Voltage Surges & Spikes

♦ Voltage Surges & Spikes – what’s the difference between voltage surges and voltage spikes?

A: Voltage surges are a rise in amplitude taking place over a short time and they last a minimum of 1 half cycle (that’s 1/120th of a second). Spikes, meanwhile, are power voltage blasts traversing a circuit that last milliseconds.

Voltage surges are the result of powerful electric motors or equipment switching off and leading to a brief reduction in current load and a big increase in voltage. An air conditioning unit on low or mid “cool” mode is a classic culprit. As the compressor turns on and off the line voltage can be pumped up by thousands of volts.

Conversely, voltage spikes occur most commonly when lightning strikes hit power lines or the ground near power cables. This causes a large and damaging voltage pulse that blasts down a cable and fries any circuitry that gets in its way – that might include terminations, junction boxes and wiring. Spikes are momentary, they may only last milliseconds, but they’ll routinely reach thousands or tens of thousands of volts.

Spikes can also be caused by circuit breakers tripping, or by power outages, short circuits or power transitions on the same power line – including events upstream involving the power utility. However, the majority of seriously damaging spikes that impact electronic security solutions involve lightning.

On a global scale lightning strikes destroy large amounts of electronic equipment every year making well-designed line protection against spikes is vital. You will also need a strategy to protect field equipment that’s pole, roof or wall mounted, which may involve connection to .

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