How Do Surge Protectors Work?

Everyone is at risk of experiencing what is known as a power surge. It occurs when there is a sudden and abnormal increase in voltage in the flow of electricity, which can cause permanent damage to your devices if it is high enough. That is where surge protectors come in, but it is crucial to understand how they actually work. 

What Causes Power Surges?

They are surges of electrical power that are abnormally high. They occur when there is an interruption in the flow of electricity followed by a short, they also happen when an increased delivery of power is interrupted by electricity following back into the system. Lastly, when a sudden voltage increase is sent through a power system from internal and external forces.

  • Lightning: It is rare for lightning to damage appliances through direct exposure, but it can still cause damage by triggering a power surge. When lightning directly strikes power lines, a large voltage is produced which is absorbed by the electrical system with no other option. This creates a massive spike in voltage resulting in a significant power surge.
  • Wiring: Faulty or damaged wiring is a potential internal cause of power surges, and it is more likely to happen to exposed electrical wires. Faulty wires can be hard to detect, especially if they’re located behind walls. 
  • Momentary outages or blackouts: When outages occur frequently, they can trip the circuit or cause a sudden electrical burst. Momentary outages are usually caused by external rather than internal factors. 

Office buildings face short-term power outages quite often. The systems’ sizes in commercial buildings, like elevators or multiple air conditioning units, can cause an electrical overload which can momentarily trip the circuit. In residential homes, outages occur because some appliances use more electricity than others, and the sudden spike in electricity use can cause a surge and damage that appliance. 

What is a Surge Protector? 

It is an electrical device that contains an iron core transformer that transforms the alternate current. It also includes Metal Oxide Varistor (MOV) that significantly limits the voltage. Its principal function is to protect high-powered electric appliances and devices from sudden power surges. It also allows you to plug multiple components into a single power unit. 

There are different kinds of surge protectors:

  •  Power strip surge protector: this device protects all electronics plugged into it. Individually they are cheaper and easier to install than the alternative, but you may need to buy a handful of them. 
  • Whole house surge protector: This device is installed in a home’s electric panel by an electrician and offers downstream protection of all electronics in a home. It costs more and requires professional labor but may offer resilient, cost-effective protection over time.  

How do they work? 

In typical household and office wiring in the United States, the standard voltage is 120 volts. A whole house surge protector is hardwired to your electrical system to provide surge protection for your entire home. It works by blocking or grounding an electrical voltage surge. Grounding is essential in order for the surge protector to function correctly.

 A typical surge protector passes the electrical current along the outlet to the devices plugged into the power strip. If the voltage exceeds the 120V threshold, the surge protector will divert the extra electricity into the outlet’s grounding wire. Grounding wires provide a pathway for electrical current to follow in the event of a breakdown in the system of hot and neutral wires that usually carry the current. They run parallel to the hot and neutral wires. 

Is it Necessary to Have Surge Protectors? 

Power surges can occur anytime, so it’s best to always be prepared. Preventing the damages caused by power surges can protect your electronic devices, saving you money in repairs and replacements. 


In summary, all of our devices and equipment are vulnerable to power surges. It is important to know the causes and prevent them if we can. Surge protectors can serve as the protection that our devices require since they can prevent potential damage. Therefore, it is necessary to have them to avoid costly damages in the long run. For reliable solutions and efficient services, contact Lakeview Electric LLC. Being one of the leading electrical contractors in Reno, you can trust our expert licensed electricians with over 30 years of experience to help you protect your electronics and appliances all around Nevada and California. Contact us today!

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