surge protector

Imagine this: you’re working diligently on your computer, and suddenly, there’s a power surge. Your computer screen goes black, and your unsaved work is gone. Even worse, your computer may be damaged beyond repair. It’s a nightmare scenario that many of us have experienced, but there’s a simple solution: surge protectors. These devices are designed to protect your expensive electronics from sudden power surges. But how do surge protectors work? Let’s dive into the science behind these devices to understand their importance and function.

What Are Power Surges?

A power surge is a sudden increase in voltage that can cause damage to your electronic devices. Surges can be caused by various factors, including lightning strikes, power outages, and large appliances turning on and off. These voltage spikes can overload and damage sensitive components in your electronics, leading to permanent damage or reduced lifespan.

Surge Protectors: The Basics

Surge protectors, also known as surge suppressors or transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSS), are devices designed to protect your electronics from power surges. They work by diverting excess voltage away from your devices, limiting the voltage that reaches them to a safe level. This prevents damage to your electronics and helps extend their lifespan.

How Do Surge Protectors Work?

Surge protectors work by using components called metal oxide varistors (MOVs) or gas discharge arrestors (GDAs). These components are the heart of the surge protector, as they are responsible for detecting and diverting excess voltage:

1. Metal Oxide Varistors (MOVs)

An MOV is a semiconductor device made of zinc oxide and other metal oxides. It acts as a variable resistor, changing its resistance depending on the voltage applied to it. Under normal conditions, the MOV has a high resistance, allowing only a small amount of current to pass through. This means that your devices receive the correct voltage and operate as intended.

When a power surge occurs, the voltage across the MOV increases, causing its resistance to decrease rapidly. This allows a larger current to flow through the MOV, diverting the excess voltage away from your devices and into the ground. Once the surge has passed, the MOV returns to its high resistance state, and your electronics continue to operate normally.

2. Gas Discharge Arrestors (GDAs)

GDAs are another type of surge protection component that works by using gas-filled tubes. The gas inside the tube is typically a combination of noble gasses, such as argon and neon. Under normal voltage conditions, the gas in the tube is not conductive, and the GDA does not affect the flow of electricity to your devices.

During a power surge, the voltage across the GDA increases, causing the gas inside the tube to ionize and become conductive. This creates a short circuit, allowing the excess voltage to be diverted away from your devices and into the ground. After the surge, the gas returns to its non-conductive state, and the GDA resumes its normal function.

Choosing the Right Surge Protector

Not all surge protectors are created equal. When choosing a surge protector, consider the following factors:

  • Joule Rating: This indicates the amount of energy the surge protector can absorb before it fails. A higher joule rating means greater protection.
  • Response Time: The response time is the time it takes for the surge protector to detect and react to a power surge. Look for a surge protector with a response time of 1 nanosecond or less.
  • Number of Outlets: Ensure the surge protector has enough outlets for all your devices. Some models also include USB ports for charging mobile devices.
  • UL Certification: Look for a surge protector with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification, which indicates it has been tested and meets safety standards.


Surge protectors are a vital component in protecting your valuable electronics from power surges. By understanding how these devices work and choosing the right surge protector for your needs, you can safeguard your devices and extend their lifespan. So don’t let power surges catch you off guard. Invest in a quality surge protector today!

At Turner On Services, we are dedicated to delivering exceptional electrical project expertise and treating our customer’s homes as if they were our own. Our technicians are well-trained and knowledgeable about the latest codes and technologies relevant to your home or business. If you are looking for the best surge protector for your generator and more, work with us today!

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