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PLEASE ...don't start a fire


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It's time for a refresher course in the, very confusing, world of Surge Protection vs Voltage Protection devices.

Because our power grid is so unstable, many people seek to protect their equipment, which is a good idea. But, there are things you need to know, and without this knowledge, a fire could result. I've had several clients recently who had melt-downs with voltage protection devices. Fortunately, none of them resulted in a fire but it could have happened under the right circumstances.

Many people purchase voltage protection devices for their refrigerators and other equipment. These devices are readily available at Do-It, Novey, etc and are beneficial against brownouts. If the utility voltage drops below a certain level, typically 90 volts, the load is disconnected until the grid is stable. They will also disconnect the load if the voltage gets too high, typically 145 volts.

In an attempt to be proactive, people are adding these devices to just about everything in their homes, and this is where the problem occurs. Some appliances do NOT need this protection, and they draw more current that the voltage protection device can handle, hence the melt-downs. An appliance that is primarily used for heating, such as toaster ovens, space heaters, etc, should not be connected to a voltage protection device. Pumps, motors, compressors and DC power supplies for electronics are examples of equipment that can be damaged by low voltage, but something with a heating element will simply produce less heat under these conditions, it will not damage it. Yes, some of these appliances have electronic controls that could be damaged but the potential for a fire is not worth the risk.

I regularly install whole house surge protection equipment, and every time I do an evaluation, my clients say, "I have surge protectors on my frig, air conditioners, etc, why do I need a panel mounted protector?" In 99% of these situations, they do not have surge protectors, they have voltage protectors as described above.

Any reasonable person would ask, "if the voltage protector disconnects at 145 volts, why can't it also protect against a surge?" The short answer is speed, a true surge passes through a voltage protection device before it has time to respond and disconnect the load. There are other factors involved but that's all you need to know for now.

Thanks for listening,

Sparky, aka Kevin Fisher

Boquete Electrical Solutions


+507.6611.9522 (text messages only please)


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