Protecting Commercial Facilities from Power Surges

Part 3 of 3

Install Appropriate Surge Suppression Devices
Surge suppression devices regulate the voltage supplied to an electric device either by blocking or diverting voltages above a safe threshold to ground. Surge suppression devices should be installed in a staged, cascaded or layered manner to divert surges of various strengths at different points with an electrical system. Surge suppressors installed at the high exposure service entrances, where power enters the facility, establish the first line of defense against high powered, externally generated surges. These devices will address surges caused by lightning, power company grid switching, power system faults, severe weather, and neighboring facilities.

The second layer of defense is established by installing surge suppressors at the distribution panel, which distributes power throughout the facility. These surge suppressors protect against high to medium surges that may be externally or internally generated. Installing devices at branch panels addresses lower level surges generated by a wide variety of load equipment including lighting controls, office equipment and industrial systems. In addition some equipment and circuits may require special attention. Process control, sensing and monitoring devices may all require individual protection. Telecommunication and data circuits are extremely vulnerable to relatively low-level surges and need to be protected at the point of entry.

While surge suppression devices are the major tool minimizing surge damage, they do not always prevent damage cause by direct lightning strikes, nor the rarely occurring temporary over-volts cause by sever faults in power company cables.

Install an Uninterruptible Power Supply if Dictated by Operations
Surge suppression devices do not provide back-up power. An uninterruptible power supply is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power when an input power source fails. This device differs from an emergency power system or standby generator in that it provides near-instantaneous protection from input power interruptions for a relatively short period to allow time to properly shut down protected equipment or bring an auxiliary power source on line. This type of device is typically used to protect computers, data centers, telecommunications equipment or other electrical equipment where an unexpected power disruption could cause injuries, fatalities, serious business disruption and data loss.


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