Protection from Power
I’ve heard for years that one of the most damaging things you can do to any electronic component is, simply, to turn it on. That sudden rush of electricity flooding through all the circuitry puts the equipment at more risk than even regular all-day use. This is why a lot of people leave their computers and other electronic equipment on 24/7. Think about it – don’t light bulbs usually blow out the moment you turn them on? The same principle applies here.
After you’ve invested all that money in building up an awesome home entertainment system, don’t forget to spend a little more to protect it. There’s nothing like a lightning bolt or power surge to kill sensitive electronic components. In my experience working in the IT industry for over a decade, I’ve seen plenty of computers and other equipment fried because they didn’t have the proper protection in place. If you’ve got that $2,000 HDTV plugged directly into a wall socket, it’s like driving around without a seat belt.
A surge suppressor, also known as a surge protector, is a device designed to block power surges from getting to your equipment. They come in many shapes and sizes and are often classified by how many joules they can withstand. You want to buy one that can take a 1,000 or more joules, otherwise it may prove ineffective.
Be careful to make sure that you are buying an actual surge suppressor and not just a power strip. A surge suppressor will be labeled as such, and should include some kind of indication of the power it can withstand. A power strip is nothing more than an expansion of your wall outlet, and doesn’t offer any protection. As a general rule, if it costs less than $10, then it is probably just a basic power strip. The two often look exactly the same, so make sure before you buy.
You can also use a surge suppressor to protect phone lines, as some have a jack to run the phone line through the suppressor. I’ve seen plenty of computers blown up via the phone line plugged directly into the modem, even though the PC itself was on a surge suppressor. Although people nowadays aren’t using modems as much as before, the same in-line phone protection could be used for a fax machine, if necessary.
You could also take your surge suppression up a notch and invest in an uninterruptable power supply, or UPS. These devices are basically giant battery backups that keep your stuff running in the event of a power outage or failure. They are most commonly found on network servers so that they can be properly shut down if the power goes out. Sometimes things like a clock or those custom audio preferences you set up will get lost even if the power blips out for a second. The sudden off and on shock to your equipment isn’t very helpful, either. Having a UPS for your home entertainment system is a great way of protecting the equipment, as well as its internal setting.