Best Practices for Surge Protection
Best practices are important for processes that you need to work correctly. When it comes to the world of electrical and low-voltage contractors, best practices ensure that maximum efforts are taken to create a safe environment, which can mean the difference between life and death in some cases.
Most accidents involving electricity are the result of unsafe and improper work practices or improper installation and equipment. Best practices when installing surge protection may not be as simple as grounding, guarding, and insulation. When planning a surge protection strategy, the best place to begin is by assessing the incoming power connections. This is the primary entry point for power surges and spikes that originate from outside the building. Protecting the power connection also provides protection from internally generated power anomalies resulting from refrigeration equipment, air handling equipment and similar high current devices. Be sure to consider any additional systems your facility might have including data, fire, security and communications.
4 Key Surge Protection Best Practices
While a complete design, planning and implementation can be quite detailed and potentially overwhelming, here are a few best practices we have learned for optimal surge protection coverage:
- Most surge protection plans begin from the outside and work in. Many people have the impression that lightning damage is a danger to outside devices. It’s true that lightning can damage security cameras or lighting fixtures and is capable of sending massive power surges through the various internal networks that could damage or destroy end-point devices. The reality is that lightning strikes are not the most common source of power surges. However, it is prudent to consider the weather conditions in the outdoor environment for which you choose a surge protective device (SPD). Select one that is stronger and more rugged than surge protection for indoor devices—not only because of the possibility of lightning strikes, but because of the general wear and tear from exposure. Remember, an outdoor SPD must be able to survive not only a surge, but also to resist damage from rain, wind, dirt, winter storms and other environmental concerns that can cause system degradation.
- Grounding is the first line of defense when it comes to surge protection. The life and functionality of any system or device is only as sustainable as its power source. Downtime is the enemy of any electrical system. Power quality is at a premium, so a low impedance ground is imperative to both surge protection designs and power quality. A regular check and upgrade (as needed) of grounding systems can address five key areas of concern:
- Reduce interference and line noise
- Improve power factors
- Reduce the risk of accidental electrocution
- Help decrease potentially damaging harmonics
- Improve the efficiency and durability of surge protection equipment
- Make surge the SPD is properly installed. An improperly installed SPD will not perform at maximum efficiency and will leave your facility’s systems vulnerable. It is recommended that organizations take strong, proactive steps to protect security system and fire alarm panel from the damaging effects of electrical surges and spikes. Insisting that surge protection be part of the installation process for every new electronic system is crucial. If that is not a reality for your project, an alternative is to install surge protection as an addition to existing systems. The relatively low cost of installing surge protection, often less than the total sales tax of the system, makes it easy on the budget with a tangible reduction in operational risk. Keep in mind that proper installation of commercial or industrial SPDs is not a DIY project. It is strongly recommended that any hard-wired electrical surge protective device be installed by licensed professional electricians.
- It is critical that the conductor length between the SPD and the protected equipment be a minimum of three feet in length to allow enough time for it to react. The conductors can be greater than 3 feet long if they are isolated and protected from any transient voltage spikes and/or surges.
- It is also important that the field wiring (unprotected wires) and the protected wiring occupy separate conduit feeds. When unprotected and protected wires occupy the same conduit, surge energy can be induced on to the protected wiring and completely bypass the SPD.
- It is strongly recommended that a grounding bus bar is installed as a means of terminating SPD ground wires to existing electrical grounding leads. This will ensure a solid mechanical connection of all grounding wires.
- Be aware of additional sources of power surges. Establishing a plan to mitigate outside power surges and spikes is a smart practice. Yet, it is not sufficient to protect your facility from other electrical pathways into systems that can cause damaging surges. Any electrical connection that passes outdoors but is connected to interior systems is a potential threat. Some prime examples of these include:
- Wired connections to outdoor surveillance cameras
- Signaling and notifying circuits in fire alarm systems
- Telephone lines that are connected to fire or security alarm panels
- Point of sale devices
Because they are electrical conductors that pass outside the facility, they are vulnerable to outdoor electrical disturbances – including accidental contact with power lines, or induced currents from lightning strikes that could be miles away. There is a simple solution for isolating any electrical surge problem and preventing it from migrating to other devices or systems in a facility. Simply install surge protection devices at both ends of the cable or wire run, not just at the input power source for each system. This solution will eliminate the potential for exposed conductors becoming the path of surge energy that can damage equipment at each end of that conductor when left unprotected.
DITEK works hard to design and manufacture our products to the highest levels of performance, cost effectiveness, and safety. For further details on building out a comprehensive list of best practices for the design and implementation of your surge protection plan, contact us at www.diteksurgeprotection.com.