a bit off-topic: surge protector question

Discussion in 'hardware' started by ohblu, Oct 5, 2010.

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  1. ohblu

    ohblu Registered Member

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    Since I bought this surge protector to use with my computer and printer, I figure that it's ok that I ask this here.

    I am going to contact APC about this but I wanted to get opinions from others first.

    I recently ordered an APC surge protector and it was shipped to me via Fedex. The store I bought it from has physical locations but only sells this particular product online. The surge protector came in a box that looked a little beat up at the top where it opens making it look like it was previously opened (it was shipped in a large bubble bag). Everything else looked like it should when it's new.

    However, it's very clear that there had been some sort of sticker on the bottom of the surge protector that had been removed as part of it is still there. There's no writing on it though. This makes me wonder if it's refurbished or used. If it is, I want a new replacement. Is there anyway I can find out about this? I don't know if APC will be able to help and I know the store I bought it from won't be of any help. It would be nice to know what was on that sticker.

    I don't want to use a questionable surge protector with my computer.
     
  2. NoIos

    NoIos Registered Member

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    I don't know how things work in the US but if you don't feel to keep it because you believe it's used or refurbished or that somebody else has returned it, then I guess and since you bought it online, you have some days ( in Europe is usually from 7 to 13 days ) to return the product. So return it and buy it from another place. They should normally refund the cost or worse case...give you a bonus to use next time you buy something from their store. APC has nothing to do with it.
     
  3. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat Registered Member

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    I've never seen APC ship things in bubble wrap. We have almost exclusively use APC surge and UPS products for a long long time, we order from them and through other wholesale channels all the time, I've never seen any APC unit like a PER-7 surge strip arrive in "bubble wrap". They're quite tightly packaged in pure cardboard.
     
  4. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    I agree with both comments above. I avoid Surge and Spike protectors because IMO, they are little more than fancy, and expensive extension cords. But I always use and recommend the use of a "good" UPS with AVR on all computers, big screen TVs, and home audio equipment, and certainly APC is one of the better, more respected brands. I too have never seen anything from APC come in anything but sealed packaging from the factory - typically a sturdy box, but strips may come in that see-through almost-impossible-to-open plastic casing. In any event, IIRC, the APC UPS boxes also have those "tamper resistant" sticker seals that must be cut to open the box.

    You said it was shipped in a box. Was that an APC box?

    What is the URL of the website you ordered it from? Maybe there's some fine print there that says they are refurbished. But even so, S&S strips are like motorcycle helmets, once they do their job, you get a new helmet. Refurbished can mean anything. A refurbished S&S protector probably will cause no harm to your equipment, but it may not provide any protection from high-voltage anomalies either. And I sure would test it to make sure it is providing at the very least, a proper ground (Earth). I also recommend all computer users have and use a AC Outlet/Ground Fault Indicator Tester. There are versions for any voltage and connector, depending where in the world you live. They can literally be life savers. Test all the outlets in your house - especially those around water (kitchen, bath).

    If you get your money back (or even if you don't) I would urge you to get a good UPS with AVR instead of a surge and spike protector. S&S strips do nothing for low voltage events like dips, sags, and brownouts. These low voltage events by themselves don't normally harm your hardware, but they do put additional stress on the voltage regulator circuits of the power supplies and motherboard, and that increases heat which can, over time, increase aging. Also, a low voltage event, if deep enough, or long enough, can cause a power supply to simply shut down, in effect, causing your computer to "crash" and that can cause data loss and corruption of your hard drives. And even with high-voltage events, a S&S protector works by chopping off (clamping) the tops of the sinewaves, leaving a not so pretty output. A "good" UPS with AVR "shapes" the AC signal to something more closely resembling a clean sinewave of the proper voltage. And a good UPS with AVR (automatic voltage regulation) of adequate size will protect and support your computer, all your network equipment and your monitor too. I use a 1500VA APC for my system, which includes two 22" widescreen monitors and my PDA hotsync cradle - and that's actually bigger than I need.

    Note that backup power during a complete power outage is only the icing on the cake - it is the AVR that makes a good UPS with AVR an important part of your computer system.

    The downside to a UPS is the batteries typically need to be replaced about every 3 years. But it is an easy task, within the technical abilities of most users.

    At any rate, I agree with NoIos, call them up and report you dissatisfaction. You may still be stuck, but you will be on record. Sadly, if they do honor a refund, it is likely you will be stuck with shipping costs.

    Side note: Some printers don't like to be connected to surge and spike protectors. Check your owners manual to make sure there are no cautions against doing that.

    Oh, and this is not "off topic" - good clean power to sensitive, high-speed digital equipment is critical and should be discussed. I wish more people were as concerned with using good power supplies, and protecting their hardware from power line anomalies.
     
  5. Aaron Here

    Aaron Here Registered Member

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    Bill, that was quite informative. My old house has ungrounded 2-wire outlets throughout, so would I be correct in that pretty much eliminates any benefits of a UPS?
     
  6. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    Absolutely not. The UPS can still use the batteries to boost voltage in low voltage events, and absorb excess in high voltage events, and provide backup power during power outages. Actually, since an UPS can use the batteries, they may actually be a safer bet than a surge and spike protector, which, depending on type, shunts excess voltages to ground. With a 2-wire outlet, that can't happen. With everything connected to the UPS, you establish a common "floating" ground, which at least should help prevent interference, or difference of potentials between devices.

    That said, it would still be better to run a ground wire to Earth, or your cold water incoming pipes.
     
  7. twl845

    twl845 Registered Member

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    I have gradually replaced my two prong outlets with grounded ones. You can replace one in about 15 minutes. Just take the wires off the old one and put them on the same screws on the new one. If there's no ground wire in the outlet box, just get a 6 inch piece of ground wire and run it from the ground screw on the new recepticle to a screw on the outlet box.
     
  8. linuxforall

    linuxforall Registered Member

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    APC is the best followed by Panamax and Tripp Lite. APC offers the most total and true shunt and surge protection along with EMF.
     
  9. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    That may not be good enough, and often not good at all. It assumes there is continuity from the box back to the service panel, and then to ground. In older homes, the box is often just nailed to the stud. No metal conduit, and no 3rd wire. There is often just cloth wrapped two wires going back to the service panel. Even if there is metal conduit from the box back to the service panel, every junction must have solid electrical and mechanical integrity, and that's not a given, especially if they've been around for decades.
     
  10. wat0114

    wat0114 Guest

    twl845, Bill is right. Did you verify the metal boxes are grounded? Also, there is a hot conductor and a neutral, so if the originals were wired correctly in the first place, then replacing them screw for screw (hot is the black screw, neutral is silver screw) will work, but I've seen "handyman" work where they were wired backwards, so caution is necessary.
     
  11. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    Me too. And the problem is, most devices with 2-prong plugs will work just fine like this - it's AC after all. But if they have a metal case, like an old toaster, and it just happens to be attached to the [now] hot side (being wired at the factory to be grounded or neutral) and you touch the case with one hand, and touch the stainless steel sink or metal faucet with the other - it's crispy critter time - and you're the critter. That's exactly why I mentioned specifically to use an outlet tester in areas near water. It's not just because water conducts, but metal pipes do too. And older houses typically use the cold water copper pipes as electrical ground.
     
  12. Aaron Here

    Aaron Here Registered Member

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    Yup, that describes my situation and I simply can't afford to pay an electrician to rewire the house properly. :(
     
  13. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    I hear you. It costs a lot to rewire a whole house. And it usually involved crawling in tiny crawl spaces and dusty attics with itchy insulation. But to ground a single outlet can be as simple and running a solid 12-guage wire to ground - such as the main cold water feed, and replacing the outlet with a 3-prong type.
     
  14. westom

    westom Registered Member

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    If the box was properly grounded, then an installed outlet was already three prongs. The existence of a two prong outlet says the box is not sufficiently safety grounded.

    The only way one can install a three wire receptacle in an ungrounded box is to replace a receptacle with a GFCI. The GFCI comes with a sticker that says something like "No equipment Ground". That sticker also must be applied to the GFCI.

    Is the question about human safety? About temporary power during a blackout? Or about surge protection?

    Nothing adjacent to the appliance does effective protection. Protection for everything on two or three wire circuits mean only one change. Earth a 'whole house' protector in the breaker box. Does not matter whether receptacles are two or three wire. That safety ground is not an earth ground. A protector is only as effective as its earth ground.

    Informed consumers earth one 'whole house' protector because even power strip protectors need to be protected. What sometimes happens to a power strip protector that does not even claim effective surge protection in numeric specs? View a problem seen by most fire departments.
    http://www.hanford.gov/rl/?page=556&parent=554
    http://www.ddxg.net/old/surge_protectors.htm
    http://www.zerosurge.com/HTML/movs.html
    xttp://tinyurl.com/3x73ol entitled "Surge Protector Fires"
    http://www3.cw56.com/news/articles/local/BO63312/
    http://www.nmsu.edu/~safety/news/lesson-learned/surgeprotectorfire.htm
    http://www.pennsburgfireco.com/fullstory.php?58339

    How does APC's hundreds of joules absorb energy that is hundreds of thousands of joules? Protection is always about where energy dissipates. One 'whole house' protector (properly earthed) means hundreds of thousands of joules dissipate harmlessly outside. If that energy is anywhere inside the building, then it will hunt for earth ground destructively via appliances. Sometimes, the APC even makes the hunt easier. Give a surge even more paths to find earth destructively via some nearby appliance.

    A UPS is only for temporary power. Claims no protection from destructive surges in its manufacturer spec numbers. Effective protection means nobody changes any wall receptacles from two wire to three. No house rewiring. Effective protection always - always - means energy dissipates harmlessly outside the building. That means about $1 per protected appliance for one 'whole house' protector. And upgrading earth ground to both meet and exceed post 1990 National Electrical code. That protector and earthing is necessary to even protect the APC protector ... that also does not claim to protect from destructively surges. And costs tens or 100 times more money.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2010
  15. Aaron Here

    Aaron Here Registered Member

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    In that regard, my 'computer room' has an outside wall with our natural gas supply (meter/pipes) a few feet away. This may make you cringe, but can (should) I consider clamping the ground wire to that outside pipe?
     
  16. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    While the pipes are probably grounded, there is the potential for a spark when you connect the wire, or if it comes loose over time, so that is probably not a good idea, or within the gas company's regulations. BUT, you can pound a grounding rod in the ground (avoiding gas pipes) and attach to there. The longer the rod the better - a 6 foot rod would be plenty deep (unless really sandy).
     
  17. Aaron Here

    Aaron Here Registered Member

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    Where I live, pounding a 6 ft (even a 3 ft) rod into the ground is next to imposible - too much stone/rock! I guess I'll have to find a cold water pipe.
     
  18. westom

    westom Registered Member

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    No wall receptacle can connect to earth ground. That is first and foremost a human safety violation and a violation of the National Electrical code.

    Safety ground and earth ground are electrically different. If you do not know that, then start asking technical questions. You must know that for so many reasons including one in the very last paragraph here.

    For example, code is blunt about different grounds. Wall receptacle safety ground is called "Equipment ground". Earth ground is defined by items carefully described by code. Code details five earthing electrodes that can be used. BTW, water pipe is the only earth ground that is insufficient.

    Wall receptacle safety ground does nothing for surge protection. Surge protection for an entire building or for any appliance inside that building always means connecting every incoming wire inside every cable short (ie 'less than 10 feet') to single point earth ground.

    Is this thread about human safety, temporary power, or about surge protection? If about surge protection, then nobody should be discussing two verses three prong receptacles or a UPS.

    No wires can connect to a gas pipe. In fact, what is and is not connected to that pipe is defined by each utility. Gas pipes have electrical insulators so that an outside and inside pipe are electrically separate. Some jurisdictions want the interior gas pipe connected to a safety ground. Others call that a violation. Meanwhile, the entire building must be earthed by only one earth ground. That is one electrode or many electrodes. But every word in this phrase has specific meaning. It is called a single point earth ground. If it does not exist, then everything in the building (with or without plug-in protectors) has no surge protection.

    Now, what happens when an earth ground is missing? Well fortunately nobody was home when the house exploded. Due to a missing earth ground, AC electric used a gas meter to obtain earth. House exploded when gas line gaskets failed. Every homeowner should know why earth ground is so critical. Only a homeowner is responsible for providing and maintaining that earth ground. Get your attention yet?
     
  19. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    Ummm, insufficient? Remember, we are talking about a very old house that is definitely not up to code. The water pipe may be the only ground available, and I note, for years, was commonly used.

    Granted, house wiring should be done by a certified electrician, and not until the necessary permits are obtains.
     
  20. westom

    westom Registered Member

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    Forget house wiring. It is not relevant. Wiring installed in 2010 or 1930 is sufficient to power all under13 amp appliances. Either the house has no protection or the best protection based only upon two things. Single point earth ground. And how every incoming wire connects to that ground.

    For AC electric, all homes - 1930 or 2010 - have the best protection if a 'whole house' protector in the breaker box connects short (ie 'less than 10 feet') to single point ground.

    That earth ground must conform to and exceed post 1990 National Electrical code. Most important earth ground is that dedicated electrode. How each incoming wire connects to that electrode is important. Wiring inside the house is irrelevant.

    Code is quite clear about this. Whereas the water pipe was a most important earth electrode in before 1979. That same electrode became least important years later. Important for human safety as defined by code. And for transistor safety which means exceeding code requirements.

    Protection is always about where energy dissipates. Any useful post that discusses surge protection must always discuss where energy dissipates. Protection means hundreds of thousands of joule dissipate harmlessly in earth. But only if the homeowner maintains or upgrades his earth ground. And how every incoming wire connects to that earth ground. A protector is only as effective as its earth ground. What will ineffective protectors not discuss? No earth ground means no effective protection.
     
  21. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    Well, you can't forget about house wiring. It's there. It's not going away. And upgrading the whole house is not currently in the budget. Therefore, you have to work with what you have.

    In an ideal world, things would be different.

    Westom is absolutely correct that it is all about dissipating the excess voltage. That's one of the major advantages of a UPS, a primary characteristic of batteries is they can absorb excess voltage with aplomb. Whereas surge and spike protectors have to deal with it in other ways, which often results in excess heat - never good. So when too excessive, the S&S has no recourse but to break the AC circuit, causing a hard crash on the computer. A UPS, on the other hand, will break the AC circuit, but switch over to batteries, allowing you, or the controlling software, time to save open files, close open applications and "gracefully" shutdown the computer.

    And I agree the ideal solution is to dissipate excess voltage to earth, but it is not true you cannot have effective protection without an Earth ground. There is such a thing as a floating ground and it is used, typically with batteries, in aviation and automobile electronics every day. And I note in avionics, there is some very, very high voltage and high current electronics.
     
  22. westom

    westom Registered Member

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    1) No matter how a house is wired (two wire or three; pre-1930 or post 2010), it makes no difference to surge protection. Protection is about earthing a device that costs about $1 per protected appliance. A connection that is as short as possible. And making zero changes to wires inside a house.

    2) Please learn concepts taught to first semester engineers. To a surge current, a battery is a short circuit. It does not stop a surge current by absorbing energy. Nothing inside a house protects by absorbing energy . Nothing.

    3) And then view numbers for that energy. Hundreds of thousands of joules in microseconds. It the battery absorbed that energy, then critical materials inside the battery vaporized just like MOVs in power strip protectors. It can never absorb that much energy or that fast.

    There is no other energy absorbing device. In every facility that has no surge damage, the energy absorbing device is always earth ground.

    4) Now let’s discuss that UPS battery. It connects to AC mains via a device equivalent to a wall wart power supply. A UPS connects the appliance directly to AC mains when not in battery backup mode. A battery is nowhere in that circuit.

    When it switches to battery, a relay (or something equivalent) disconnects from AC mains. And connects to an inverter powered by the battery. Now all power is from the battery with no AC mains connection. The connection change is obvious. Suddenly a clean AC mains wave is replaced by a very dirty inverter powered from a battery. The battery is not even connected to appliances most of the time. So how does its ‘wall wart equivalent’ recharger absorb hundreds of thousands of joules? It doesn’t. Just another reason why the battery does no surge protection.

    5) More reasons why a UPS battery does not provide surge protection. From basic circuit theory, that battery is nothing more than a short circuit. And two, the battery is not even connected when UPS powers from AC mains.

    Let's say a surge creates 6000 volts. That surge approaches only on the black hot wire. Let's assume the battery is connected directly to AC wires as you have suggested. So the 6000 volts is now on the black wire and white wire. Battery simply put the surge from one wire to the other. And that surge is still seeking earth ground. Battery simply gave the surge more wires to find earth destructively via some nearby appliance. Where is the protection?


    Summary) Four reasons why a UPS battery does not provide and does not claim to provide surge protection. Protection already inside all electronics is not overwhelmed is energy is harmlessly absorbed outside. So that power strip protectors and UPS are also not destroyed. A homeowner must earth one 'whole house' protector that costs about $1 per protected appliance. A protector so robust as to earth even direct lightning strikes and remain functional.

    Earthing has always been and still is the only component always required in every protection system. Nothing inside the house can or claims to stop or absorb that energy. A surge properly earthed by a least expensive solution is not hunting for earth destructively via appliance, a power strip protector, or a UPS. UPS battery does not provide protection - does not absorb that energy – is not even in the circuit during a surge. Obvious for so many reasons including concepts taught to first semester EEs.

    UPS manufacturer does not claim that protection in his numeric specs. No earth ground (ie plug-in UPS) means no effective protection. In every discussion, this sentence is fundamental and unavoidable. Every protector is only as effective as its earth ground. Has been true for over 100 years. Why did well proven science suddenly change?

    BTW, it is not about dissipating voltage. Energy is dissipated. And voltage is not (what is called in math) the independent variable. Surges are about current. Either the current harmlessly dissipates in earth - near zero voltage. Or something tries to stop and absorb that current causing voltage to increase. During a surge, the same current is always there. Effective protection means connecting the constant current to earth so that no voltage is created. Anything that would 'absorb' a surge will only create higher and destructive voltages. Surges are about the current. Voltage is a symptom; a failed attempt to stop that surge.
     
  23. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    This has gone beyond the scope here. I will just say that I emphasized several times to get a good UPS with AVR. Not all UPS are equal. I stand by what I have said earlier.
     
  24. Boost

    Boost Registered Member

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    Bill,I thought by now you would've learned that tryin to get a point across to westom was a waste of time and energy :D

    I use and always will use a UPS with AVR protection,because it works,plain and simple.
     
  25. Sully

    Sully Registered Member

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    I find these posts fascinating, even if those in the middle do not. Sorry, but true :)

    Sul.
     
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