Volume 8 Issue 7
|The Top Two Things You Should Know About Surge Suppressors|
It's down there on the floor near your computer, under the disturbingly necessary quantity (and tangle) of wires and dust that comes with having so much technology in our lives, but is your surge suppressor really doing a good job protecting your equipment? You might be surprised to learn that it's not!
What should you look for when buying a surge suppressor for your computer?
When buying a consumer-level surge suppressor for a computer (or other device worth protecting), the designation UL 1449 is the most important thing to look for. This a standard defined by Underwriters Laboratories for the minimum acceptable performance of surge suppressors. If you're at a retail store, you should see "UL 1449" on the product box and on the unit itself. If you're shopping online, remember that product descriptions vary widely, so even if the item meets the UL 1449 standard, the description might not mention that. If it's unclear, try asking the store or seller, or move on to another product or store that does specifically list it.
And, if your current surge suppressor does not specifically list UL 1449 as one of the standards it meets, I strongly suggest you replace it right away with one that does.
When should you replace your surge suppressor?
If you experience a big and noticeable power surge, you should replace your surge suppressor immediately since it has probably given its life to protect your equipment. Otherwise, over time your surge suppressor will likely absorb a large number of small surges that you may never notice. These can be caused by fluctuations in the quality of the power coming into your home or office, or by small surges that occur when big appliances like refrigerators or air conditioners or elevators start up.
These small surges will probably slowly erode your surge suppressor's ability to protect your equipment if a big surge does occur, especially if it's built with MOVs (Metal Oxide Varistors), which are "sacrificial devices" that absorb excess electrical energy and dissipate it as heat. The most prudent advice I've received from experienced hardware technicians is this: Plan on replacing your surge suppressor after it has been in service for 3 or 4 years.
Here's how I implement this: When I set up a new surge suppressor for a client (or myself), I take today's date and add 4 years, and then label it "Replace me in (month & year)." For example, if I were setting one up today, since it's July 2014, I would write "Replace me in July 2018."
And, if you can't remember when you bought the surge suppressor you're currently using, it's probably already worn down, so I strongly suggest you replace it right away.
That's it. You now know the two most important things about surge suppressors. You can stop here if that's all you want, or read on for my additional advice.
Don't just focus on surges on power lines
Most consumer-level surge suppressors protect against surges on power lines. However, it's also important to look at all the wires through which a power surge could damage your equipment, including your telephone wiring, internet connection, cable or satellite wires, etc. Many consumer surge suppressors also include protection for phone/fax lines and coaxial cables.
What is a surge suppressor?
A surge suppressor does 3 basic things:
You should also keep the following in mind:
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I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.