The Shocking Truth About Electrical Power

So much attention is directed at devices and systems and yet the very lifeblood flowing through them to keep them operational – steady and clean electricity – is often overlooked or taken for granted. Power protection is critical to assure protection of people, facilities and assets. Find out why and how.

Portions of the Maui airport went black when chickens got into a power transformer and shorted it out. A rat caused a power outage in the cooling towers at the Fukushima power plant in Japan. A power outage caused by a malfunctioning switch disrupted play for more than 30 minutes during the Super Bowl. A reckless driver ran into a power pole and knocked out electricity for half a city outside of Philadelphia. Residents in Oak Lawn, Ill., sued their power company due to a surge that caused damage to thousands of electronic devices. And then there is the power havoc created by Mother Nature in the name of Sandy, Isaac, Andrew and Katrina, not to mention hundreds of tornados and thousands of damaging lightning strikes that occur every year.

The list of causes of power glitches is long and perhaps interesting to read about, but they are highly annoying for those businesses and residents that must endure them. Beyond mere annoyance, however, are the costs and potential liabilities associated with power issues — particularly where it comes to security systems.

According to Electrical Power Research Institute, an estimated $105 billion to $164 billion goes down the drain annually due to power interruptions, while another $15 billion to $24 billion is lost as a result of poor power quality such as voltage fluctuations, power surges and spikes. According to Frost & Sullivan, every year 72% of businesses in the United States are affected by power cuts that interrupt critical operations. International Data Corporation estimates that companies lose an average of $84,000 for every hour of downtime. Of course, the raw cost and total impact varies from business to business, but no matter how you measure it or what statistics you use, power anomalies are costly to both businesses and consumers.

Liability issues also come into play during power outages or when equipment is damaged because of a surge or spike. All electrical components in a security system require power, and when power is not present, businesses, campuses and even residences become vulnerable. When a customer enters a store or someone enters a public building, the presumption is that the facility is safe and secure. There is also an assumption that the security system is performing properly. When a security system goes down, liability and safety issues are magnified, and this opens up the door for litigation against a business or campus that is not properly protected.

So let’s take a closer look at the options available to the installing security integrator to ensure better system reliability, greater customer safety and satisfaction, as well as additional revenues.

Weighing Requirements Vs. Budget

A wide variety of power protection products are available today, ranging from inexpensive surge protectors to very large three-phase uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). The most important consideration is matching up the end-user’s needs and requirements with what makes sense from a budgetary standpoint.

As we all know, power is not readily available 24/7/365. Even when it is available, there are potential problems such as surges and spikes that can be devastating to electronic equipment. Despite the fact that we all know power problems do occur, there are still many businesses and consumers who don’t see the importance of protecting equipment from power anomalies. And perhaps even worse, there are dealers and installers that don’t include power protection for all critical components of a security system.

Those dealers and installers are doing their customers a great disservice.

Evaluating Power Protection Solutions

When it comes to protecting noncritical equipment, AC power surge protectors will suffice. Surge protectors are like anything else, in that, you get what you pay for. A six-outlet device with a Joules rating of 300 and cost of $5 will provide very minimal protection, and it is not recommended these be used in a commercial system. Look for an AC surge protector that has more than 1,000 Joules rating; and obviously the higher the Joules rating, the better. Also, always install a surge protector that meets UL-1449 testing requirements if it is a surge strip, or UL 1363 if it is a wall-tap that plugs directly into the outlet.

Data line surge protectors are also recommended for any cameras or other peripheral devices that are connected to the network. One important consideration is that these devices should be installed at both ends of the connecting cable. When lightning or some other extraneous voltage gets on the Ethernet or coax cable, the electrical energy is dissipated across the entire length of the cable and can damage equipment at both ends. If you are protecting cameras, install a data line surge protector at the camera end, while also installing protection at the DVR. A data line surge protector is an inexpensive solution that can easily pay for itself, especially in areas where lightning strikes are common.

One other thought to ponder is that the energy from a severe lightning strike can damage equipment located more than a mile away from where the strike actually occurs. It does not need to be a direct hit from lightning to cause equipment damage.

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