A surge protector is one of the most basic office accessories. Affordable and easily available, they perform a critical function: serving as an extra layer of protection between electrical outlets and the electronic devices we rely on every day.
These simple accessories can mitigate damage from power surges, enabling a steady stream of electrical voltage to flow to devices that are plugged in. But the security provided by a surge protector has a lifespan. At some point, that surge protector will lose some of its defensive powers and become a simple power strip.
When Do Surge Protectors Stop Working?
Surge protectors eventually start to wear down by doing precisely what they’re designed to do. When a power surge strikes, these accessories divert extra voltage to a built-in component called a metal oxide varistor (MOV). That shields any connected devices from the damage of a voltage spike—but it also begins to degrade the MOV.
This degradation is hard to precisely predict, but it can be estimated. Surge protectors are rated in joules, a unit of energy. A 500-joule surge protector, for instance, can absorb 500 joules of energy before its protective qualities wear out and it stops absorbing extra spikes of voltage from a power surge. A 1,000-joule surge protector is typically adequate for small electronics, while more important computers, networks, and data storage devices should be plugged into surge protectors with the highest rating, usually over 2,000.
Of course, it isn’t easy to measure power surges, either. The general rule of thumb, however, is that surge protectors should be replaced after small numbers of large voltage spikes or large numbers of small spikes. Degraded components can render your surge protector useless—and even increase the threat of fire. The bottom line is that time takes a toll on every surge protector, just like every other electronic device.
Is it Easy to Tell if a Surge Protector No Longer Works?
Easy? No. Possible? Yes. Many high-end surge protectors come with built-in status lights to indicate that they are protecting the devices plugged in to them. These lights can also serve as an alert for when its internal component starts to break down it needs to be replaced.
But these lights aren’t perfect—and many don’t work as well as they’re supposed to. If a status light does change from green to red, that’s probably a sign that a surge protector should be replaced. But you also can’t assume that a 10-year-old surge protector is still working properly just because the alert light hasn’t come on yet.
Additionally, if you know your surge protector has absorbed significant power surges or several smaller ones over time, you should probably consider replacing it. One commonly held rule of thumb is to replace them every 12 to 24 months, but that differs depending on your geographical location.
For instance, any place that sees frequent lightning storms should have higher levels of protection in place. It’s not just Mother Nature, though, that is responsible for power surges. Utility company problems can also lead to them, while industrial businesses could see damaging surges and line interference from the use of tools and heavy equipment.
In residential neighborhoods, more than 75 percent of all surges originate inside the home or office. Even small, unnoticeable surges from air conditioning systems or refrigerators cycling on and off can lead to damage to unprotected electronics.
What Kind of Surge Protector Should I Use?
A 500-joule surge protector is OK for inexpensive electronics like lamps, digital clocks, and blenders. Small office equipment like wireless routers, printers, and copiers will enjoy adequate protection from a 1,000- or 1,500-joule surge protector. But desktop computers, network devices, and hard drives that have important data stored on them should be connected to surge protectors with the highest rating, which usually clocks in at more than 2,000 joules.
In addition, uninterruptible power supplies, or UPS units, can offer added layers of protection by providing reliable power backups in the event of a power outage. These can protect mission-critical technology, mitigate data loss, and keep your business running in critical circumstances.
Working with a trusted IT provider, you can act now to implement smart surge protection strategies before a problem occurs. For remote employees working at the mercy of different power companies and different Internet providers in different locations, these accessories can give everyone a level playing field for protecting business information and preventing a data disaster.
IT Support That Makes a Difference
At CMIT Solutions, we treat our clients’ surge protectors, power strips, UPS units, and battery backups with the same care and attention as laptops, mobile devices, printers, and servers.
We can help you run equipment assessments that analyze the remaining life of accessories while planning now for regular testing and long-term replacement. We provide the support your business needs so you have reliable, energy-efficient, and cost-saving technology at your fingertips.
Most importantly, we consider surge protectors as one layer of an overarching cybersecurity and data safety strategy. If you’re unsure about the health of your surge protectors, contact CMIT Solutions today. We worry about IT so you don’t have to.