A surge mitigator, also called a surge protector, is recommended by the National Fire Prevention Association and the Institute of Business and Home Safety. These devices are designed to help safeguard electrical devices in the event of power surges or power spikes. But how does a surge mitigator actually work?

How Does It Work?

A surge mitigator is designed to safely divert excess current, such as from a lightning strike or damage to a power line, through the house’s grounding path. When talking about electricity, a few things should probably be made clear. First, voltage is generally understood to be the electrical ‘pressure’ in a system, like measuring the force of water running through a hose. Amperage, on the other hand, is the amount of fluid present, or the flow rate in our hose analogy.

Protecting The Components

The U.S. consumer electronic market was worth $301 billion in 2019. That’s a lot of money, and a lot of reason to protect the devices you have, including things like your home’s wiring. Applying too much force, too much voltage, can cause the system to burn up or at least wear down over time.

Managing Pressure

When the pressure within the system gets too high, a surge protector is designed to re-route the excess voltage through what is essentially a pressure-sensitive valve. Under normal conditions, the current is allowed to flow through as normal, but in the event of a spike or a surge, the device is tripped and diverts the excess current. Commonly, a gas discharge arrestor or a metal oxide varistor are used for this purpose.

One Last Thing

Multi-layered protection is really a must. A surge protector, while a great idea on its own, can’t handle 100% of surges a home may experience, nor can it handle surges within the home. So, two layers of whole-house protection (once where the lines meet your house, and once between the meter and breaker box), as well as point-of-use protectors at outlets where appliances are plugged in is recommended for the best protection.

Surge mitigators are one of the best things you can do for your home in terms of electrical safety, but they can’t catch everything. Always remember to exercise proper caution when working with electrical devices.