Power lines

What is Surge Protection?

Every day we rely on electrical devices of all kinds. Our refrigerators, our heat pumps, and of course our cell phones need electrical power to operate. If something interrupts their power supply, we find ourselves unable to cook dinner, heat the house, or tweet about our day.

Having too little power is bad news, but having too much is even worse. Occasionally a lightning strike or other fluke event can send an excessive amount of electricity through the power grid, pushing extra voltage into the homes and businesses along its path. If that overload isn't diverted, it can damage expensive items like computers, appliances, and heat pumps.

Enter the surge protector. This simple device works much like the circuit breakers that populate your breaker box. If the surge protector detects too much electricity coming from the receptacle, it disconnects itself and stops sending power to whatever connected items. Once the surge has ended, you can reset the device and restore normal operation.

What are my surge protection options?

Surge protectors come in several forms. The most common is seen on the familiar power strip. This is a simple device that plugs into the wall and has five or six outlets that it provides with surge protection.

It is important to note that not every power strip includes a surge protector. When purchasing these devices, make sure you see surge protection capabilities mentioned explicitly on the packaging. Power strips can also cause fires if overloaded, so monitor your usage carefully.

You can also purchase a surge protector as a stand-alone unit assigned to a single item, such as your range, water heater, or HVAC unit. Because many of these items are hard-wired into the home, it takes a special surge protector that is installed in the same way.

Another option is a surge-protected receptacle. These are installed permanently in your home just like a regular receptacle, but anything you plug into it automatically has surge protection with no extra steps.

Surge protectors are an excellent investment that can prevent damage to everything from the heaviest heat pump to the most compact cell phone.