November/December 2021 | Vol. 26 No.6
by Brianne Deerwester, Communications Coordinator, Electrical Safety Foundation International
The NEMA Low Voltage Surge Protective Device Product Section (BI-VS) and ESFI
recently surveyed commercial and industrial facility professionals, including building owners, managers, heads of maintenance, and engineers. The professionals provided information on the use of surge protective devices in their facilities and power surge incidents and effects. The results were highlighted in an infographic, Understanding Surge Protective Devices Survey (see on Page 5), and video, Surge Protective Devices Misconceptions, to better educate facility professionals on the devices and their functionality.
The overwhelming majority of survey respondents viewed surge protective devices as a success, as 79 percent reported that the devices reduced downtime and equipment failure significantly or completely in their facilities. When professionals were asked about the frequency of unexpected downtime, 49 percent reported that a power surge had caused an interruption within the last 12 months, while 72 percent experienced downtime more than a few times a year. Respondents reported that power surges and unexpected resetting or misoperation of equipment caused 34 percent of unplanned power outages. Equipment in service for five years or less bore the brunt of power surges, with 78 percent of the equipment failure. However, only 23 percent of facilities installed surge protective devices after experiencing a power surge event.
Respondents reported that the most common causes of power surges included switching of electrical loads, lightning, faulty wiring and/ or connections, and damage to power lines. Regarding respondents that did not currently have surge protection installed, 62 percent said that it had been recommended for their facilities, while 21 percent of those without surge protection said they plan on installing it in the future. Forty percent of survey respondents indicated that their facilities had surge protection technology for one to five years, while an additional 39 percent reported having surge protection for six or more years.
Regarding when respondents first purchased surge protection, 23 percent said they bought it after experiencing a surge event and because of other catalysts, including during a build and/ or specification (27 percent) and renovation (23 percent). Most facility professionals reported having surge protective devices inspected or tested monthly (54 percent), and 94 percent of those who tested or inspected their devices did so as part of routine maintenance.
The survey also revealed mixed results on people’s knowledge of surge protective capabilities. Only surge protective devices, also known as transient voltage surge suppressors, protect against power surges. Fuses and breakers, ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), wiring, low-cost uninterruptable power supplies, and typical power strips do not offer power surge protection. It’s also imperative to note that surge protective devices protect only against voltage surge events created by motor starts and/or stops or load switching. They provide a degree of protection against direct lightning strikes but are not intended to protect against long-term, sustained overvoltage events.
Surge protective devices protect against damage, downtime, and lost revenue. Installing these devices in a facility helps prevent costly electrical failures and helps to maintain the system and data reliability of expensive electrical equipment. For more information on power surges or surge protective devices, visit NEMAsurge.org and esfi.org. ei