In Kansas, our weather-related school closings are typically caused by cold, snow and ice. But today schools are closed because of downed power lines, sections of roofs and other debris blocking the roads. I couldn’t sleep during this whopper of a storm. One of the reasons is because I was reminded (repeatedly) with each lightning strike and power outage that it’s probably time to replace my surge protectors.
The life of a surge protector is measured in joules instead of years, so they’re rated by the amount of energy and extra voltage they can absorb. You see, a basic surge protector uses something called an MOV, which stands for metal oxide varistor. When there’s a spike in voltage, the protector steers it away from your equipment and diverts it to the MOV, which is degraded with each hit. After the MOV has absorbed all of the joules that it can, the surge protector simply becomes a power strip.
Some surge protectors have little lights showing if they’re still offering protection. But some experts say these indicators cannot be trusted. They’re also hesitant to give a “time” reference for replacing surge protectors, because they do not want to give a false sense of security. I’ve heard that anything older than 2 years should be replaced. And if you don’t remember when you purchased the surge protector, it’s time to replace it.
I like to break tasks down into manageable segments, so…
- First, take 300 Seconds to note all of the areas in the bookstore where you want surge protection.
- Then sometime the next week, buy the number of new surge protectors that you need.
- Once the surge protectors are purchased, don’t wait to install them. Even though experts want us to measure in joules instead of years, sometimes you have to use what you can grasp. So either directly on the hardware or on a piece of tape, write the date that it was installed. I do this because even though I have a better grasp on time than the amount of joules absorbed by my surge protector, time can be tricky; what feels like two years was actually four years ago and before long I’m back to not knowing when I bought that surge protector after all.