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Electricity – The Unseen Threat

Electricity – The Unseen Threat

Ok, now I’ve got your attention, what is it? To put it simply, Electricity, the very thing needed to keep your new and shiny (and sometimes old and not so shiny) equipment running, can also destroy it.

We have all heard of ‘Power Spikes’ and ‘Power Surges’ (yes they are different), but very few people actually understand the threat, and fewer still know how to protect against it. The above picture is from an extension cable I removed from a customers site 3 days ago, he had no idea it had happened and was still using it.

Scary proposition, maybe the same has happened to you and you don’t even know it? Ok so whats the solution? Some of you are probably thinking ‘Surge Boards’, well you are right… and wrong. Keep reading and I’ll explain.

Introduction

Nearly everyday I go to jobs and help people resolve issues with their computers and general equipment, a fair number of them can be attributed to power; a totally avoidable occurrence. So why does it happen? Well, mostly it’s due to lack of education, sometimes its arrogance (it will never happen to me so why spend money on it?)  and other times it’s because the wrong protection was installed.

In this blog I hope to shed some light on the subject and help you take steps to protect yourself and your equipment.

Disclaimer: I’m not an electrician, please seek additional advice from a qualified electrician.

Power Spikes and Surges are unpredictable and can strike at anytime

Spikes and surges are caused for a variety of reasons and can result in minor issues such as a blown light bulb to something much more serious..

First things first, what is the difference between a spike and a surge? A spike is a very short high voltage pulse of energy lasting only a few milliseconds, a surge lasts much longer, anywhere from a few milliseconds to a few minutes, but are usually much lower in voltage. Because a spike is a very short event, electrical equipment is generally not permanently affected by them, a surge is a different matter all together and is the focus of this blog.

Surges are caused by a range of events, some external and some internal. Examples of external events are abnormal activity from the Sun, electrical storms, a car hitting a power pole or a fault in the electrical supply, all of these occur outside the property and enter via the power lines. Examples of internal events are a fridge motor blowing, a lamp shorting or turning ceiling fans on/off, all of these events occur inside the property and are not delivered by the power lines. Have you ever experienced ‘lines’ or ‘static’ going through your TV when you turn a fan on or the fridge motor kicks in? Thats a localised surge and it could be damaging your TV every time it happens.

Power surges don’t just ‘blow’ or ‘pop’ electrical equipment, they wear them out. Ever heard someone say ‘They don’t build them like they use to?’ Well thats not always true. If you live in an area with bad power, you could be receiving a lot of surges that are damaging your equipment overtime, resulting in premature equipment death. The problem will also get worse, not better. Why? One major factor is urban sprawl. Think of it as water going through a hose. As the hose gets longer, more pressure is needed at the start to push the water through at the same rate. Electricity is the same. As new outer suburbs are established, they need to be provided with power. In order to get the power ‘pushed out’ to these new suburbs, the power stations and substations need to output more electricity to reach these new suburbs. (Yes its more complicated than that but the net effect is still the same). This results in suburbs close to the stations and substations receiving more than 240 volts, suburbs in the middle get 240volts (the goldilocks zone and these people probably have very few equipment failures) and the outer suburbs get less than 240volts. (Other products such as ‘THOR SMART POWER STATIONS’ or a ‘UPS’  are needed to ‘boost’ the voltages and protect the equipment in these areas)

Ok so now we have that covered, why does it matter? It matters because it helps to understand the threat and what should be done to prevent it. When talking with customers about the threat of power surges or explaining to a customer why their computer has ‘blown’ or why they have ‘lost data’, one of the most common things I hear is ‘But I have a safety switch?’.

At this point I want to make it clear that a ‘Safety switch’ does not protect your equipment against power surges. A safety switch is designed to save lives by cutting the power when it detects the current is unbalanced between the energised and neutral conductors; indicating someone maybe receiving an electric shock. It does nothing to monitor the level of voltage coming down the lines and will not protect electrical equipment.

Some customers have had an electrician install a surge protection device in the switch box. This is a fantastic thing to do, but understand it’s not a 100% solution as this will only protect against external surges, internal surges are already inside the property and don’t go anywhere near the switch box, in other words, if your fridge motor blows, your computer may well be toast (and I’ve seen it happen)

So what’s the solution? The only solution is to install localised surge boards, but not just any board will do, and this is what I hinted at at the start. Ok, so what makes a surge board a quality surge board? Below is a list of items that you should check off when purchasing a surge board.

Things to look for in a quality board

  1. Response Time, the time it takes to react to a power surge. Electrical equipment is damaged after 8ns. Some boards sold have a response time of 25ns and some even list this is a benefit, sounds impressive but totally useless. The board must respond in <8ns, anymore and it’s a waste of money. In fact, anything >3ns is probably a waste of money.
  2. Power Filtration, actively improves the quality of the power delivered to electrical equipment by regulating noise, power factor correction and impulse correction.
  3. Clamping Voltage, the maximum voltage that is received before the board reacts. You probably be surprised to hear that a lot of boards have a ceiling well over 600volts, this is a problem as equipment in this country is designed to operate at 240volts. Whats the point?
  4. Joules, what makes a board a surge board. When a power disturbance strikes, the energy must be directed somewhere, preferably not into your equipment. That’s where joules come in. They are the reserve bank that takes the hit and absorbs the extra voltage. Joules are also non-replenishable, meaning, when they are used they are gone for good. Once all the joules are used up, the board can not protect your equipment from further surges. Note: This is very important as most people believe that a surge board is a surge board forever and they just wack them under the desk, safe secure and forgotten, this is not true (and dangerous).
  5. Fire retardant plastic, you don’t want the board catching fire and burning the place down.
  6. Individual port protection/isolation, you want the board to protect on every port so that if something dies in port 2, the fault does not flow to other devices connected and back into the buildings internal grid.
  7. Australian Made, so you can be sure the board is designed to Australian conditions and adheres to the Australian standard. Overseas boards are not specifically designed to Australian conditions and many countries operate on 200volts rather than 240volts. They are also not required to adhere to the Australian Standard.
  8. Equipment Warranty, does the manufacturer put its money where its mouth is?
  9. Replacement Warranty on the board
  10. Auto power cut-off, if the board joule bank is depleted and unable to protect your equipment, will it cut power or continue to work? One of the biggest problems I see is boards that don’t cut-off, giving the customer a false sense of security.

Its scary to think, but a lot of boards do not adhere to these points and can just be outright dangerous and an expensive waste of money.

Solution/Recommendation? Enter THOR BOARDS

The only board we recommend and supply is THOR BOARDS. These boards are developed and produced in Perth, Australia and they have offices and representatives in every state and territory, but what makes them so good?

Ok, so looking at the above list, lets break THOR BOARDS down:

  1. Response Time: <1ns (less than 1 nanosecond)
  2. Power Filtration: Yes, patented power filtration system
  3. Clamping Voltage: 275volts (not 600+volts)
  4. Joules: Depends on the board, the D1/45 has 4,500 Joules the A12 has 6,080 (most other brands have around 1,500)
  5. Fire retardant plastic: Yes (most other brands no, the plastic can still melt/ignite)
  6. Individual Port Protection/Isolation: Yes (some other brands, no)
  7. Australian made and must adhere to Australian standards: Yes (overseas models, no)
  8. Equipment Warranty: Yes. The D1/45s have a $100,000 warranty, the A12’s have $300,000
  9. Replacement Warranty: Yes, if the joules are used up within 6years, a free replacement is provided
  10. Auto power cut-off: Yes, if the board can no longer protect you, the power to the board is cut-off so you know.

Sounds great, what do they cost?

For what they offer, THOR BOARDS are incredibly inexpensive and in some cases, are less than half the cost of ‘surge boards’ sold by major retailers.

Price List:
THOR C2 SMART FILTER DUO: $95.95 inc GST
THOR E1/45B SMART PROTECT4: $105.00 inc GST
THOR D1/45B SMART FILTER: $145.00 inc GST
THOR B8F SMART FILTER: $195.95 inc GST
THOR B12R GREEN BOARD: $245.95 inc GST
THOR A12BF SMART BOARD: $295.95 inc GST

Conclusion

There is a massive difference between a quality surge board and an inferior surge board. If your taking the time and spending the money on purchasing a surge board, then you need to be sure that what you’re spending your hard earned money on is going to do what it claims to do, you can’t just assume that it must because it says so on the box. If you choose the wrong board, it will not protect your equipment and no product warranty will cover power damage.

Below is a video produced by Tod’s HiFI, an independent retailer in Brisbane that sells expensive home entertainment systems. Their testing will clearly demonstrate the difference between THOR BOARDS and other brands, the results are disturbing. If you would like to know more information, please contact our office.

Independant Surge Board Testing by Tod's HiFi

Additional Product Videos

THOR D1/45B SURGE BOARD

THOR B12R GREEN BOARD

THOR A12 BF SMART BOARD

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