Protecting Electronics Against Power Surges + Lightning Strikes

thrasher585

Junior Member
May 1, 2018
5
0
1
Hello,

I would like to prevent my expensive electronics from being damaged through power surges and lightning strikes.

I plan on plugging all my electronics into surge protectors. Should this be sufficient against power surges? Is it possible for a power surge to come through an ethernet cable?

As for lightning strikes, I plan on unplugging all my expensive electronics before a storm.

So if I use power surge protectors, and unplug everything before a lightning storm, should I be okay?

Thanks for your help!
 

UsandThem

Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 4, 2000
15,774
6,771
146
I have all of my electronics plugged into good surge protectors (there's a quality difference between the many different brands). They have a high joule rating (APC brand).

However, if we get a really bad storm with a lot of lightening, I still unplug them. A direct or very close strike still could fry everything even if it was on surge protector.
 

lakedude

Platinum Member
Mar 14, 2009
2,481
214
106
Back when I did computer service lightning would cause problems through modems or network connections far more often than through power connections. Stormy weather might take out a few power strips or UPSes but rarely a computer power supply or a computer, presumably in part because the protective devices did their job (and paid the price in the process).
 

UsandThem

Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 4, 2000
15,774
6,771
146
Back when I did computer service lightning would cause problems through modems or network connections far more often than through power connections. Stormy weather might take out a few power strips or UPSes but rarely a computer power supply or a computer, presumably in part because the protective devices did their job (and paid the iron price for doing so).
Very true, and I unplug all of that if the storm is bad enough. Down here in NC, we get some pretty strong storms that come up from the Gulf of Mexico, and the lightening is absolutely crazy. We've had some lightening strikes in our neighborhood, but luckily no direct hits to the power lines.....yet.
 

lakedude

Platinum Member
Mar 14, 2009
2,481
214
106
Wireless has solved this as a practical matter.

Our house got hit, or nearly so. Man that was so loud and our kid just screamed his head off, which was also loud. We were watching the storm from in the garage and a close strike prompted us to go inside. As soon as we got inside an even closer strike happened with zero time delay between the extremely bright flash and a deafening kaboom! Several things quit working after that. I don't remember all the stuff that got fried but I'm pretty sure the cable modem was one of the things.

I'm pretty sure some GFIs tripped and we lost one phone system. The power issue had me all confused because I forgot about the GFIs in the garage. I remembered that wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms use GFIs but I forgot about the garage.
 
Last edited:

thrasher585

Junior Member
May 1, 2018
5
0
1

UsandThem

Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 4, 2000
15,774
6,771
146
So what do you recommend that I do?

I'll unplug everything during a lightning storm, as I said.

How about protecting against other power surges? Besides lightning, would there be power surges through the ethernet cable?

Here is the surge protector I have: https://www.amazon.com/Insignia-4-Outlet-Surge-Protector-NS-PWS5401-C/dp/B01AZZXJR0/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1525234522&sr=8-7&keywords=Insignia+4-Outlet+Surge+Protector&dpID=41xf8oNzvdL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch
That surge protector is only 150 joules, so it won't be able to handle a very large surge. For comparison, my APC one is rated for 3,020 joules. Having one is better than not having one, but to answer your question, yes I would unplug my devices during a bad storm that has a lot of cloud to ground lightening. And I would also unplug your Ethernet cable from your PC as well (or disconnect it from your router).

Outside of that, most people in the U.S. don't get random power spikes. We are a lot more likely to have the voltage drop (brown-out) during periods of heavy energy usage (usually really hot days with people running their AC units).

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0012YLTR6/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1
 

thrasher585

Junior Member
May 1, 2018
5
0
1
Yes, I'll unplug everything (including ethernet) during a storm.

Should I be okay with a surge protector that I mentioned for any other power spikes? As you mentioned they don't really happen anyway. I've gone without any surge protector for a long time and have had no problems.

Thanks for your help, I appreciate it.
 

UsandThem

Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 4, 2000
15,774
6,771
146
Yes, I'll unplug everything (including ethernet) during a storm.

Should I be okay with a surge protector that I mentioned for any other power spikes? As you mentioned they don't really happen anyway. I've gone without any surge protector for a long time and have had no problems.

Thanks for your help, I appreciate it.
You should be fine outside of storms. I keep all my stuff plugged in otherwise, and I've never had an issue.
 

lakedude

Platinum Member
Mar 14, 2009
2,481
214
106
I have a low opinion of UPSs. We have tons at work and they cause as many issues as they solve. For example sometimes they will take over after a power failure but when the power comes back online they will remain on battery mode until the batteries die and then all the equipment goes out. Then they might refuse to turn back on till the batteries are a certain percentage charged. I mean yeah, sometimes they work just as good as you might expect but not so often.

Maybe if the power goes out in a clean break and comes back on clean there would not be so many problems but our power can flicker off and on or brown out. UPSes have been a big disappointment.
 

UsandThem

Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 4, 2000
15,774
6,771
146
How does a UPS rate compared to a surge protector? Are they any better?
They generally have a higher joule rating than your surge protector provides, and can give you power if you live in an area prone to power loss. I own several of CyberPower UPS systems here as well.
 

thrasher585

Junior Member
May 1, 2018
5
0
1
Do you know what the $50,000 Equipment Protection Policy is exactly? Will they replace any damaged equipment? It mentions this on Amazon but doesn't specify what it means.
 

UsandThem

Elite Member
Super Moderator
May 4, 2000
15,774
6,771
146
Do you know what the $50,000 Equipment Protection Policy is exactly? Will they replace any damaged equipment? It mentions this on Amazon but doesn't specify what it means.
That's what it does. However, they will test everything and I don't know how much they fight/deny those type of claims. You might just have to Google it to see user reviews on how good/bad that type of policy is.
 

XavierMace

Diamond Member
Apr 20, 2013
4,307
450
126
I have a low opinion of UPSs. We have tons at work and they cause as many issues as they solve. For example sometimes they will take over after a power failure but when the power comes back online they will remain on battery mode until the batteries die and then all the equipment goes out. Then they might refuse to turn back on till the batteries are a certain percentage charged. I mean yeah, sometimes they work just as good as you might expect but not so often.

Maybe if the power goes out in a clean break and comes back on clean there would not be so many problems but our power can flicker off and on or brown out. UPSes have been a big disappointment.
Either your work is buying crappy UPS's or they don't know how to use/maintain them.
 

Billb2

Diamond Member
Mar 25, 2005
3,035
70
86
To put your question in perspective:

You're searching for satisfaction from the best fast food hamburger and I would suggest that you'll get much more satisfaction from a visit to Ruth Cris's and getting a nice, satisfying, t-bone steak instead.

If a manufacturer can stop a couple of hundred joules, then, for marketing purposes, he can claim "surge protection". Those little power strips type protectors, at best, protect electronics against small surges. Have a look at "hospital grade" surge protectors for electronics, as they protect peoples lives and are much more robust.

And a larger problem is "dirty power" which interferes with the proper functioning of electronics. These protection devices are called "power conditioners", and again, have a look at some hospital grade equipment.
 

JackMDS

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 25, 1999
29,276
321
126
The Surge protectors are good against Electrical Brownout and medium locale spikes.

For better protection from outside sources(like Lightnings), One should add Arrestors on exposed cables that come into the house.

Example for Ethernet - https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias=aps&field-keywords=lightning+arrestor+etherent

TV-Coax https://www.amazon.com/TII-Broadband-Satellite-Lightning-Protector/dp/B0016AIYU6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1525281815&sr=8-3&keywords=lightning+arrestor+coax

There are variety of Arrestors depending on the Type of cable that need to be protected.


:cool:
 
  • Like
Reactions: fire400

piasabird

Lifer
Feb 6, 2002
17,168
60
91
Hello,

I would like to prevent my expensive electronics from being damaged through power surges and lightning strikes.

I plan on plugging all my electronics into surge protectors. Should this be sufficient against power surges? Is it possible for a power surge to come through an ethernet cable?

As for lightning strikes, I plan on unplugging all my expensive electronics before a storm.

So if I use power surge protectors, and unplug everything before a lightning storm, should I be okay?

Thanks for your help!

Well one thing I did was purchase a good surge protector and I plugged only my wireless modem into that. I only use wireless at my house.

Then each computer has its own wireless USB adapter and is plugged into a surge protector.

I have on the telephone pole in my back yard one of those pole mounted transformers. They are like a giant lightning magnet. One day a little switch I had was killed by a power surge. This can happen easily because they work on very low voltage power. Another time I had a power surge and it blew out 1/2 of the Main coming into the house.

You just never know what will happen.
 

lakedude

Platinum Member
Mar 14, 2009
2,481
214
106
Either your work is buying crappy UPS's or they don't know how to use/maintain them.
I figured someone would think that. Maybe they are crappy but they were not cheap. We have the big 2U rack mounted units with well know brands like APC, Cyber Power and Tripp Lite. Checking them is part of our preventative maintenance. I'm not sure what we could do differently to improve the situation.

Most annoyingly the UPS we have for our network switches up on a pole seems to misbehave most often. Maybe being up on a pole physically puts them closer to the roof which may get hit by lightning on occasion?

The big issue was not switching back to AC when the house power came back on, and then refusing to come back on until the batteries had charged back up.
 

XavierMace

Diamond Member
Apr 20, 2013
4,307
450
126
I figured someone would think that. Maybe they are crappy but they were not cheap. We have the big 2U rack mounted units with well know brands like APC, Cyber Power and Tripp Lite. Checking them is part of our preventative maintenance. I'm not sure what we could do differently to improve the situation.

Most annoyingly the UPS we have for our network switches up on a pole seems to misbehave most often. Maybe being up on a pole physically puts them closer to the roof which may get hit by lightning on occasion?

The big issue was not switching back to AC when the house power came back on, and then refusing to come back on until the batteries had charged back up.
Cyber Power and Tripp Lite are well known for being cheaper than APC not necessarily for being equal. 2U isn't all that big for a UPS. Without knowing exactly what you maintenance process is and the condition of the UPS's, it's hard to say what could be done different.

But, I've never had any of the APC's I work with fail to switch back over to AC power when it's back up IF the batteries are good. If the batteries are bad, most UPS's (APC, Tripp Lite, and Eaton I know for sure) will stay off if the battery is bad to prevent there being a situation with the devices repeatedly power cycling. I'd say probably 95% of the issues I've seen of UPS's not functioning as expected are due to bad batteries. 2-3 years is the replacement cycle recommended by APC and Eaton. Can the batteries last longer than that? Sure. But how long do you ignore your gas light in your car before stopping for gas?

I'd also mention that if this is for a business, your equipment should have dual power supplies which are plugged into separate sources.
 

fire400

Diamond Member
Nov 21, 2005
5,204
21
81
If you're tired of your stuff getting trashed or have witnessed it, from bare/exposed/unprotected outlets or don't want to deal with potential risks, much higher quality or commercial level is recommended.

I've worked at retail chains before, and the number of undocumented cases of products being fried from customers that complained about their products not working right after storms or just plugged into unprotected outlets? ...I stopped keeping track.

As far as home theater audio is concerned, these help improve audio quality and still protect your equipment-
https://www.bestbuy.com/site/panamax-11-outlet-power-conditioner-surge-protector-black/8484641.p?skuId=8484641
A Magnolia Panamax is $500, pay for convenience of design and cool controls

But in reality as far as audio, this will pretty much do the same thing-
https://www.amazon.com/Tripp-Lite-Line-Interactive-Rackmount-SMC15002URM/dp/B00VBIC5KI/ref=br_lf_m_eyqmqohmdbh9pc4_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&s=aht
Tripp Lite 1500VA Sine Wave UPS Battery Backup, LCD, 1000W AVR Line-Interactive, 2U Rackmount, USB, DB9 (SMC15002URM)

Server rooms can run on this, so this is more than adequate for home users:
https://www.amazon.com/APC-Back-UPS-Battery-Protector-BR1500G/dp/B003Y24DEU/ref=sr_1_4?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1527285144&sr=1-4&keywords=apc+battery+backup+&+surge+protector
APC Back-UPS Pro 1500VA UPS Battery Backup & Surge Protector (BR1500G)
For less than $200, if you're running a gaming rig or workstation/server, might as well pick one up.

Low-end surge protectors can get the job done at some level, however, might as well get the real stuff if you're running a gaming rig or a workstation.
Given pricing, might as well get the battery backup units, because if a trip or outage or spike happens, and you're in the middle of an important job, project or gaming match, why risk it?
If it dies, just go out and buy another one. So invest in what's important to your needs. Some people get by just fine without spending more than $20 or $30 on a surge protector.
Like, if you're a stock investor or day trader, or iT specialist that needs to work from home, or an elite gamer that competes in top level online matches, and your systems aren't on battery backups, that's just too much risk without one, in my opinion.

If anyone wants to start spending several thousand dollars-
Battery backup racks include swap out charged-battery-units on racks, where power is constantly fed to feed devices in the instant of a power outage, while pulling out a unit will decrease the overall run time, it makes for easy replacements and swap outs when necessary; software helps with IT management

And like mentioned from earlier posts, don't expect battery backup units to stay true to their charge forever, like cell phone and laptop batteries as of today, not much is really going to outlast normal wear and tear. Brand and quality matter, but so does research- specific to exact needs.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY