Mastering Surge Suppressor Testing

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In this blog, we will empower you to become a master of surge suppressor testing, equipping you with the knowledge and tools to assess the health and effectiveness of your protective equipment.

What is a Surge Suppressor?

surge suppressor


A surge suppressor, sometimes referred to as a surge protector, is a gadget that shields your electronic gadgets against unexpected voltage spikes or spikes in power. Numerous factors, such as lightning strikes, power outages, and even simply turning on major appliances, can result in these surges. 


Surge Suppressor Ratings

Not all surge suppressors are created equal. When choosing one, it's crucial to consider its ratings:

  • Joule rating: The suppressor's maximum energy absorption capacity before failure is indicated by its joule rating. Superior protection against stronger surges is provided by higher joule ratings.
  • Voltage rating: This indicates the highest voltage that the suppressor can withstand before experiencing an issue. Select a value that is higher than the average voltage in your home.
  • Number of outlets: Select a suppressor with enough outlets to hold the number of gadgets you need to keep safe.
  • Additional features: Some surge suppressors offer extra features like filtering, data line protection, and EMI/RFI suppression. Choose based on your specific needs.

By selecting a suppressor with appropriate ratings, you can ensure it provides optimal protection for your devices.


How Surge Suppressor Works?

  1. Voltage Detection: The surge suppressor recognizes an excessively high voltage surge that happens in the power supply. This may occur as a result of lightning strikes, variations in the power grid, or abrupt electrical device switching.
  2. Clamping Voltage: The threshold at which the surge suppressor acts has a preset clamping voltage. Upon exceeding this threshold, the surge suppressor initiates operation.
  3. Diverting the Surge: The surge suppressor diverts excessive electricity so that linked devices are not affected. It achieves this through one or more of the following mechanisms:
    • Metal Oxide Varistors (MOVs): Similar to voltage-sensitive switches are components known as metal oxide varistors or MOVs. A surge is sent to the ground using MOVs, which carry electricity when the voltage exceeds the clamping level. They take up the spike's energy, serving as sacrificial components.
    • Gas Discharge Tubes (GDTs): The Gas Discharge Tube (GDT) is an additional kind of surge prevention device. They have a high breakdown voltage and inert gas in them. The gas ionizes as the voltage rises above the clamping level, forming a low-resistance channel to the ground.
    • Transient Voltage Suppression Diodes (TVS Diodes): Transient Voltage Suppression Diodes, or TVS Diodes, are semiconductor devices that, when the voltage above their breakdown voltage, turn extremely conductive. They divert the excessive current from delicate electronic devices.
  4. Response Time: When there is a voltage spike, surge suppressors respond quickly. Usually, they respond within a few nanoseconds. The better the protection, the quicker the response.
  5. Joule Rating: The amount of energy that the surge suppressor can absorb during a surge is indicated by its joule rating. More protection is indicated by higher joule ratings.
  6. Multiple Outlets: Surge suppressors frequently have several outlets. The protection is shared by all linked devices. Make sure the suppressor you select has enough outlets to meet your demands.
  7. Grounding: It's important to ground properly. It is necessary to plug the surge suppressor into a grounded outlet. A malfunctioning grounding will prevent the suppressor from functioning properly.
  8. Replace After Surges: The life of a surge suppressor is limited. They might give their lives to save your gadgets following a big surge event (like lightning). To ensure protection, replace them as soon as possible.


How to Test a Surge Suppressor?

  1. Visual Inspection: Check your surge suppressor for any visible physical damage, such as melted plastic, loose connections, or charred parts. Replace the suppressor right away if you see anything alarming.
  2. Indicator Lights: LED indicators are a common feature on surge suppressors. Normal operation is often indicated by a green light; however, a red or yellow light may indicate an issue. For information on particular indicator definitions, refer to the suppressor's handbook.
  3. Test Button (if available): When a surge suppressor has a test button, it can imitate a surge and momentarily turn off power to the outlets. Try pressing the button to see if the power goes out and then comes back on. Should the electricity fail to cut off, there's a chance the suppressor is broken.
  4. Consider Advanced Testing (Optional): If you're comfortable and have the resources, you can explore more advanced testing methods like:
    • Continuity testing with a multimeter: This calls for a multimeter and some technical know-how. For detailed instructions, see the handbook for your device or other resources.
    • Surge simulator testing: This calls for specific tools and knowledge. If required, think about using expert testing services.


Important Reminders:

  • Before doing any testing, always unplug your connected devices and surge suppressor.
  • Avoid attempting to fix a malfunctioning surge suppressor. Change it right away.
  • As directed by the manufacturer, test your surge suppressors regularly.


Surge Protector vs Surge Suppressor

Feature Surge Protector Surge Suppressor
Term Usage More generally, can include basic power strips Often used for higher quality devices with robust protection
Focus Protective aspect Suppression mechanism
Common Features May have basic surge protection Typically includes MOVs and grounding wires


Video related to Surge Protector vs Surge Suppressor


Where is Surge Suppressor Used?

  • Manufacturing Equipment: Surges can harm the delicate electronics found in industrial gear and robotics. Surge suppressors are used to safeguard and guarantee the proper functioning of this equipment.
  • Data centers and server rooms: Particularly susceptible to surges are the servers that handle and store vital data. To safeguard these systems and guarantee data integrity, surge suppressors are crucial.
  • Medical equipment: Often containing delicate electronics that need to be shielded from surges, medical equipment is utilized in hospitals and clinics. Surge suppressors are employed to guarantee this equipment's dependability and safety.
  • Computers and peripherals: Surges can harm external hard drives, printers, displays, desktops, laptops, and other parts of computers. Protection may be offered via a surge suppressor that is plugged into the power strip or wall socket.
  • Home entertainment systems: Surges can pose a threat to home entertainment systems, including TVs, cable boxes, game consoles, and other related equipment. Another way to safeguard these devices is with a surge suppressor.


Can Surge, Suppressors, Go Bad? 

Surge suppressors can break down and lose their usefulness over time, just like any other gadget. Their deterioration may be attributed to elements such as aging, environmental factors, and recurrent exposure to surges. To make sure your surge suppressor is still offering sufficient protection, you must test it regularly.



You may make sure your priceless gadgets are protected from power surges' harmful effects by becoming an expert at testing surge suppressors and comprehending the fundamentals of surge protection. Recall that a surge suppressor is similar to an insurance policy for your electronics; by investing in their defense, you can rest easy knowing that your tech is protected from unforeseen events.


Ella is a skilled embedded systems engineer with experience in PCB design and microcontroller programming. She is committed to following the most recent developments in the field and is constantly seeking for ways to apply them to her work.


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