Surge Protectors Help Electronic Equipment

Article excerpt

Q: My electronic appliances such as a computer, microwave oven and VCR don't always work properly and don't last as long as they should. Would installing a whole-house voltage surge protector help? Do they use much electricity? - S.D.

A: Every home should have a whole-house voltage surge protector in addition to individual plug-in outlet surge protectors. This two-stage method protects your electronic equipment from all but a direct lightning strike.

A whole-house surge protector uses only one-half watt of electricity, costing about 4 cents a month. If you install one, it can save you hundreds of dollars in appliance replacement and repair costs. Light bulbs and fluorescent tubes also will last longer and stay brighter. Each day, hundreds of short-duration voltage surges - many over 5,000 volts - enter your home. These can cause just a simple computer glitch or an instant burnout. Most often, these surges slowly break down an electronic device's solid state components and insulation, causing the device to fail prematurely. High-voltage surges damage not only computers, VCRs and microwaves but also dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers that have delicate electronic controls. Several designs of whole-house surge protectors are available. A standard double circuit breaker design is easiest to install. If you are not handy with electrical work, an electrician can install it in five minutes. Another design hangs from a standard knockout in the circuit breaker box. I use this type in my house. These attach with just three or four wires. Always switch off the incoming main breaker before touching any wires. A third design is mounted under the electric meter. These use a very large metal oxide varistor (MOV) component for very effective surge protection. …