What surge protectors actually do

Poll a random person on what a surge protector does and your answers will likely be limited to ‘enables me to plug in a lot of stuff’ and ‘saves my important electronics from getting fried’.

While those things are important and surge protectors are absolutely used for those two things – its important to have a full understanding of not only their capabilities, but also what happens when they go to work.

Today’s blog – is about exactly that. Let’s jump right in!

Transient voltage

Transient voltage usually happens due to a lightning strike or some sort of malfunction in your electronics around the exterior of your home, but it also happens inside your home as well. In fact, it happens more than you think.

Ever notice when an air conditioner comes on and you lights dim and flicker? Or when you use a hair dryer or a microwave? This happens because these appliances use so much energy that it creates a tiny surge whenever it activates. Over time, these repeated surges adversely impact the lifespan of other sensitive electronic devices plugged in throughout the rest of your home. So not only do surge protectors protect against external threats, but they help protect against internal threats as well.


The average American home has voltage that’s set to flow at about 120 volts. When power surges happen, the voltage limit is exceeded and some sort of damage takes place. How bad the damage is usually depends on the length and intensity of the surge, itself.

Surge protectors limit this damage by diverting excess voltage into your home’s grounding line. So for example, if you’re looking at a three-pronged plug, it’s the round prong on the bottom that connects into your home’s grounding line and protects both you and your electronics from excessive electronic shock.

Metal Oxide Varistor or MOV’s

What the heck is that you might be asking. Most surge protectors get help from something called an MOV. Basically, the MOV serves as a go-between for the protector’s hot wire and its grounding wire.

What MOV’s do is make adjustments to incoming voltage that’s either too low or too high. When it’s too high, the MOV redirects the excess voltage and evens out the electricity. When it’s too low, it kicks things up a notch. Think of it as the bouncer of your surge protector. It makes sure everyone’s safe, everyone’s having a good time and that nothing gets out of control. 

Surge protectors are a vital part of your home’s ability to function – and it’s not JUST because they protect you from surges. They extend the lifespan of your devices, help control the flow of electricity to and from your devices and protects you from both internal and external threats to your electrical system.

For more information on how you can keep your home safer or how a layered surge protection system such as a whole-home surge protector – give us a call today!