Computers require protection from electrical issues just as any other electronic appliance. More so, in fact, as computers often have tiny microprocessors that are being made smaller and smaller as the technology is developed to make computers faster. These tiny chips are extremely sensitive to electrical upsurges that can occur on a regular basis in the home or in an office environment. Computers also have several peripheral devices connected to them or they themselves are connected to a computer system network and need to be protected. As with other electronics, you can install surge protection to guard against power spikes but ordinary surge protectors may not suffice for proper protection. That’s what computer surge protectors are for.
A computer surge protector is installed between the computer’s main electrical cord and the wall outlet. It will have multiple outlets for the peripherals and may have extra protection for coaxial cables or RJ45 connections (phone lines or Ethernet lines). When a surge strikes, the surge protector blocks power flow to the computer at the source.
A typical home experiences surges throughout the day. There’s no predicting a power surge and they can come from a host of sources, such as the on/off cycles of large appliances like washers, microwaves or HVAC systems; faulty wiring can overheat and deteriorate allowing surge fluctuations at certain points in the electrical system of the home; electrical storms and lightning strikes are common causes of black outs, as are issues with power grids causing brown outs.
Whatever the cause may be, a surge can cause severe damage to high speed processors in computers with nanochip technology. These electronics are so sensitive that they are not made to withstand even slight fluctuations in power flow. Even the slightest sustained surge over a standard 120 volt outlet can degrade a microprocessor if it doesn’t outright melt it. The constant degrading over time will eventually cost you lost data when the computer fails.
Computer surge protection provides stable power flow to your machine without the threat of surge damage. When your device does detect a surge, it merely redirects it to the ground wire. Most use MOV technology to absorb surges. MOVs are metal oxide varistors, little semiconductors that look like coils inside the protector near the input line. When the electrical line heats up the MOVs attract the excess heat and push it into a safe area within the surge protector while continuing normal power flow to your machine. In the event the surge is too large, some computer surge protectors will shut power flow off completely. With that in mind, these surge protectors come in several configurations. Below are some of the features you will want to protect your computer.
1. Mulitple Outlets. Most machines use peripheral devices like printers, speakers and of course, a monitor. All of these can be affected by surges and worse is a surge can travel through these devices to your CPU and cause further damage. So, it’s important to have your peripherals able to plug into a surge protector with multiple outlets.
2. Joules. This is the technical side of surge protection. On every packaged device sold is a rating that determines the strength of the surge protector. This strength is measured in Joules. Basically, it lets you know how much surge energy it can absorb before it overloads. Naturally, a higher Joules rating suggests better protection. Depending on the number of peripheral devices you are connecting, you should opt for the highest value protection you can find.
Approximate about 300 Joules per device.
3. Clamping Voltage: Another measure of quality. Clamping voltage measures the amount of voltage a device will allow before it considers it a surge. A low number in this case is better. The Underwriters Laboratory (UL) suggests the best clamping voltage for point-of-use devices at 330 volts.
4. RJ11 and RJ45 Jacks. These are phone and Ethernet connections. RJ11 is a phone line. While there aren’t many modems using this technology still, they do exist and a modem is just another way for a surge to pass into your machine. Finding a surge protector for computer modems isn’t difficult at all as some computers have Fax machines that require land line use. RJ45 is the larger version of the phone jack. Typically this is used for Ethernet lines or routers.
5. Coaxial Surge Protection. A coaxial connection is simply a cable Internet connection. Surges can pass into these lines from external sources and wreak havoc on your computer just as any other surge. This protection is built in so that you are not left vulnerable at any point.
6. Indicator Lights. As surges are unpredictable, they are also undetectable until it is too late. For a computer power surge flow can cause serious loss, expensive loss that may be irretrievable. Most surge protection devices today are manufactured with some sort of alert to let you know the device is working properly. These alerts can be in the form of LED indicator lights or through an audible alarm.
Surge protectors are not everlasting and when they go, you’ll want to know.
7. Battery Backup. While not really an integrated part of surge protectors, some battery backups do have surge protection installed on them. In other words, a surge protector may not have battery backup capabilities, but a battery backup can have surge protection capabilities. The backup battery protection is perfect for computers where brown outs and blackouts from storms are common. When the power goes out, your battery backup will keep your machine powered for several minutes allowing you enough time to shut it down properly.
When it comes to a surge protector computer specific devices are able to provide total protection. However, there is no full-proof system or device that can protect you from extreme surge events. Lightning, for example, carries extremely high voltage, enough to melt the strongest surge protector and continue through to your equipment. In this case, the only fail safe you have is to unplug your computer during an electrical storm.
In the event of a malfunctioning device, most computer surge protectors come with warranties. These are known as Connected Equipment Warranties (CEW). The warranty that your device will come with will depend on the manufacturer but typically will include a fixed amount.