While the summer rains have been greatly anticipated and bring welcome relief to our suddenly warm weather, they also bring with them a highly destructive force – lightning. In fact, according to the South African Weather Service (SAWS), South Africa has one of the highest lightning ground-flash densities in the world.
“This increased thunderstorm activity – and its related brownouts and blackouts – increases pressure on utility companies facing the challenge of supplying a continuous power supply to consumers. The threat of power problems combined with increased demand on the power grid escalates the potential for power problems,” explains Paolo Miglietta, VP for Southern Africa at global leader in critical power and cooling services, APC by Schneider Electric.
“Surges or spikes can happen at any time due to a number of causes including lightning strikes, the on-rush of current following an outage, or even the presence of high-powered electrical motors such as air conditioners or other household appliances,” he adds. “These power fluctuations not only can cause permanent damage to expensive and sensitive electronic equipment, they often result in equipment downtime, lost productivity, and lost data.
“The increased use of power in the summer months for items such as air conditioners and indoor electronics along with the constant threat of power surges, spikes and lightning, make it critical to have reliable power protection in the home or business.”
Miglietta maintains that while many people use a reliable surge suppressor or uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to protect their PCs, many do not understand the need to protect themselves from “back-door” surges, such as those from communication lines and computer peripherals. “APC recommends power protection for PCs and peripherals including printers, telephone/fax lines and cable modems as well as other sensitive household devices such as televisions, stereo systems, DVD players and satellite dishes.”
Power protection begins with combating surges and spikes. The first consideration should be to keep the hardware itself safe from damage. “Bear in mind that when purchasing a surge protector, the lower the let-through voltage rating, the better your equipment will be protected,” he says.
For a complete power protection solution, he recommends choosing an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), a battery backup that helps to save data by keeping computer systems running with no interruption in the event of a brownout, which is a lowering of AC power voltage for some period of time.
Brownouts can be very harmful to electronic equipment if sustained for long periods, causing flickering or dimming on computer screens. A UPS allows the user to complete a transaction, save ongoing work and gracefully shutdown the equipment.
“Surge suppressors and UPS systems on the market today can also provide protection against the risk of surges through telephone/fax/modem, cable, television and network lines,” Miglietta adds. “By using this type of equipment, damaging power surges brought on by summer storms need no longer be a concern.”