Is Surge Protection Necessary?

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According to Wikipedia, Singapore has one of the highest rates of lightning activity in the world.  Did you know that our tiny island is struck by lightning every other day?  Therefore statistically speaking, the odds of getting hit by lightning are exceptionally high, which makes the use of Surge Protection Devices or SPDs in most electrical installations, essential.  However, to my surprise, many of us do not install SPDs as we have this belief that our electrical infrastructure (underground cables) is safe and reliable.

Has it ever occurred to you that the moment when lightning hits the ground, it actually generates an electrical surge that creates a ripple effect in the ground and enters into any electric cable that crosses its path?  Now, when this happens, it will induce an electrical surge into the cable and send a power surge to your connected electronic equipment.  I did not believe it at first until I witnessed a few incidents lately.

A few days ago, the 42-storey Singapore Flyer was forced to shut down after being struck by lightning.  The lightning strike, believed to be an indirect strike, caused the air-conditioning systems to malfunction.  As a result, the attraction had to be closed for a few days.  If we do the math, it easily translates into the loss of millions of dollars for the operator.  This episode could have been evaded if the Singapore Flyer had been adequately protected with SPDs from the beginning.

Another incident, which happened about 3 months ago, occured when a lightning struck the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit network, or LRT.  It caused a huge disruption to the rail services and hundreds were left stranded inside the trains for hours.  It definitely does not feel good to be one of the trapped commuters.  Once again, this stresses the importance of SPDs.

I suppose many today still hope to keep cost low by avoiding the deployment of SPDs.   However, we will only realize their importance when it’s too late.  We usually ended up paying additional to recover these damages, often much more than what the SPDs would cost.

In conclusion, investing in a SPD is, in effect, investing in a good insurance policy.  You pay a premium for something that you hope you never have to use but are glad you did when you do.

Think, again!



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2 thoughts on “Is Surge Protection Necessary?

  1. M S Suresh

    I beleive the solutions is in lightning protection and not in surge protection. Surge protection is more applicable for the electrical supply that is prone to voltage spikes due to the nature of source. If proper lightning arrestors are provided and properly grounded the lightining strikes on the plant or equipment can be avoided.

    Imagine lightning striking oil tanks. It will catch fire and the damage is much higher. The tanks are protected by lightning arrestors and NOT SURGE PROTECTING DEVICES (SPD). If we can protect oil tanks which are highly susceptable to lightning and more exposed to lightning than electrical equipments tucked inside the buiding, we can definetly protect them with proper lightning arrestors than by SPD. By the way lightining protectors are far more economical and simpler than SPDs.

  2. S P Ang

    Thank you for your interesting comment.

    It is true that good lightning and grounding system can protect structures against physical damages, and there is a common belief that this is suffice. Many plant or building owners/users neglect the fact that there are electrical equipments within the structure that can be prompt to indirect lightning strike. A building can be installed with the best grounding system, but the fact is that there will be some resistance in the copper used in grounding system. (unless gold is being used!) And, hence some lightning current can still be induced into the electrical system. Another way that lightning current could be induced into the electrical system is due to electromagnetic field. If say, electrical cable is near to an area that was being strike by lightning, there could be possibility that electromagnetic field could be induced and hence cause harmful surge in the electrical system.

    Therefore, one cannot do without the other. A good grounding system coupled with surge arresters will give assurance that the building structure as well as the electrical system is being well protected against lightning. The key is selecting the right surge protection device which is both cost effective and for the right application.

    Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to know more about surge protection. We will be very happy to hear from you.

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