A surge protector is a device designed to protect computers and other sensitive electronic circuits from bursts of excessive current, called surges. Electricity normally comes into a house at a steady voltage of 230 volts. Although electric current can vary a little, when it rises too high it can damage or destroy circuitry quickly. Surge protectors prevent this from happening by diverting excess power and shutting off power altogether as a backup.
When Do Power Surges Occur - Surge protectors are an essential component of protection electronic devices from excessive voltage, but knowing how and when surges are likely to occur is also helpful. The most well-known cause of large power surges are lighting strikes, which can send voltage rushing through the energy grid. Trees falling on power lines and animals getting into transformers can also cause surges. Basically, a power spike will be caused by anything that interrupts to flow of electricity or diverts a large amount of power to a certain source that turns on and off. The operation of energy-hogging appliances like refrigerators and air-conditioning systems can cause voltage spikes, as well as smaller devices with motors like blow-dryers or vacuum cleaners. Electronic devices can usually handle spikes caused by normally daily appliances, but during events like a storm or a power outage, it is wise to unplug devices to protect them from large surges, even if they have a surge protector attached.
The Operation of a Surge Protector - A surge protector is a fairly simple device. When it is plugged in and some other device plugged into it, the the protector normally acts as a standard power strip or extension cord. When there is a power surge that goes above the level accepted by the surge protector, excess energy is diverted away from the components plugged into the protector via a grounding wire that is attached to voltage sensitive semiconductors. Some surge protectors also have a fail-safe fuse in case too much voltage manages to get through. A fuse is a resistor that will burn up if electricity exceeds a certain level, severing the flow of power.