surges. The first stage is the whole house device that is installed at the service point entry, your electrical panel. This protects most of your major appliances.

The second stage is the plug-in surge suppressor strips. We recommend and provide smaller surge suppression strips to protect your smaller appliances and sensitive electronic equipment. As long as you have both stages you are getting the best protection available.

How long will my protection devices last?

Under normal operation, the devices will operate indefinitely. The devices have been engineered by an industry leading manufacturer. A world class test facility assures maximum design efficiencies, and a factory following ISO 9001 process controls, assures maximum accuracy, quality, and dependability. The manufacturer, Sycom, demonstrates its faith in the products with a lifetime product warranty.

Is there any other warranty?

Yes. All devices provided by the manufacturer through our service carry a limited warranty from the manufacturer, Sycom Surge Protection. The panel- mounted surge protection device is covered by a lifetime warranty and a $25,000 connected equipment warranty. The items covered are your major, "white" appliances such as washer, stoves, dishwasher, microwave oven, air conditioning unit, dryer, refrigerator, and freezer. The point of use, plug-in surge protection devices are covered by a lifetime warranty also.

Can't I just go buy surge strips at the dollar store? Why should I use yours?

As with just about everything, there is a high end and a low end to surge protectors, and you typically get what you pay for. Low-end surge protection units offer very little protection, and the circuits in the protector are prone to quick failure.

For quality protection, the first thing you want to look for is a surge protector that is rated by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which offers you the assurance that the unit has been tested and rated to meet certain standards. Any UL-listed product will be labeled as a "transient voltage surge protector," which means that it meets or exceeds a set of minimum standards.

Surge protector performance is rated three ways – clamping voltage, response time and energy absorption. The first, clamping voltage, tells you what level of voltage surge has to occur before the surge protector activates and diverts the excess voltage to ground. With this rating, the lower the voltage number is the better the surge protector will perform – it takes less of a surge to activate it. For good protection, especially for computers, look for a protector with a clamping voltage of less than 400 volts.

Response time is the amount of time it takes for the surge protector to respond to the surge. Obviously, a fast response time is important, so look for a unit that will respond in one nanosecond or less. Surge protectors are not made to last forever, so the third rating, energy absorption, indicates how much energy the unit will absorb before it fails. For this rating, look for a unit rated at 300 joules or better, up to around 600 joules for even better performance.

Misleading mumbo-jumbo

Several surge manufacturers have published literature calming superior surge protection performance. But if you look closely, you'll discover that they're using joules as a measure,not let-through rating. Joule rating is simply the sum total of the unit's internal components' ability to absorb and dissipate surge energy. To use this as a measurement of performance is more than irrelevant, it's inaccurate. In reality, joule rating has no definitive link to actual performance, and because vendors can essentially make up different joule ratings for virtually identical components, potentially buyers should beware of its uses in promotions. One particular unit has magically moved from 420 joule rating to a 700 joule rating with no component changes whatsoever.

Let-through voltage is the measure that matters. Let-through voltage is the the amount of voltage that a surge protector will actually pass to equipment after being subject to IEEE587Atest standards (a 600-volt spike could potentially destroy a PC.)Next Time you hear someone trying to pass off the joule measurement on you, demand to see actual let-through performance, IEEE587a let-through raring.