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  • old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

    I was researching the latest reviews of plug-in surge protectors used at the wall outlet to protect electronics (e.g., TV, DVD) and computers. I found several articles describing fires that were started by a surge protector. Then lo and behold, I discovered that the brand-name surge protector sitting on my floor for the last 15 years was just recalled!

    If you have an APC surge protector that you purchased during 1993 - 2003, it might be one of the recalled units. See article at this link:
    Schneider Electric Recalls APC Surge Protectors Due to Fire Hazard | CPSC.gov

    The design of modern surge protectors has improved to avoid this problem. So if you are still using a surge protector made over a decade ago, you might want to replace it with a new one.

    Disclaimer: I'm not an electrician. Just sharing information.
    Last edited by AverageHomeowner; 12-13-2013, 08:14 PM.

  • #2
    Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

    Good to point this out.
    I would like to add that a surge protector less than a year old may also be bad, if your house has experienced transient voltages.(lighting strikes and such)

    Their internal components ( Metal oxide varistors or diodes) fail when they get spikes. Don't be fooled by a little green light on your power strip that says "circuit protected"

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    • #3
      Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

      Based on my research, the best consumer plug-in surge protectors are made by Panamax and APC.

      In my previous post, I indicated that APC is conducting a recall but those units were manufactured prior to 2003. APC has since been acquired by Schneider Electric in 2007. And the UL standard has been revised since the previous design to improve safety.

      There are other brands which are popular in terms of retail presence and sales. But most consumers aren't savvy about surge protectors and buy whatever they find on the shelf. Some of the off-brand units are no more than a glorified power strip and extension cord.
      Last edited by AverageHomeowner; 01-10-2014, 09:44 PM.

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      • #4
        Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

        I do a whole panel surge protector , If the customer wants to pay for it ! Looking at the old water service gate valves on Your condo , You would need a new panel to get one.
        ON 2ND THOUGHT ! It takes two load spaces. You could have some piggy back breakers installed to make room. Do You have an old Zinsco panel. If You want to do this ,send Me a PM . I'll give You a name of a great Licensed Elec. I know. He is fair.I can't do this unless I do at least 3 trades on a project. That's Calif. Law
        Last edited by toolaholic; 12-16-2013, 11:02 AM.
        I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .

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        • #5
          Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

          A whole-house protector would be a good solution if I had a lot of high-end electronics and appliances, but I don't. I'm sure there are others who could justify the cost, like musicians with expensive equipment, home-based offices, etc. In any case, even with a panel protector, point-of-use surge protectors should be used as a secondary layer of protection with sensitive devices like computers, TVs, and stereo equipment.

          I'm curious to know, are these panel surge protectors routinely installed in today's new home construction, or is it still considered an optional upgrade?

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          • #6
            Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

            Usually you only get the basic code requirements for any trade in a new house. The home builders like to sell the optional stuff so they can mark it up and make more profit.

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            • #7
              Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

              Originally posted by AverageHomeowner View Post
              A whole-house protector would be a good solution if I had a lot of high-end electronics and appliances, but I don't. I'm sure there are others who could justify the cost, like musicians with expensive equipment, home-based offices, etc. In any case, even with a panel protector, point-of-use surge protectors should be used as a secondary layer of protection with sensitive devices like computers, TVs, and stereo equipment.

              I'm curious to know, are these panel surge protectors routinely installed in today's new home construction, or is it still considered an optional upgrade?
              No, rare to see
              I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

                I just checked the specs on some of the whole-house panel surge protectors. Their Clamping Voltage is around 700v which may be alright for appliances but is too high for sensitive electronics devices where you want to clamp at no more than 400v.

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                • #9
                  Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

                  I use and install whole house surge suppressors and apc line conditioner
                  (i also monitor the output once a week with my o-scope)if the wave gets too erratic its time for replacement
                  the servers they protect are crucial and i cant risk damage
                  shooting the s*** is a lot more fun when you use hollow points (much more splatter)

                  coffee hell gimme booze!!!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

                    Originally posted by gnuuser View Post
                    I use and install whole house surge suppressors and apc line conditioner
                    (i also monitor the output once a week with my o-scope)if the wave gets too erratic its time for replacement
                    the servers they protect are crucial and i cant risk damage
                    Have you considered replacing the Line Conditioner with a Line-Interactive UPS? The UPS provides the voltage regulation your conditioner currently provides. Additionally, the UPS provides a limited amount of standby power during a power outage, and has software that will power-down your servers in a graceful shutdown process when there is an outage.

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                    • #11
                      Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

                      at present i have a mainframe ups with a rack of 6 gel batteries
                      the conditioner and isolation transformer banks power it.
                      generally for point surge protection i use din rail style modules (industrial panels)
                      shooting the s*** is a lot more fun when you use hollow points (much more splatter)

                      coffee hell gimme booze!!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

                        Originally posted by AverageHomeowner View Post
                        Have you considered replacing the Line Conditioner with a Line-Interactive UPS? The UPS provides the voltage regulation your conditioner currently provides. .
                        If the UPS does what was assumed, then you can also post manufacturer spec numbers that say it does it and how well.

                        Normal voltage for electronics is even a voltage so low that incandescent bulbs dim to 50% intensity. How often do your lights dim that much? Never? Then why would anyone need a UPS for voltage regulation? They don't. The UPS is only temporary and 'dirty' power during a blackout. Any voltage regulation done by a UPS is made completely irrelevant by the power supply already inside every electronic appliance.

                        However, other appliances need better voltage regulation. Appliances at greatest risk and that would need that UPS are refrigerator, dishwasher, and furnace.

                        Facilities that cannot have damage always earth a 'whole house' protector. Because no protector (or UPS) does protection from destructively transients. Protection is always defined by another number. Where do hundreds of thousands of joules dissipate? How many joules does that line interactive UPS absorb? Effective protectors connect low impedance (ie 'less than 10 feet') to what actually does protection - single point earth ground. If hundreds of thousands of joules dissipate harmlessly outside (do not enter a building) then everything is protected. Even the 'whole house' protector does not fail (if the homeowner viewed its spec numbers).

                        That 'whole house' protector even protects an (potential fire hazard) APC and all UPSes. Also protect the refrigerator and furnace. But only if a 'whole house' protector connects low impedance (ie 'less than 10 feet') to single point earth ground.

                        Destructive surges are a current source. Voltage increases as necessary to blow through anything that might stop or absorb a surge (ie line-interactive UPS) . A 'whole house' protector means current connects low impedance to earth - creates maybe only 330 or 400 volts. Well below protection levels that already exist inside electronics such as digital clocks and dimmer switches. And so a power strip protector does not cause house fires. Where does a line interactive UPS discuss any of this? Where are UPS spec numbers that make those claims? No earth ground means it does not claim that protection.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

                          Welcome westom! When I was researching power protection solutions I ran across your numerous posts in many forums. Apparently, you are on a mission to educate people on this topic, which is great. Thanks for calling me out. Let me respond to some of your points and ask you a couple questions.

                          - I acknowledge that modern power supplies in electronics are tolerant of voltage swings and therefore voltage regulation may add little value for them. My suggestion for a line-interactice UPS was to replace a line conditioner that is already in service protecting critical servers and would consolidate separate devices into one unit. I also understand that motorized appliances would benefit most from voltage regulation. I think we have agreement on these points.

                          - Your recommendation for a power protection solution is a whole-house protector with an earth ground less than 10 feet. And your term "earth ground" means the ground must be imbedded in earth and not just a safety ground found in receptacle wiring. This implies the protector would be meter-based if a panel-based protector is more than ten feet from earth. Did I state this correctly?

                          - Would you agree that plug-in surge protectors vary widely in features and specs, making some a better choice over others? I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the test conducted in this attached video.

                          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arN-rGcejNw

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                          • #14
                            Re: old Plug-In Surge Protectors are a fire hazard

                            Originally posted by AverageHomeowner View Post
                            My suggestion for a line-interactice UPS was to replace a line conditioner that is already in service protecting critical servers and would consolidate separate devices into one unit.
                            Electrical anomalies include harmonics, brownouts, noise, open neutral, EMC/EMI, frequency variation, power factor, spikes, blackouts, and surges - to name but a few. No line conditioner addresses all. Most line conditioners only address maybe one. 'Line conditioner' is a vague term to promote a box as a solution to all anomalies. Which anomaly does it address? That must be identified and put into perspective with manufacturer specifications.

                            How often do incandescent bulbs dim to 50% intensity? A utility regulates voltage so that motorized appliances are not at risk. If voltage cannot be maintained, then the utility disconnects power - a blackout. Voltage regulation is irrelevant to electronics as indicated by light bulbs changing intensity.

                            'Whole house' protector can be installed in the main breaker box. Or installed by a utility behind their meter. But most important is the length of that ground connection and other factors. For example, splices, sharp wire bends, ground wire bundled with other non-grounding wires or inside metallic conduit - any can compromise protection. Most important is the quality of and connection to single point earth ground.

                            Plug-in protectors only supplement a 'whole house' protector. Since each protection layer is defined by the earth ground. 'Whole house' protectors, properly earthed, do more than 95% of the protection. Plug-in protectors can add maybe 0.2%. Plug-in protectors without a 'whole house' protector may give a surge more potentially destructive path through nearby appliances.

                            Protection is always about where hundreds of thousands of joules dissipate. Any solution that does not discuss where energy dissipates is usually only protecting from transients that typically do no damage. Many undersized plug-in protectors have created house fires as even APC has finally admitted. A protector is only as effective as its earth ground which plug-in protectors do not have and will not discuss.
                            Last edited by westom; 12-24-2013, 01:25 AM.

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