Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hey Boffins Listen Up

Here's a question to tax the smartest mind. Ten years ago, you never saw a "surge protector" on sale in the UK. Given the nature of UK 240AC home wiring, and that all plugs are fused, aren't surge protectors completely unnecessary for a home computer? To the best of my understanding, the only way you could fry your computer with a surge was via a phone line plugged into an old school modem. And that could only happen if lightning struck something (I don't know, the postman? I'm not a scientist.)

Who will answer my parochial surge question?

Who will be a hero?


Christian said...

u implying that Curry's might be exploiting our ignorance of the electric system to sell us something we don't need? I won't hear of it, sir! I simply won't!

Given that the only source I can find talking about surges in the UK is Belkin's guy in charge of selling surge protectors at, I think the risk might be overstated a little. Even they say we have very good wiring here compared to elsewhere.

(Not an electrical engineer)

Glenatron said...

I never went out of my way to protect against surges or for that matter ball lightning, but I do have an adapter that is supposed to switch everything else off when my computer switches off.

Unfortunately my computer draws a tiny amount of power the whole time it seems, so the adapter just switches it off, and on, and off, and on again until I unplug the lot. Which I suppose is the required effect, if not in the expected way.

Hermit Guy said...

At my workplace last year we had our main consumer unit replaced. During the process there was a surge that killed one computer's power supply and its monitor, even though they were plugged into a surge protector. So in my experience, they are somewhat Eustace.

Incidentally, I replaced the computer's power supply and it worked fine - no data loss or other malfunctions.

Anonymous said...

The circuit breaker or fuse on your mains wiring will likely trip too slowly to prevent a large part of a big surge from getting into your house. Surge protectors should, in theory, blow considerably faster than the fuse in the circuit, thus increasing the likelihood of your computer surviving a lightning strike or the like. In practice, surge protectors have some limitations, such as a disastrously short lifetime. You can read more about surge protectors and proper power filters here:

Personally, I don't worry much about the surge protection aspect of so-called surge protectors; they're just a convenient way to get the half-dozen outlets necessary for a typical computer rig or home entertainment setup.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and for what it's worth, I'm not an electrical engineer, either. I am, however, a scientist, and I will attest that the frighteningly expensive racks of equipment that live in my labs are protected by nothing more than their own fast-blow fuses.

Private Cox said...

Well, Scientist also, am I!
I know that the Lightening can explode things (like a 56k modem), especially if it chooses by magic to strike in your front yard (Although in Australia front yards can be several acres, and filled with not much). A surge protecter protected by humble computer (as the fuse tripped when it was all "OH NOES TOO MUCH POWERS FOR LITTLE OL' ME!" and died). I believe (through my brief training as an electrical engineer), that a circuit breaker is like the last resort for electronics when dealing with the large amounts of back EMF (as it is known in "the biz"), or something. Like when the lights dim in your house because the washing machine is both old & on. It is something like this.
(Madness)I'm not sure because I did not enjoy electrical engineering, and instead chose to spend my time making up hideous stories about Scooby Doo during the lessons provided by the very strange lecturer (Who we all though was saying "Crayon" when he was infact saying "Ground").
But I think that Physics is the enemy of Engineering. Probably because of the whole imaginary number or current thing. Very silly. It's all i's & j's. (/Madness)

Private Cox said...

On closer inspection, I should probably thing about what I say when I am not inebriated. However, what the rest have said rings true! Surge protectors are your new friends! Here to protect your things and to stop the expensive blue smoke from escaping from the chips!

Stephen said...

I do not know what you are plotting, but heed my warning; Tesla Coils are fun for a while, but they can easily go out of control.

Liam said...

The plug to a surge protector in my kitchen recently managed to melt itself into the socket. Which was fairly impressive.

When I finally managed to get the thing off the wall, I discovered it had managed to leave one of its pins in said socket. Which was, again, somewhat impressive, albeit worrying.

Of course, this isn't so much a response as a small anecdote.

Lexx said...

Ahh.. I have many fond memories of replacing blown 56k modems.

Martin said...

On balance, your average surge protector offers little protection. Unless you want to buy an expensive uninterruptible power supply, you can save money and just buy a power strip.

fingle said...

Surge protectors melt down when your computer fries itself in order to provide protection for your power company's valuable infrastructure.

You all thought the surge protector protected YOUR stuff?


Ryan said...

just wanted to chime in and say very nice flaming lips reference, sir