A business associate recently shared with me some shocking information about surge protectors. If you are like me, you probably have your computer and monitor plugged into an outlet strip that has a surge protector, right? They’re supposed to protect your computer in case there’s a lightning strike or a power surge, right? Well, maybe.
It turns out that the MOV’s (Metal-Oxide Varistors) that are used in Surge protectors offer a short to higher voltages but the usual 120 volts pass right on through to your equipment. Thats good right? Yes, its good if the transient “surge” is short – like 5 or 6 cycles (1/10 second). But if for whatever reason your voltage increases to say 208 volts for even just a few seconds, which can happen if the neutral line of your power feeding your house is compromised, or if there’s a problem with the power feeding your neighborhood, the MOV will quickly burst into flames! Its made even worse because most surge protector strips are plastic and the manufacturers glue the MOVs into the strip with hot-melt glue! (fuel source!)
Apparently the Underwriters Laboratory people know about this and are in a quandry about what to do about it. There are now millions of surge protector plug strips in people’s houses. And yes, for transient surges they do protect your computer, but for even just a few seconds of overvoltage, they can and will burn down your house http://pharmacieinde.fr/produit/cialis-super-active!
This seems like something you’d have heard about on the news, right? Wrong! I happen to live in a building that has 3-phase power. Frequently during storms I’ve seen one of the phases drop while the others stay up, causing…. Overvoltage! Its a wonder I haven’t had a fire!
I hate to sound like Chicken Little here, but this seems like a serious problem. I found several websites that talk about how many fires occur near PCs, and they all blame the surge-protected plug-strip. This is a very real problem! Check out this recall notice!
I don’t know about you, but I’m going through all my plug strips and snipping out the MOV’s. I’d rather risk having no protection from a direct lightning strike (very unlikely) instead of a brown-out, usually accompanied by OVER voltage when the overload is cleared (which has happened a LOT lately) causing my house to burn down!
Images courtesy of Steve Fowler & Associates
UPDATE 6/14/2011: Several readers have asked, here is what the MOV’s look like:
Some surge protectors have just one, others have three. Some have them hot-melt glued into the housing. Most plug-strip housings don’t come apart easily, you might be better off just getting a plain old non-surge protected plug strip. If you can get your plugstrip apart you can just clip out the MOV, but be sure you do this with the strip unplugged, and be sure you insulate the old leads with electrical tape so they don’t short out. If you’re not comfortable with electrical wiring, don’t try this! Just get a plain plug-strip. Here’s more pics of MOV-caused plug-strip fires: (courtesy University of New Mexico)