We are headed into storm season. During this time when when thunderstorms and the occasional blizzard can cause power surges, sags and spikes. It is estimated that lightning causes about $6 billion dollars of damage each year. Computers are sensitive electronic devices that are very susceptible to these changes in electricity. A lot of damage can be done to your expensive devices. But not just your computers, but your flat screen TVs, digital video recorders (DVR), home routers and other other similar devices. How can you protect your devices from surge damage? We’ve written up a quick guide that should provide you with everything you need to know to protect your computer and other devices this winter.
What are power surges? Spikes or a sags?
Computers need a constant flow of electricity coming into them to function properly. during normal times, the flow of electricity is constant. Think of it like water going through a pipe. When the water level drops, the flow coming out of the pipe drops. This is what a power sag is. When your air conditioner comes on and all the lights in your house flicker or dim a bit, that is a power sag.
Back to our water pipes. When the flow is down and then suddenly it goes back to full pressure, you get a burst of water that is a lot more than normal. The pressure is much higher. That is what a power spike or surge is.; too much electricity coming into your devices at one time.
How do storms effect computers?
When a thunderstorm comes in, it can cause lightning strikes that hit power lines. This can cause surges of electricity can flow down the power line directly into your house and then into any devices that are plugged in. Another way a surge can come is when the power is off and then it comes back on. This is like the water flow that is suddenly more than the pipe is used to handling.
When surges comes into a computer or other device like a flat screen TV, the extra amount of electricity can do damage to the sensitive electronics.
A sag can cause the power processing parts of a computer to be damaged over time. Computers need that constant flow of electricity and when a sag hits, the computer may lock up or not write data correctly and cause corruption.
How to protect your devices from surges and sags
There are several ways to protect your devices. First, we will discuss the most thorough way to do it. Most power companies offer a service known as whole house surge protection. This usually involves placing a surge type device outside near the meter so that all electricity coming into the house is filtered. The monthly charge is usually very cheap and it it is well worth the investment. This will protect your entire house from surges but not sags. This cannot maintain a constant flow of electricity into your house.
The next way is to use surge protectors to plug all of your devices into. But be careful here. A power strip and a surge protector are not the same thing. A power strip is just a strip that allows for more devices to be plugged into one outlet. A surge protector contains a fuse that will blow similar to how a breaker operates in your power panel. When a surge comes into the surge protector, the fuse will blow and stop the flow of electricity into your devices. Surge protectors are more expensive than power strips. You should expect to spend between $20 and $30 per surge protector. This also won’t protect your devices from sags. It will protect from surges only.
The final method, and the most comprehensive, is to use uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). These are batteries that your devices plug into and can handle both power surges and sags. Also when the power goes off, it will give you time to properly shutdown your computer so that you can save your data. UPSs are the most comprehensive and offer the best protection. The downside is the expense and that you need one for each major device. For example, you will need one for your computer, one for your TV, etc. This can get expensive but its far easier to replace a $100 UPS than to buy a new computer or flat screen TV.
Iron Comet can help you protect your devices from storm season. If you need help, give us a call for a free assessment on the best option to protect your valuable devices. Call us at 770-506-4383 and we will be happy to help.