Clean Power, Part 1: Surge Protection

Ed Wenck | Jul 06, 2020
Cloud brain 450A key component of safeguarding any electronic device or system is proper surge and spike protection. And those swings in voltage may not be as dramatic as one might think. “Everyone thinks about the big, dramatic departures from the normal sine wave you want coming into your home – you know, like lightning causing a jump of many thousands of volts,” explains Vince Luciani from SurgeX. “But load swings can occur when everything from the HVAC to a garbage disposal kicks on.” 

Jimmy Paschke – also with SurgeX – notes that gear is getting fussier: “The biggest thing that I've seen in the last  three-plus years is the sensitivity level of devices has gotten such that the smallest anomaly or event can cause the devices to freeze up.”

That’s why integrators should always be cognizant of the various devices that are available, from the simplest power strips with metal oxide varistor components (MOV) to online battery-based uninterruptable power supply (UPS) devices that feature always on, zero transfer time design with additional circuitry to ensure clean, consistent power to any element in a rack. Obviously, as the price of a system rises, the cost of surge and voltage protection should increase to ensure that high-end components are protected. Shane Roma of Middle Atlantic Products, breaks down the levels of protection from surges and spikes, ranked here from best to better to good:

A premium online UPS voltage protection is the top of the line. That provides the cleanest power with pure sine wave output always coming from the onboard battery. Products connected to that UPS will never see surge events. The “online” part of that name means exactly that, you run off of the batteries at all times so when there is a power fluctuation or outage, there is zero transfer time to the backup power.

Power products with series protection give you excellent surge protection, and solid voltage protection. (The latter is an overload that could occur if, say, there’s a short in a circuit.)

A premium UPS with automatic voltage regulation (AVR) will raise or lower the voltage into a device or system before switching to the battery, which extends the life of that battery. These are great products but unlike the online version, have a 4ms to 10ms transfer time to switch power to the batteries.

Power products with MOV protection provide good surge protection, but most don’t have voltage regulation. These devices can also degrade over time depending upon how many voltage spikes they have incurred. Typically, there are indicator lights to signify that the surge protection is still in good working order.
Interested in learning more? Check out the CEDIA Podcast “The Power Show 2020.”