A Halle's Service, Inc.
Phoenix, Arizona
est. 1964



Lightning is another form of Electro Static Discharge. Every day, hundreds of pieces of equipment are fried by lightning strikes, voltage surges, and other electrical phenomena. 

When lightning strikes a power line, cable-tv wire, telephone wire or rooftop antenna, the power flows down to any piece of electrical equipment connected between it and ground. The equipment doesn't even have to be turned on to be damaged.

The first, and best protection is to disconnect the antenna leads and power cords from all equipment whenever violent weather is in the forecast. Since we can't rely on forecasts to predict every storm, and since we aren't always home to unplug the equipment, a second best solution is the "Surge Protector". 

The surge protector is a small box that connects between your electronic equipment and the AC Power, antenna, or phone lines. It blocks or absorbs any surges or spikes that come via those wires. The problem is that not all surge protectors are up to the job. Some even put your equipment at greater risk, and may actually cause interference. About the only way you have of telling if you are getting a good one is by the manufacturer's reputation, and the price. Expect to pay $75 and up, and expect it to come with a lifetime warranty against surge/spike damage to equipment that is plugged into it. Manufacturers like Panamax and TripLite are known to produce quality equipment.

Don't be misguided by response times and energy absorption claims unless you understand them. As a guide, here are the kind of numbers you will see for AC line protection on good equipment:

bulletSurge protection mode - Transverse & Common
bulletClamping voltage - 200-230 volts peak (lower is better)
bulletResponse time - 5 pico seconds (not nano seconds. Nano is 1000 times slower)
bulletEnergy dissipation - 2 million+ Joules (larger is better)
bulletNoise reduction - 70dB (larger is better)
bulletDynamic short term current - 6,500 amps or more

Make sure the antenna line is also protected with specs that are similar to these:

bulletClamping voltage - 7.5 - 10 volts
bulletResponse time - 5 pico seconds or better (not nano seconds)
bulletEnergy dissipation - 11+ Joules

The key figures in all cases are the clamping voltage, which must be below a level that would damage your equipment. The response time, which must be fast enough to suppress the surge or spike before it damages your equipment, and the energy dissipation of the suppressor, which must be great enough to absorb the excessive voltage until it is gone, or the line can be opened by the built in fuse device.

You may have to shop around to find a quality, heavy duty surge protector, but the protection to your equipment is worth it.

Courtesy, Halle's Service, Inc.

Last modified: March 31, 2007