you have surge protection?|
Whole-house surge arrestors should
not be looked upon as the end-all solution, though. Only about 20 percent of spikes
and surges are attributable to lightning or power-company problems.
The rest of the damaging electrical
anomalies are often homegrown, generated by our own energy-intensive air conditioners,
dehumidifiers, furnaces, refrigerators, sump pumps and other major electrical
appliances. And to counteract these, consumers should outfit their homes with
suitable surge-protected power strips and UPS devices.
forget home entertainment centers
Just as PCs
and their peripherals benefit from appropriate protection, so can the sensitive
audio-visual components of modern home-theater systems.
owners, as a group, are pretty good at protecting their stuff. ... but people
tend to forget that they have a lot more invested in their audio-video equipment
than they do in their computer system," says Patrick Donovan, senior product
manager at American Power Conversion, or APC, a West Kingston, R.I., firm specializing
in power solutions. "A flat-panel plasma or a large-screen, rear-projection
TV with a complete surround-sound system ... well, here you're talking about a
substantially bigger cash investment than a computer, which runs about $800 today.
Yet this equipment is just as sensitive to power surges and spikes, and it's often
left totally exposed."
surge protectors have a lot to offer, today's increasingly sophisticated audio-video
gear benefits most from an AV-specific UPS. Not only does this more-robust unit
protect components from spikes, surges and sound-and-picture degrading electrical-line
noise, it also prevents damage from under- and over-voltages, as well as blackouts.
and under-voltages are the most common problem folks see with fluctuating AC voltages,"
says Donovan. "When line voltage goes low, your equipment has to draw more
current to stay powered, and this puts a lot of strain on the power supply. Fluctuating
voltages, unfortunately, can literally destroy equipment over time, and a basic
surge protector is going to do nothing for you."
fluctuating voltages, a UPS with line conditioning is important because it can
deal with such fluctuations and provide AV equipment with stable, clean power
that doesn't cause video or sound distortion.
Unexpected power losses
are also a major concern, because they can be especially damaging to expensive
AV components. Digital light processing, or DLP, rear-projection TVs and video
projectors, for example, use an expensive bulb -- one that needs to be cooled
by a special fan so that its filaments don't become damaged. If power is cut off
abruptly, that critical cooling process won't take place, and the bulb can die
prematurely as a result. Replacing it can cost several hundred dollars.
drives are also becoming more and more common on today's AV equipment," said
Donovan. "It's not uncommon, in fact, to find people using a Windows XP Media
Center PC in their entertainment stack, or even a dedicated, networked, multimedia
server or a TiVO. And if you lose power at the wrong time, it's possible that
you could not only lose everything that was found on a hard drive, but you might
even corrupt the hard drive itself, maybe damage it irreparably."