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HOW STUFF WORKS / SMART IDEAS

How To Zap-Proof Your Home

By SmartHouse Staff | Monday | 13/11/2006

Every component in your office and entertainment systems should be protected from electrical surges because, even in your basic TV/phone setup, you're running the risk of an electric blowout.

You probably have a few surge strips lying around your house. In today's technology-laden homes, it's nearly impossible not to when you want to protect your expensive gear from electrical damage. But it takes more than a couple of strips to adequately protect the home systems from damaging electrical disturbances. For complete protection, you'll need lots of strips as well as several different types of protection devices installed near your home's electrical fuse box.

Let's start with the protectors at the fuse box. These whole-house devices, which should be installed by a licensed electrician, are your home's first line of defense against electrical surges coming into your home.

Such surges might come from a lighting strike or fluctuations in the power grid. Even though these disturbances can occur several blocks away from your house, the current they produce can travel down the electrical lines into your home. Certainly, it's important for a whole-house surge protector to be able to handle problems that occur on the electrical lines, but don't forget to protect the telephone and cable/satellite TV lines as well.

Some manufacturers combine electrical, phone and cable protection in one protector or offer individual modules for each incoming service. The latter approach is usually the most effective because it prevents an incoming surge on one line from creeping over into another.

For the surge energy to be properly diverted to earth ground, be sure that all of the services enter your home at or very near the same place so that they can share a common grounding point. According to Andy Benton, director of engineering at power conditioning provider SurgeX in the US, a home with multiple grounds is more susceptible to damage.

Even with all this protection at your home's 'head end', surges can still sneak into your electronic equipment.

That's why every piece of equipment - from your home theater gear to the expensive coffeemaker in your kitchen - should be plugged into a surge strip. This device can handle those smaller surges that are generated from inside your home from vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens and other appliances.

Surge strips come in a variety of styles, from those that protect a single piece of equipment (like a fancy clock radio) to those with a combination of phone jacks, cable outlets and electrical outlets to protect an entire suite of home office gear. For a clean look, you can find surge protectors that are designed to resemble ordinary wall outlets.

Belkin Gold Series 7 Way

 

A home office or entertainment system needs a heavy-duty surge strip like this one from Belkin. It offers protected outlets for every piece of gear and protected jacks for your modem and telephone.

 

 

DON'T GET THE NAMES CONFUSED

Surge Protectors (or suppressors) are devices specifically intended to limit or control excessive voltage from lightning or from power line fluctuations.

They frequently include protection for signal or data lines, as well as for the electrical power. They may or may not contain additional components to eliminate noise or other types of interference. Line Conditioner is the term that is used to describe anything that may improve the quality of your home's AC power.

A Line Regulator compensates for moderate fluctuations in AC line voltage, producing a nominally constant 120-volt output if the utility voltage fluctuates. Line conditioners and regulators do not normally provide signal or data protection. They may or may not provide interference filtering and/or surge limiting.

 

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