Surge protectors function as a shield, protecting your important electronic systems and devices from common power surges and spikes. As a vital part of their useful life, surge protectors absorb sudden rushes of electrical power – from utility grid switching down to the hundreds of small power surges spikes that occur every day. Such spikes either cause a surge protective device (SPD) to deteriorate slowly or all at once as the SPD prevents more important systems from suffering the same fate. This self-sacrifice eventually causes a surge protector to reach end of life (EOL).

Once a surge protector has reached EOL, connected systems and devices are vulnerable to the same electrical surges and spikes the SPD was designed to protect. Since there is no average lifespan for a surge protector, it is important to inspect your SPDs regularly to verify they are still functional. There are many ways to identify when your surge protector has reached EOL depending on the type and model of SPD being used.

Equipment End of Life

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For HVAC and electrical distributors, surge protection should be considered an essential element of every installation. Because many of the builders and installers who are your customers may not be aware of the benefits of surge protective devices, this could require some education. However, it is well worth the extra effort on your part. Making an informative recommendation for surge protection with each sale can build profits while increasing customer satisfaction and retention. Here are a few questions you can answer for your customers to help them adhere to best practices for HVAC and electrical system installations.

Profit from Surge Protection

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These days, many people are becoming more aware of electrical equipment efficiencies, environmental impact, total cost of ownership, break-even cost analyses, and other sophisticated economic concepts. When purchasing larger durable goods such as refrigerators, washing machines, and similar items, it is more common than ever for people to evaluate these factors – despite the fact that they were much less of an issue in the past. We applaud these new considerations, and we are sure that making them a bigger part of the purchase decision is a good direction for all involved.

Perhaps there’s no better example of this new direction than the rise of inverter-driven AC systems. These newer systems make use of improved controllers and drive systems to apply variable-capacity and variable-speed technologies to AC and heat pump equipment systems, resulting in very high efficiencies compared to older technologies. Older technologies tended to cycle between “fully on” and “fully off”, in an inefficient fashion, to respond to cooling demand. In contrast, the newer inverter-driven systems generally operate more continuously at a lower level, making small adjustments to maintain more constant temperatures in cooled areas while operating at high efficiency.

AC Inverter

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We have frequently written about the importance of installing appropriate surge protection to protect vital electronic systems from damaging surges and spikes, premature failures, and downtime. As that phrase “appropriate surge protection” suggests, it is not only vital to install protection, but also to select surge protective devices (SPDs) that have the right characteristics to deliver the type of protection that will be most effective for each installation situation.
Making these choices requires a knowledge of both the type of system to be protected, and the types of electrical disturbances that could occur. It is not as simple as purchasing a single type of SPD and hooking one up to each device you have on the premises. Each type of SPD has different characteristics that can determine the type of protection it provides, and whether it will be effective for its intended purpose. Please see this solutions page for an overview of the SPD types and their typical performance characteristics.

In this article, we will focus on the basic science that defines the functionality of the three most common types of SPD elements:

  • Metal Oxide Varistors (MOV)
  • Silicon Avalanche Diodes (SAD)
  • Gas Discharge Tubes (GDT)

The science behind surge protectors

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Adding surge protection substantially reduced both equipment losses and security downtime

When Fred Corvo arrived at Frenchman’s Creek two years ago as their new Director of Security, his top priority was to deliver a “Five Star” security environment suitable for this world-class community.

Frenchman's Creek is a private, 700-acre beach and country club community located on the southern tip of Florida. Featuring multimillion-dollar homes, championship golf courses, plentiful tennis courts, deep water marina, and an outstanding fitness center, Frenchman's Creek offers exceptional luxury at every turn.

"The homes, facilities, and amenities at Frenchman’s Creek are all designed to support the best that South Florida living can offer,” said Mr. Corvo. “Like every other element in the community, residents here also expect the best in security, absolutely the best. From my point of view, that has implications not only for the equipment we use here – cameras, recorders, emergency communications, and so on - but also for the performance and uptime of those systems.”

Frenchman's Creek Case Study

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Modern homes in many climates depend on HVAC systems, including both heating and cooling systems, to maintain comfortable living conditions for residents. It's no surprise that these systems are often one of the most costly mechanisms in a home. HVAC systems are generally seen by their owners as rugged, substantial equipment – and they do include hardy components, including sizeable motors, pumps, blowers, and similar hardware that can be big consumers of electrical power. The cables that run to these systems are heavy-duty, and the equipment is usually made of galvanized metal and heavy castings, reinforcing this impression of ruggedness.

However, this impression can be misleading. Residential HVAC systems are controlled by low-voltage electronics that are just as vulnerable to power disruptions as other sensitive electronic equipment including computers, burglar alarms, televisions, and similar devices. If the HVAC control system is damaged by a power surge or spike, its life can be significantly shortened. It may even fail all at once without warning, taking the HVAC system out of service until the controllers can be repaired or replaced. HVAC systems are costly to replace – and the worst part is that many standard homeowner’s insurance policies (as well as HVAC equipment warranties) do not provide coverage for damage caused by damaging power surges or spikes!

Protecting HVAC Systems

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Savvy managers know that surge protection is a secret weapon that can extend the life of their electronic systems, enhance system uptime, and protect against many kinds of losses, including downtime, lost sales, lost data, legal vulnerabilities, and customer dissatisfaction. There is no doubt that in today’s business and organizational environment, we depend more than ever on our electronic systems, whether they are supporting access control, video surveillance, computer networks, fire alarm systems, industrial controls, or POS systems. Basically, every type of organization needs these systems for survival. While we can all easily agree that mitigating the risks to these systems from invisible electrical surges and spikes is a critical step, the question becomes – what kind of surge protectors are right for you and your situation?

Choose The Right Surge Protector

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Electrical standards, including new standards regarding electrical surge protection, are designed to reduce the risks from electrical hazards. For example, standards are designed to protect against electric shock, electrocution, fires, and explosions. Nonetheless, situations arise that can raise the risks – including worn or damaged electrical equipment, improper usage, among others.  According to OSHA, electrical hazard recognition is one key to improving general electrical safety.  Learn some key safety factors and how to reduce dangers!

Surge Protection and Electrical Safety

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2020 was the year of working from home. Millions of people who had been commuting to office jobs were suddenly spending their entire day parked in front of their computers in living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and closets. Local wi-fi systems were overburdened, bandwidth was taxed and billions of extra calories were consumed.

Those who had been accustomed to working in an office environment may have discovered that they had been taking certain things for granted. Workers are typically provided with computers, phones, document management systems and other electronic devices needed to do their jobs every day. Many of these devices live on the IP network, another electronic support system provided to workers so that they can accomplish their daily tasks.

Along with that set of devices and systems came the assurance that, should something go wrong, it would be taken care of. Your computer would keep working, and if it stopped, you would be supplied with another.

Protecting Your Home from Power Events

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Every three years, committees of the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) update their recommendations for the NEC (National Electrical Code). The NEC, which is also sometimes called “NFPA 70” is the benchmark for safe electrical design and installation to protect against electrical hazards. Because of the high level of expertise and trust in the preparation of the NEC recommendations, they have historically been adopted in all 50 states of the USA. These newest 2020 requirements are no exception – they have already been adopted and are in effect in a number of states, with many more in the adoption process. Thus, the NEC requirements come to be incorporated into new residential electrical code requirements and are enforced by local building code officials. There is no doubt that the new requirements will affect every part of our country, if they haven’t already!

NEC Code Compliance

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Recreational and amusement facilities serve an important function in society, giving people a break from their work life and providing a destination for individuals and families during leisure time. These venues come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. This includes amusement parks, theme parks, gambling and gaming facilities, among others. Many of these facilities are managed or regulated to ensure safe and honest operations.

Regulated or not, every one of these facilities represents a significant investment that was made to support employment and economic activity in their communities. It is also true that these facilities are needed for both physical and mental health in a general way for the population. For these reasons, it makes very good sense to take steps to protect that investment, both for the support of the public good, and to reduce the risks to business continuity.

Protecting Gaming and Amusement facilities

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Long term residential care facilities provide a wide range of health and personal care-related services. As do board and care homes, assisted living facilities, and continuing care retirement communities. All of these places share some common features – they are residential in nature, and they provide assistance with health and housekeeping services. Where they differ is primarily in the level of services provided and their expertise in treating particular conditions.

For example, long term care facilities are designed to provide skilled nursing care at a high level of service. These facilities provide not only nursing care, but also 24-hour supervision, three meals a day, and assistance with everyday activities. In many cases, rehabilitation services, such as physical therapy and occupational therapy, are also available. This combination of services is appropriate for people who are recovering from injuries or surgery, who stay at the facility for a relatively short time as a steppingstone from the hospital towards returning home. It is also appropriate for people with ongoing physical or mental conditions that require constant care and supervision and may live there permanently.

In contrast, assisted living communities are designed for people who need some help with daily care, but far less help than would be provided at a long term facility. Often, such communities offer a range of services including meals, housekeeping, and help with medications; and residents pay more for higher levels of care.

Protect Long Assisted Living and Term Care Facilities

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Opinions about the products offered in retail establishments may vary widely, but we can all agree that the electronic systems used in today’s retail stores are far more sophisticated than ever before. Retail stores depend on a wide range of electronic equipment and systems to operate. This begins with the full range of standard office equipment, such as computers, phone systems, printers, and copiers, just to name a few. Unlike standard offices, however, they also have specialized equipment in support of retail operations. This would include POS (point of sale, or point of service) systems, inventory management systems, and in-store electronic display systems. Depending on the circumstances, retail stores often incorporate access control and security systems including, for example, video surveillance, card readers and keypads, electronic locks, and intrusion detection.

Protecting Retail Stores

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Every kind of organization depends on a wide range of electronic equipment and systems to operate. Businesses large and small use office equipment on a daily basis, including desktop computers, phone systems, printers, and copiers, just to name a few. Retail outlets use all of these, plus POS and inventory management systems. Convenience stores use everything already mentioned, and even more – electronically controlled fuel pumps, lottery terminals, and ATMs. Banks and larger operations may have specialized equipment such as money counters and check readers. All of these facilities may also have access control and security systems, such as video surveillance, card readers and keypads, electronic locks, and intrusion detection.

Professional Installations for Surge Protection

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Banks depend on a wide range of electronic equipment and systems to operate. They use the full range of standard office equipment, including desktop computers, phone systems, printers, and copiers, just as all modern businesses do. In addition, they have specialized equipment to perform banking functions, including money counting machines, check readers and printers, and automated teller machines, or ATMs. Banking facilities are also always protected with a set of access control and security systems, including video surveillance, card readers and keypads, electronic locks, and intrusion detection, just to name a few.

Surge Protection Solutions for Banking

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Hospitals and medical facilities depend on electronic systems to keep track of patient information and medical orders, as well as to control and operate a wide range of sophisticated medical devices and equipment. Medical information systems, for example, are key to the important job of managing critical data including patient identities, conditions, and treatments. Medical devices range from complex diagnostic and treatment equipment such as CAT scanners, MRI machines, and LINACS all the way down to the ubiquitous IV pumps that are attached to nearly every patient.

If any of these essential systems are damaged or inoperable, it would prevent the smooth delivery of health services to patients in need – and could make delivering these life-saving services difficult or impossible. Moreover, disruptions or loss of treatment data could interfere with back office functions including staffing, payroll, accounting, and medical billing and payments, further disrupting hospital operations.

Hospital Solutions

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The average occupancy rate of the U.S. hospitality industry reached 66.2 percent in the year 2018 – the highest percentage since 2001. In 2019, total revenue for the resort industry surpassed one trillion dollars. The trend is expected to continue to climb (global pandemics aside), as travel spending grows for both businesses and consumers.

Safety is top-of-mind for travelers today. The same is true for their hosts. It is imperative for resort management to maintain a safe and secure facility for their guests. This helps to deliver the best possible experience at the resort, which leads to return visits and good reviews. It also protects resort owners and management from liability and business interruptions

Resort Image

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Airports present a different security challenge from other multi-building campus facilities. This is partly because they must control access across the perimeters of outdoor areas as well as within the secure building areas. Of course, this is because of the critical nature of our transportation systems. There is a need for highly restricted access to areas that could be vulnerable to sabotage, theft, and other terrorist or criminal activities.

Airport Outdoor Areas

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Managing rental housing, such as apartment buildings, townhouse complexes, and similar medium- to high-density residential housing facilities presents many challenges. Managers in these positions must deal with all of the everyday management issues of a complex business, including building maintenance, repairs, provision of utilities such as heat, electricity, water, and trash collection, collecting the rent, scheduling move-ins and move-outs, and much more.

At the same time, these managers must also deal with concerns about resident and visitor safety and security, theft, vandalism, and fraudulent injury claims. While none of these are ideal scenarios, they are unfortunately part of today’s world and can strike anywhere, at any time.

Apartment Access Control Solution

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It’s almost impossible to imagine a modern building without heating and air conditioning. Today’s HVAC systems not only help ensure the comfort and health of building occupants, they also support temperature and humidity control for a wide range of facilities and purposes, ranging from industrial processing to storage of materials and goods. While we think of these systems as heavy equipment, they are actually controlled by sensitive electronic circuits – and are thus vulnerable to damage from electrical power surges and spikes. To prevent damage to these vital control functions, system designers should include surge protection as part of every installation plan, and maintenance staff should consider adding surge protection to any system that was installed without adequate protection.

HVAC Lessons Learned

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When it comes to securing the nation’s critical infrastructure, airports are among the most challenging facilities there are. This is due to their complexity of operations, open public spaces, multiple vendors and the tremendous foot-traffic they experience daily. All of this creates a critical mass that demands a level of security unlike any other public facility. The focus on enhanced safety is reflected by the burgeoning airport security market – predicted to grow at a 9.3 percent clip annually until 2023.

Airport Access Control Solutions

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