Do you need surge protection?

Andrew Rowland | 17 July 2017 | 0 comments

I write this as thunderstorms are forecast for the area later today, and having just watched a weather forecast that said there were 200,000 lightning strikes in the UK yesterday. I look nervously at my collection of TVs, computers, set-top boxes and other expensive items of electronic equipment, wondering how vulnerable they are. Some are protected against electrical surges but some are not.

Just two weeks ago I was at a customer’s house in Holmes Chapel when the power cut out. It was only for a few seconds before it returned, but long enough to reset the clocks on the oven and central heating timer. And half an hour later when I was at home, there was another similar one. Shortly after that I had a call from a friend (and customer) to whom I had supplied a new computer a few months ago. It had been on at the time of the first power cut and now wouldn’t turn on at all. I asked whether she had any surge protection and she did not, so I arranged (albeit in the manner of bolting doors after the horse has bolted) to supply her a couple of surge-protection power strips. These are just four or six-way mains extensions, but also have circuitry that suppresses power surges.

Some people argue that desktop computer power supplies these days are pretty resistant to surges so that extra protection is no longer as necessary as it once was. And most laptop power supplies are designed to cope with input voltages of 110-250V so you can plug them in anywhere in the world and they will work with whatever the local voltage is, e.g. 110V in America but 230V in Europe, so should be able to cope with some amount of variation. Fortunately for my friend, it turned out that only the fuse in the plug had blown and the computer was fine. As plug fuses blow quite slowly, it seems that the computer did survive a brief surge, which supports what people say. But if you experience a lightning strike, the surge will be a great deal more than typical mains fluctuations, typically 6000V and 3000-10,000 amps. I have certainly seen a number of set-top boxes that died during thunderstorms last year, so in my view, the need remains.

Perhaps not entirely coincidentally given the season, I have before me a mailshot extolling the virtues of Belkin surge protectors. It claims that that the average household gets 350 power surges per year. Obviously, we are not seeing equipment being blown at the rate of nearly one a day on average, but it does make the point that mains variations shorten the life of equipment and something to smooth it will help. It also says that it’s important to periodically replace your surge protector (usually once every 3-4 years) since power surges wear down the protective components inside the surge protector over time, which means my oldest protector may not be doing its job any more.

If you need protection, I can supply surge strips in 4-way and 6-way lengths, with 1m or 3m of wire, and I will shorten the latter if you need something in between.

Now, I need to turn this computer off and change the powerstrip before it’s too late!

 1 metre3 metre
4-way Surgestrip £10£12
6-way Surgestrip £13£15
Prices correct as of 20.02.2018

© Andrew Rowland 2017

Photo: Rainer Knäpper, Free Art License (,

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