Surging on Capitol Hill

Surging on Capitol Hill

This piece was originally published in the April 2018 issue of electroindustry.

Surging on Capitol Hill were 5VS members (from left) James Mongeau, Space Age Electronics; Bob Harmon, CITEL; Pankaj Lal, Schneider Electric, Chris Martin, ABB; Srdan Mutabdzija, Mersen; Steve Rood, Legrand/Pass & Seymour; and Martin Guy, ABB. Photo by Joseph Eaves

After a successful Hill Day last summer, members of NEMA’s Low Voltage Surge Protective Devices Section (5VS) took part in their second such event last month. They were eager to meet with representatives and senators that have 5VS plants or offices in their districts and states.

While the meetings provided opportunities for section members’ companies to build relationships with their own elected officials, the Hill Day also allowed them to explain surge protective devices (SPDs) and the impact this technology has on new legislative opportunities.

SPDs limit voltage surges and spikes that occur in the normal electrical system as power is supplied to electric or electronic devices by diverting surge current and limiting unwanted voltages to a level that will not damage equipment.

Devices that switch power on and off are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of surges created within a facility, ranging from a simple thermostat switch operating a heating element to a switch-mode power supply found on many devices. These surges contain limited energy but are often the cause of system upset or cumulative damage to electronics.

Surges that originate outside the facility include lightning and utility grid switching. Although less common, these surges are typically much more severe.

In commercial buildings and data centers, SPDs protect emergency lighting, computer systems, lighting, and electronic equipment. In industrial applications, they protect machinery, control systems, and telecommunications. In the residential space, plug-in SPDs are seen in power strips that protect home offices and entertainment equipment. A new trend in the residential space, especially in areas of major storms, is hard-wired devices that are installed at the electrical panel that protects the electrical system of the whole house.

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