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Grounding Wire, Electricity and Surges

This month I received a call from a client who had issues with their Internet after having a power blip during a summer thunderstorm.

Upon performing an Onsite Consultation it was found that their equipment received an electrical surge which caused some damage to their equipment.

So what is an electrical surge?

This video pulled from YouTube does an excellent job of explaining:

What can carry a surge?

Anything that is made of metal has the ability to carry electrical current. Most people immediately think of electrical wires typically made of copper or aluminum. However many data cables also contain metal and therefore can carry a surge. These include Phone Lines, Cable Lines (AKA Coax) and Ethernet Cables. The only type of data cable that cannot carry a surge is Fiber Optic which is made of glass. The key variable to electrical current is the medium (material) to which the current is carried. In technicality anything that is wet has the ability to care electrical current.

What is a grounding rod / grounding wire?

If you walk to the outside of your house you'll notice the electric company uses a ground rod typically within a few inches from your Power Meter. This green copper wire is used in your home's wiring system as a critical safety feature. In the event of some kind of breakdown in the system, the grounding system provides a path of least resistance for electrical current to flow safety back to the earth itself.

Power Meter Grounding Rod
Power Meter Grounding Rod

Your Internet Service Provider and Cable Television Provider often tie into this same Grounding Rod in the event that excessive electrical current finds its way into these lines. Unfortunately these techs often hand tighten these wires, which if left unchecked will surely come disconnected.

In the case of this particular client, it was my belief they the wires were bumped by their landscapers when they put down new mulch around their house.

Power Meter Grounding Rod
Power Meter Grounding Rod
Grounding Wire for Internet Service Provider and TV Provider Disconnected
Grounding Wire for Internet Service Provider and TV Provider Disconnected

Unfortunately for this client a surge of power came into their house from a Data Cable and had no path to to the ground and damaged their Internet Modem/Router and an Access Point upstairs.

The first thing that was done was advising the customer to have an electrician to review their homes wiring and to have the grounding wires from their Internet Service Provider Exterior Box and Cable Television Provider Exterior Box connected to the Grounding Rod installed by the power company. Below you can see where the wires were firmly connected to the brass fitting and bent down to prevent the wires from every coming lose.

Internet and Phone Provider using Grounding Round for Copper Cables
Internet and Phone Provider using Grounding Round for Copper Cables

Afterwards their Internet Service Provider Modem/Router was replaced. Luckily they didn't have any expensive equipment connected to their Modem/Router with an Ethernet Cable.

It must be stated that having the grounding rod and groundings wires installed properly is not enough to protect your equipment. There are other steps that must be taken.

How Do Power Surges Happen?

Power surges can originate from an electric utility company during power grid switching. They can also occur if there’s a malfunction in a nearby transformer or transmission line. Some of the most powerful power surges can occur as the result of a lightning strike.

Surges can also occur within the home. When a high-powered electrical appliance such as an air conditioner or refrigerator turns on or off, a smaller power surge can occur. Because these appliances’ motors and compressors require so much energy to switch on and off, the brief power demand disturbs the steady voltage flow in the electrical system.

What are the Signs of a Power Surge?

There are a few signs that may indicate your appliance or device experienced a power surge:

The device’s clock or lights are flashing

The device is off or does not work

There is a burnt odor around the device or power source

A surge protector or power strip may require resetting

How to Prevent a Power Surge from Damaging Your Appliances and Electronics

You can’t prevent what happens outside your home, but you can protect what’s on the inside. Purchasing a quality surge protector, also called a surge suppressor or surge diverter, can help protect your home from damage caused by power surges.

A surge protector diverts voltage spikes safely to the ground rather than letting it enter the sensitive circuits of your appliances or equipment.

Choosing the Right Kind of Surge Protector:

The type of surge protector you choose will depend on how you’re going to use the surge protector and what you can afford.

Whole-house surge suppressors, or panel-mounted surge suppressors, connect directly into your home’s fuse box and prevent power surges from entering your home at the source. Cost is determined by the suppressor’s power capacity, rated in joules, but can be several hundred dollars.

Power strips with surge protection are the most common and affordable type of surge protection available. Surge protected power strips are rated in joules, so it’s important to choose a model with the appropriate rating for the appliances you’re protecting. Inexpensive surge protectors run between 400 and 600 joules and higher-end protectors are rated at 1,000 or more. Not all power strips have surge protection abilities, so shop carefully.

We personally recommend Surge Suppressors by APC which can easily be ordered from including:

Get Surge Protection for your Computer
APC Surge Suppressor

APC Surge Protector P8U2, 2630 Joules, 8 Outlets

APC Surge Protector P10U2, 4320 Joule, 10 Outlet

APC Surge Protector P11U2, 2880 Joule, 11 Outlet

APC Surge Protector P12U2, 4320 Joule, 12 Outlet

These items listed above cost between $15.00 and $35.00 which is well below the cost of the equipment typically connected. In our opinion this is just a smart investment. Surge Suppressors should be replaced at a minimum of every 10 years but we replace ours every 5 years.

Don't wait for lightning to strike. Install or purchase a surge protector today. If you need assistance with how to protect your equipment give Bringing Your Tech to Life a call today.


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