While shopping for a new computer or laptop, it’s easy to ignore the sales person’s suggestion of buying any add-ons for your system. While you may not believe you need any of it, a surge protector or battery backup(UPS) is something you want to reconsider. The money you spend now can save you a few hundred down the road, which can be a very short one.

Ever notice your lights dim during a thunderstorm? Or your TV flicker when the refrigerator kicks in? These are just two of many examples of power disturbances running through your electrical system. While they may seem harmless, it’s hard to actually understand what is going on during this phenomenon that we experience on a day to day basis. Any programmable device connected to a wall outlet, that is subjected to these power fluctuations, faces a chance of failure. The circuit boards in all of these devices are designed to receive a steady current of power at all times, and even the tiniest surge, or shortage, of power can cause irreversible damage. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent this failure from happening.

First lets understand the dangers we face plugging any device directly into a wall socket. Computers, gaming consoles, tablets, and phones all face a chance of hard drive corruption, if not total failure. This includes laptops, since the surge can tear through the charger, to the system itself. This means a total loss of data, as well as a bad hard drive. For devices such as TV’s, microwaves, cable boxes, and regular telephones, they are likely to fail all together, rendering them useless. Most companies do not warranty a product that has been exposed to power surges, leaving you 100% responsible on repair/replacement costs. This is well over the price of a good surge protector, that could prevent all of this entirely.

There are 3 general types of power disturbances a typical household experiences:

  • Blackouts – A total and sudden loss of power, resulting in a sudden and unexpected shutdown of your computer. If your computer is in the middle of processing data, or saving a document, it can easily become
    disk, lightning, power iconcorrupted during the sudden shutdown.
  • Brownouts – A sudden shortage of voltage going across your power lines. Whenever your lights flicker or dim, this is what is happening. This can cause the same issues as a blackout, except brownouts happen much more often. The lack of proper power to certain devices can cause them to shutdown unexpectedly, or not perform up to par.
  • Surges – A sudden spike in power, typically caused by local lightning strikes. These are very deadly to your system, since they can over-voltage the capacitors on your electronics’ motherboards, causing much greater issues. Surges are known to not only ruin hard drives, but motherboards, power supplies, and processors. So pretty much your entire computer.

Basically all three disturbances cause problems to the internal circuit boards of your electronics, which can cause immediate permanent damage, or slowly deteriorate the circuits over time. Luckily, there are a few ways of preventing this damage from ever happening.

  • battery, power iconSurge Protectors – They resemble power strips, but feature internal circuits built to absorb surges of power so your connected devices don’t receive the excess power. These are the cheapest option, but are better than plugging directly into the wall. They all have a Joules rating, which means the amount of power they can absorb. The higher the rating, the more it can withstand.
  • Battery Backups – Also called UPS(Uninterrupted Power Supply), which are very similar to surge protectors, except these feature an internal battery as well. So in the event of a blackout, your connected devices can remain powered on. Most newer UPS’s can be configured to connect to your computer, and work similar to a laptop battery. This allows you to schedule a shutdown at a certain battery level, allowing the computer a proper shutdown even in the event of complete power failure.
    • UPS with AVR-These are the same as typical battery backups, except they feature Automatic Voltage Regulation(AVR). This helps in the case of brownouts, by drawing upon the battery to replace the loss of power caused by the brownout.

The plus side to any of these three options, is that most newer models carry an Connected Equipment Guarantee. To put in the shortest terms, if a device connected to these devices fail due to a power surge, the company will send you a check for all repair/replacement costs. Each manufacturer carries a slightly different guarantee, so make sure to read through it first before deciding on a certain model.

Also note that these devices do wear down over time. If a surge protector receives a surge greater than its Joules rating, it will no longer be able to protect against any surges. Even several small surges under it’s rating can wear down the device over time. Purchasing a device that features a “Protected” LED indication light is a good investment, since it’s a simple glance over the unit to see if it’s still protecting your devices. It’s good practice to replace all UPS’s and surge protectors every couple years. Remember, even some of the high end UPS’s are under $100, which is a lot cheaper than replacing a broken hard drive, and even less than the irreplaceable family photos, or company data, on that broken hard drive. Head out to your local computer store today to learn a little more about surge protection, or to purchase a surge protector/battery backup!