When it comes to electrical power surges, there appears to be a false perception that the risk is limited to lightning strikes or critical power supply failures. However, the reality is that surge spikes can happen on a regular basis without being noticed. Thus, as more and more consumers invest in high-end technologies, domestic surge protection has an increasingly pivotal part to play in safeguarding equipment. Here, Kevin Norman at Newey & Eyre tells you what you need to know
There is no doubt about it; we are living in an increasingly digital age where we have become more dependent on the latest gadgets and gizmos as part of our everyday working lives.
Against the backdrop of constant advancements in entertainment, computer and domestic appliances, it is now estimated that our gadget loving nation owns a colossal 606 million gadgets.1 Last year alone daily gadget usage levels saw a 31% increase2, with homeowners splashing out an impressive £1,227 on home technology in 2013.
Today then, more than ever, the quality of power is critical to not only ensure a constant, reliable power supply but also for product protection. However, there remains concern as to whether homeowners are missing a trick when it comes to surge protection with an estimated 90% of homes having none at all.
For those who aren’t aware, surges or electrical transients (overvoltages, electrical power surges or spikes) are fast, short duration events that cause energy peaks in an electrical circuits. They can seriously damage or destroy electrical equipment.
Here, the problem lies in misconception around the frequency of surges. Inherently, when people think about electrical surges they tend to think about the high transient and hugely-damaging atmospheric kind which are typically caused by the energy released during lighting strikes. However, such instances are, in fact, few and far between.
In reality, the majority (80%) of transients are generated from internal sources typically caused by switching inductive, capacitive and resistive loads or interrupting short-circuit faults resulting in high overvoltage transients. Worse still, they can happen on a regular basis without the homeowner even knowing while having a huge impact on the lifespan and integrity of incumbent electrical equipment. In worse case scenarios, a single brief spike of electricity could render an electrical appliance useless and/or destroy the power supply unit.
So, what can be done? The answer lies in the correct specification of Surge Protection Devices (SPDs) which deal with the electrical energy involved in surges expected at their installation point. They regulate the voltage supplied to equipment by momentarily ‘switching’ from an open circuit mode into a low impedance mode and shunting the surge energy to earth in doing so, limiting the overvoltage to a safe level.
When the surge event is over, the device returns to its open circuit mode, ready for the next event or if it has reached the end of life then it remains open circuit until it is replaced. A visual indicator or remote signalling unit will clearly alert the operator when the SPD has reached the end of life.
The result is that SPDs can either reduce electrical spikes, or effectively stop them from entering the house all together depending on the amp rating which indicates the level of protection. More so, as they can only be installed by a professional electrician they, of course, offer another revenue stream for installers.
For a quality, cost-effective product solution, a good recommendation is the new Newlec surge protection kit. Ideal for domestic properties, the kit includes an IEC type II SPD which is suitable for TN-S/TN-C-S supplies at a nominal voltage of 220-240V, requiring just a 40A type C MCB for back-up.
Ensuring effective protection for all circuits including heating, lighting, smoke alarms and consumer electronics, the device eliminates the high flow of current associated with spark gap based surge protection. Plus, a remote contact can be triggered to interface with a building management system.
For ease of installation and maintenance, the SPD comes as a single module with no need for multiple plug-in devices, while a red indicator shows when the protector requires replacement.
As we look to the home of the future, our national dependency on technology is only going to mount; thus placing increased onus on surge protection. For the installer then, the recommendation is to act now by promoting the importance of SPDs to customers, ensuring that their increasingly high-tech home contents and their families are protected and, in turn, adding further profit potential.