Are Surge Protectors Necessary in the UK?
Most people have heard the term ‘surge protector’ but what are they, how do they work and are they necessary in the UK?
What is a surge protector?
Surge protectors are designed to limit the voltage supplied to an electric device. It does this by either blocking or shorting to ground any excessive voltages above a safe threshold. Many large scale or heavy duty industrial kit has a surge protection device already installed but they can also be used in residential situations too, for example to protect specific household equipment such as an expensive television or computer equipment.
What are voltage spikes/electrical surges?
Electricity moves along a wire in a similar way to water running along a pipe. There can be areas of low pressure and high pressure as with water pipes – in electrical terms this is known as high electric potential energy and low electrical potential energy. The difference in this potential energy is measured by voltage and if it rises above the normal voltage for 3 nanoseconds or more, it is known as a surge.
If the voltage of a wire gets too high, the electricity will surge through it heating up the wire which can cause fires or damage to equipment. It can even destroy equipment or wipe data from it.
The surge protector is designed to pick up any excess voltage and divert the excess electricity into a grounding wire. For this reason, a surge protector must be properly grounded to work correctly.
What causes electrical surges?
There are a number of things that can cause an electrical surge. Many people will immediately think of lightening as a cause. Lightening certainly is a common cause of electrical surges but in actual fact most power surges come from within your home. It is also worth considering that if lightening does cause an electrical surge the voltage will be so great that most surge protectors wouldn’t be able to cope with it so if there is lightening about, the only way to make sure your equipment is protected is to unplug it.
Other causes can include turning on or off electrical devices that require lots of power to operate, faulty or damaged wiring, downed power lines or a fault at the power source. In the UK our electrical supply is generally pretty reliable but faults can still happen and the weather has been much more erratic lately with more storms and heavy winds/rain.
Do I need to use surge protectors?
This comes down to personal choice but is generally better to be safe than sorry. In particular if you have any equipment that is very valuable or that you would struggle without then it is probably best to use a surge protector.
As an additional precaution it is also worth getting the wiring checked in your property by a qualified electrician such as Barton Electrical. If you know that your wiring is all safe and in good order then that removes one element of risk. We also check these when producing PAT Testing for businesseses, it’s good to do so to ensure they are helping your business and it’s appliances as best as they can.
If you would like to discuss surge protectors, have any doubts about any of your wiring or would like to have your wiring checked, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.