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Don't Let Lightning Strike!

We’ve probably all heard of power surge protectors.... No, well if you haven’t then now’s your chance.

When you put together a computer system, one piece of standard equipment you should buy is a surge protector. Most designs serve one immediately obvious function; they let you plug multiple components into one power outlet. With all of the different components that make up a computer system, this is definitely a useful device. But the other function of a surge protector power strip is protecting the electronics in your computer from surges in power, this is far more important. Your modem is the most susceptible place a surge can strike your computer and is often overlooked.

When too much electrical pressure runs through a wire the wire heats up much like the filament in a light bulb and burns. Even if increased voltage doesn't immediately break your machine, it may put extra strain on the components, wearing them down over time.

When the increase lasts three nanoseconds (billionths of a second) or more, it's called a surge. When it only lasts for one or two nanoseconds, it's called a spike

A standard surge protector passes the electrical current along from the outlet to a number of electrical and electronic devices plugged into the power strip. If the voltage from the outlet surges or spikes (rises above the accepted level) the surge protector diverts the extra electricity into the outlet's grounding wire.

The most familiar source is probably lightning, though it's actually one of the least common causes. When lightning strikes near a power or telephone line, whether it's underground, in a building or running along poles, the electrical energy can boost electrical pressure by millions of volts. A more common cause of power surges is the operation of high-power electrical devices, such as ovens, kettles, TV’s and refrigerators etc. These high-powered pieces of equipment require a lot of energy to switch on and turn off. This switching creates sudden, brief demands for power, which upset the steady voltage flow in the electrical system.

This raises an interesting question: If power surges are an inherent part of our electrical system, why didn't we need surge protectors in our homes 50 years ago? The answer is that a lot of the components in sophisticated modern electronic devices (such as computers, microwaves, DVD players) are much smaller and more delicate than components in older machines, and are therefore more sensitive to current increases. Microprocessors, which are an integral part of all computers as well as many home appliances, are particularly sensitive to surges. They only function properly when they receive stable current at the right voltage.

Tip from PC-KING

PC-KING uses Belkin Surge protectors, they provide a lifetime guarantee and provide protection for power, telephone and aerial sockets. However, there are many other suitable products offering similar features. Please remember your router or modem is the most susceptible place a surge can strike your computer and is often overlooked.

Shopping for a surge protector is tricky business because there are a lot of nearly worthless products on the market. First of all, look at price. As a general rule, don't expect much from any surge protector that costs less than £10. These units typically have fairly limited capacities, and won't protect your system from bigger surges or spikes. Better surge protectors usually come with some sort of guarantee of their performance. If you're shopping for more expensive units (protects your power sockets, telephone and aerial points), look for a protector that comes with a guarantee on your equipment. If the unit fails to protect your equipment from a power surge, the company will actually replace your equipment. This isn't total insurance, of course, as in a serious case you'll still lose all the data on your hard drive, which could cost you plenty, but it is a good indication of the manufacturer's confidence in their product.

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Site Updated 17 Jan 2013 15:41


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