When is a Surge Protector not a Surge Protector?

This may seem an odd subject but is worthy of note.  Many installations are fitted with surge protection devices, either integral to a power strip or a feeder plug to a rack.  These devices will have a handy indication that your equipment is protected and all is well in the world, but how many people go and look at this light post installation?

The reason to check is because of the way nearly all surge protection devices are made.  Within the strip/adapter is a small device called a Metal Oxide Varistor (MOV), this cheap component is what gives the protection, when a transient arrives down the power line it dumps the excess voltage.  But, and this is the critical point here, it degrades when used so after a while it will fail.  When it does the protection light on the strip will go out and you have no more surge protection.  You will get no bells and whistles that the item has done it’s job, apart from a light going out and perhaps a new rattle in the power strip if you give it a shake.

I discovered this week that ALL of my surge protection power strips have failed.   I was moving some equipment around and noticed the lack of a protection light, they were all fine last month when I spent the few seconds it takes to look at them.  My computer equipment is on a UPS and that had logged a few ‘events’ of late, all very short lived so it looks like it did it’s job well and the strips worked as required.

Looking at replacement strips I noticed the packaging does state that protection is only available when the indicator is lit.  So, how many of you have bought one of these, installed in into a rack, back of a desk, behind the TV etc. and never given it a second thought?  Time to check those lights people.

For those looking for a more longer term solution I have found one company which makes a surge suppressor based on a different technology.  This is, as far as I can tell, the only company to go down this route using some technology they developed themselves.  Because the system has no MOV’s, it just keeps on quietly doing it’s job, in fact once installed it gives no indication that it is doing anything at all.  They are a US company called SurgeX, but they do have certified products available in the UK, worth a Google.

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