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lobita

surge protector?

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Still more questions about what to bring with us when we move ...

Today's topic: electricity. I'm already planning to buy a Kill-a-Watt meter. Wondering if we should bring surge protectors as well ... and if so, what features are important? (We have our computer equipment plugged into a couple of strips now, but I have no idea how effective they are.)

... If it matters, between us we have an iMac, a MacBook, and a PC laptop, plus a few other rechargeable gadgets.

Any advice?

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Still more questions about what to bring with us when we move ...

Today's topic: electricity. I'm already planning to buy a Kill-a-Watt meter. Wondering if we should bring surge protectors as well ... and if so, what features are important? (We have our computer equipment plugged into a couple of strips now, but I have no idea how effective they are.)

... If it matters, between us we have an iMac, a MacBook, and a PC laptop, plus a few other rechargeable gadgets.

Any advice?

What you actually need is a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply)

The voltage fluctuation here is horrible, high and low. A UPS will protect you from surges and from low voltage which is worse on the equipment

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Also many homes....although they have three prong outlets....are NOT grounded....so even the best belkin surge protector is like wearing garlic to protect you from Vampires.....it looks good but it doesn't work.

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The biggest problem appears to be voltage fluctuation and not "surges" if you have decent power coming into your casa. I think the best protection is to install a voltage "regulator" since I have measured voltages typically at around 130V. A device such as the APC Line-R 1200 (a 1200 Watt unit good for TV's, PC's, etc.) allows you to set the output down to around 115-117V which is better for these types of products. This device also has some "surge" protection internally (MOVs or "metal oxide varistors") which will blow if you lose a ground or neutral and get high voltage spikes. I brought 3 of them down and use them to protect all of my electronics. They are about $60 ea. through Amazon.

As posted above, none of this stuff works very well unless you have good grounding. Some of the wiring I have seen here needs a lot of work to bring it up to the electrical code standards that exist in the USA and Canada.

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RadioShack® used to have an outlet that plugged in and turned on and off with a remote. This woud be handy for all the TVs and Receivers that turn off but stay on. Any thing with a pilot light to show it is powered is subject to burning up it's transformer with the standard brown-outs that drop voltage to <90VAC. Many of our outlets are too difficult to reach for regular shut down.

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Ezzie, what about this one? http://www.amazon.com/APC-LE600-Automatic-Voltage-Regulator/dp/B00009RA5Z/

Or this one, which has 6 outlets instead of 4 and is even cheaper: http://www.amazon.com/OPTI-UPS-SS1200-Stabilizer-Automatic-Regulator/dp/B0007P11M4/

Is there a reason why we'd need the more expensive 1200W version?

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Sure, the 600W unit would also be OK if you are just plugging in a few lower powered items such as a PC and telephone equipment. If you were planning on using it to protect a home entertainment system with a plasma TV then probably the 1200W should be used. None of these units are recommended for anything with motors or compressors (such as a refrigerator). Just look at the ratings on the devices you want to connect and add them up. 600W = 5 Amps and 1200W = 10 Amps @ 120V (approximately).

What I like to do is plug in a multi-outlet power bar into the voltage regulator that has some built in surge protection as well just for another layer of protection (they are pretty inexpensive). This gives lots of room for those little chargers you always need for cell phones, etc. When not in use or during an electrical storm, just turn off the regulator and everything will stay safe.

APC is a well respected name (American Power Conversion) and has been around a long time in the industry so are a bit more expensive than some other brands. I don't know anything about the Opti-UPS brand so I cannot speak to their quality or warranty. Koblenz is also a popular brand sold here in Mexico and available at larger retailers like Home Depot.

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I use strictly fuse-protected power bars. The same voltage irregularities being talked about treat UPSs and surge protectors like candy: poof, and they're gone. All my computer equipment is protected because the fuse blows before the juice can get to anything. I have made sure everything is properly grounded.) And with the computer itself, it's most likely that the Power Supply (AC adaptor) inside will prevent surges by blowing before anything can happen. And that's a fairly cheap part.

Same with my fridge and TVs and stereo equipment. I've blown too many very expensive UPSs, and don't bother with them anymore. (I know, heretical, isn't it?)

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So ComputerGuy, what's your opinion on 'voltage regulators' like we were discussing above?

And how do I tell if a power strip is 'fuse-protected'? Googling that term doesn't seem to net me the sort of thing I can use -- for example, this: http://www.himodel.com/electric/eFUEL_Fuse_Protected_Power_Strip.html ... doesn't have the right sort of inputs.

We aren't talking about any AV equipment here, just the computers I listed in the OP.

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My opinion applies to anything that plugs in... . I don't use them. Last place I was in had two "whole house" regulators, the kind that are fairly cheap here, and have been purchased by many. I worked with an electrical engineer here for a few months, doing ethernet, phone, electrical and system installations, and he pointed out all the reasons why these cheap jobbies were useless, partly because of the low end, as pointed out above, not being covered, and being even more damaging to your gear.

I just don't use them.

A fuse-protected strip is easy to tell simply because they have a push-botton reset on them, like a circuit-breaker, and a fuse cap sticking out of the end. Under $200 pesos here.

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I work on the web and need some reliability.

I took a 685 wt UPS and wired in 2 12 vt car batteries. It will run a router, Vonage phone, laptop and a small light for about 36 hours.

The only problem that I ran into is that the UPS takes about 2 weeks to recharge the batteries if they are really run down. I put a disconnect in the battery circuit and bought a battery charger. It will recharge the batteries in about 12 hours.

I plug the UPS into a surge protected strip as extra protection.

Been working for 4 years with no problems.

You do have to replace the batteries every 3 years

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My two cents worth.

A Voltage Regulator or a surge protector doesn't do boodiddleysquat if your three pronged outlets aren't properly grounded. I have a surge protector bar (Belkin) with a light that shows if the outlet is grounded...and I took it to every house that we were interested in renting and checked ALL the outlets BEFORE we rented.

1) I plug the surge protector bar into the grounded outlet

2) I plug the voltage regulator (with replacement fuse) into the surge protector bar

3) I plug the electronics into the voltage regulator

4) In the case of an extreme electrical storm, I UNPLUG the surge protector from the grounded outlet

Haven't lost a thing yet...17 years and counting.

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I have a surge protector bar (Belkin) with a light that shows if the outlet is grounded...and I took it to every house that we were interested in renting and checked ALL the outlets BEFORE we rented.

What an excellent idea! I think I will do that as well.

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Bring it (or more than one) with you Lobita 'cuz I haven't seen them here. Below the on/off switch, there's TWO lights... when plugged in...one light says "protected" and the other light says "grounded". Brand name of mine is "Belkin".

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You also want to get in the habit of not leaving small kitchen appliances plugged in. I figured it out after replacing three blenders!! Now my cuisinart, kitchen aid mixer, and vita mix blender live on the counter but just get plugged in when I am using them.

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Heh, thanks. I've actually been trying to do that for a few months now ... but sometimes I still forget. :(

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You can buy here, at the Steren store (and probably other places like the local tool shops) a circuit tester with a Ground indicator; I have one:circuittester0.jpg

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