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Surge Suppressor Confusion


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Boquete Electrical Solutions

When consulting with customers about upgrading their surge protection, they often say they have plug-in surge suppressors on their refrigerator, freezer and other locations. Typically this is not the case, what they have are voltage protectors. So, what's the difference?

A voltage protector, often mislabeled as a voltage regulator, disconnects the load when the utility voltage goes above or below a defined range. Over voltage is not very common but under voltage, also known as sags or brown outs, does occur and can be extremely damaging to motors, pumps, compressors (frig, freezer, AC, dehumidifier, etc) and some electronics.

The typical voltage protector has a factory set range of 90-145 volts and will disconnect the load if the utility voltage goes outside these values. I think 90 volts is too low, so I recommend the Exceline brand, which has a dial for setting the low end, which I set between 100-105 volts. These are available for about $50 from Novey, Cochez and Electrisa.

So if a voltage protector has an upper limit of 145 volts, why won't it protect from surges? The answer is time. An over voltage condition is measured over a second or two by the voltage protector but a surge is an instantaneous spike of hundreds or thousands of volts. The voltage protector can't react quickly enough and a surge is through it before it can shut down.

What's the solution? Use plug-in voltage protectors for brown outs and panel mount surge suppressors to protect the whole house from utility and lightning surges. I install a set of two protectors for $275 (Boquete only). One is a surge capacitor and one is a surge arrestor. The surge capacitor is always on and captures surges starting just above the utility voltage. This is not how standard panel mount protectors work and if you have units with indicator lights, you have less protection than you've been led to believe. This type of protector does not begin diverting a surge to ground until a certain threshold is reached, often in the 400-600 volt range. These also need to be replaced every 3-5 years because they have components that degrade over time. This is also true of plug-in surge suppressors. Mine do not degrade over time.

And don't forget about TV and internet cables, which are just as important as panel mount protectors. A surge can enter ANY wire that extends beyond the building and many people have had catastrophic damage from lightning that only entered through the coaxial cable from Cable Onda.

Thanks, Sparky


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