The Surge Saga Continues...Useful Information (I hope!)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Chu Gai, Jul 10, 2002.

  1. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    I found an interesting article Titled "A Guide to Understanding Surge Suppresion" written by Paul DeLaup, Lightning Elimination Systems, Covington, LA. It can be found at http://www.semiconductorfabtech.com/.../ft11-4_05.pdf and is a pretty quick download consisting of minimal, but useful graphics in a 6 page document. Relatively small, in my opinion it should be saved to one's hard drive for future use. While coming from the Semiconductor side of things, nonetheless, the explanations and things to look for or be aware of are quite relevant to the audio enthusiast.
    To a large degree this article provides an understanding of UL 1449 which has to do with Transient Voltage Surge Suprressors. For those who are interested in reading the scope of this Underwriter Laboratory standard, it can be found at http://ulstandardsinfonet.ul.com/scopes/1449.html It is also my understanding, and if I am wrong, please someone correct me, that there is an optional part to this standard that is at a company's discretion to perform. This optional part has to do with evaluating the performance of the unit by testing for endurance and was commisioned by the Federal Governement. Basically, if I understand it correctly, there are several permutations of the optional part. So for example, if your unit has been certified as meeting UL 1499 with the provisios that it's a Grade A, Class1, Mode 1 device,it means the following:
    It survived 1000 surges of 6000 volts, 3000 amps
    There were no failures or degradation of performance
    The voltage that was let through did not exceed 330 volts
    The ground was not contaminated.
    That's pretty impressive and not many units can take such a battering. For those concerned with longevity, this would seem to be a mighty damned fine 'tweak'.
    Personally, I am unclear as to where UL 1499 falls into this whole mix. I could not find anything about it at the UL site and possibly this means its been superceded by UL 1449.
    Keep in mind that having a surge protector does NOT imply that it'll stop surges exceeding 120 volts.
    Bill Kane I believe has posted on these high quality, devices that apparently meet the most rigorous aspects of the additional, non-mandatory, devices that are UL 1449 certified.
    Zerosurge sells through authorized dealers (info on models, spec sheets, some pictures at www.zerosurge.com) and to find one, a toll free number is 800-996-6696. They also will sell direct.
    SurgeX (info, specs, pictures, etc at www.surgex.com) is another company that also meets the optional UL 1499 code and provide emi/rfi conditioning. I found their products at http://www.stereoaddict.com/manufacturer.asp?2=1119 and it seems stuff is about 10% off of list. I'm sure you can get additional sources from SurgeX at (215) 766-1240 and possibly list prices.
    Adcom, as Bill Kane has already pointed out, uses a non-MOV system and their surge suppressors can be found at http://www.adcom.com/main/surgesupressors.htm and they also pass the optional testing in UL 1499.
    There may be others and hopefully people will find out just who else and post em here.
     
  2. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    Chu, I feel like a one-note diletante compared to your due diligence a la "inquiring minds want to know."

    It may be fairly said that I have not even used most of the gear I talk about, so I am no expert. But it's fun to learn a little more about something that's just "set it and forget it" for most others. I am familiar with UL 1449, but had not encountered UL 1499!

    I see your head-scratching. SurgeX for ex. claims UL 1449-(Second Edition)Adjunct Classification: 1000 surges, 6000 volts, 3000amps. Then goes on to claim 1996 Federal Guidelines: Grade A, Class 1, Mode 1; no mention of UL 1499. And Adcom merely claims it meets Government's Highest Standards, presumably Grade A, Class 1, Mode 1.

    Brickwall also claims 1000 surges, 6000 volts etc. so I believe these various manufacturer specs are common with Series Mode manufacture at the minimum in accordance with UL 1449 Adjunct testing.

    bill

    edit for sp.
     
  3. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    I'm pretty sure that what's going on with those units is that they all meet UL 1499 and to boot meet the most stringent requirements of the optional testing. To me, for those living with flakey on/off power and especially in lighting prone areas, these types of units represent the best hope for avoiding disastorous consequences. And it would seem that there's enough options out there: floor mount, rack mount, emi/rfi filtering, provisions for coax to meet the majority of the individuals needs. Its a bit pricier and the cost no doubt goes up once we tack on the words audio. Since these companies will OEM, I'd expect to see such units also available to the pro-audio and computer market, where discount pricing is likely to be more aggressive. After all in those areas its about knowing where audio tends to be more about believing [​IMG]
    If you want to see some horrific pictures of surge protectors that are quite dead but still have that little green light glowing, check this link out http://www.djsociety.org/Surge_1.htm
    Its still unclear to me at the moment if the Panamax Max4300 uses the technology zero surge technology or if their unit has the capability of that '1000 surge, look I'm still living". To me, if the price differential is nominal, i'd opt for the overkill.
     
  4. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    ...from the bottom...
    yes, the new Panamax boxes are redesigned and I've been careful to couch my descriptions as "...appear to use non-MOV technology that obviates the need to list a Joule rating..." If this was Series Mode, I am sure they'd note it, but they have their proprietary "SurgeGate." I need to find their clamping and voltage let-thru specs.
    Yes, in maximum protection situtions, I agree: go for the best current surge stopper using Series Mode. (it's to note that SurgeX sells its two-outlet model for $299 and what appears to be the same thing by Brickwall in the Audio series is $199).
     
  5. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    typo on my part...I'd meant they all meet UL 1449
     
  6. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    Panamax and Monstercable dont seem to publish technical specs on equipment manuals, which can lead the public to make assumptions.
    I found this undated "technical article" at the Panamax website which seems to say: Yes, we use MOVs but our array is bigger and lasts longer! HERE
    Panamax "SurgeGate" in this light thus appears to be nothing evolutionary (like Series Mode "brickwall" surge protection), rather just electrical sag and overvoltage limiters for under ~75V and over ~ 150V.
    This is offered as more information for those choosing such equipment for HT systems.
    bill
     
  7. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    At Chipcenter I read the following
     
  8. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    Chu, [​IMG]
     
  9. Jim_C

    Jim_C Cinematographer

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    You guys definitely seem to be the HTF authorities on this subject. [​IMG] Forgive me if I screw up the wording as I'm new to this stuff.
    Do you know what type of technology PS Audio uses for surge suppression in the Ultimate Outlet? Does it shunt the spike to the ground wire? Does this increase the chance for ground skew? I have a powered sub on the other side of the room so I was wondering whether I should use a SS that doesn't shunt the spike to the ground. That seems to leave Brickwall, Adcom and perhaps the others mentioned above.
    One possible solution I'm thinking of involves using an Ultimate Outlet but I'd like to know if it works like a Panamax or a Brickwall. I've read about the Balun but the info seems heavily based on it's noise reduction ability. I looked at the 2 outlet Brickwall but if I'm correct it won't allow 20A to come through. The higher current version seems to be 15A as well. Am I wrong about this?
    I've been researching tonight and I was all set to go with the Max 2 20A and a Max 8 DBS+5. Then I found the info about it being MOV based. I really don't care if Panamax says that it won't fail because it's designed properly. MOV based protectors worry me.
     
  10. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Bill knows a lot, I know nothing, but I like to dig and ask a lot of questions. it's late...I'd take a stab at your last statement regarding the Panamax. OK, its MOV and let's for the moment grant that its a properly designed unit with a certain degree of redundancy. Regardless, in my scouring around the web, I've not run across an MOV setup that's going to pass the optional parts of UL 1449. The implication here is that if you're likely to experience a bit of lightning, like florida and other parts, then the non MOV devices provide your best hope (not guarantee!) for saving your equipment. Bill and I are thinking there may another approach, but as for myself, I've not spent enought time yet.
    Don't know about the PS...check the website. If they don't say anything about meeting the optional parts of UL 1449, I'd guess it's MOV based. I hate guesses though, so shoot for a phone call or email.
     
  11. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    Jim, we're learning as we go, too, and your technical training is as well-suited to research and evaluation as any anecdotal stuff on the internet.
    I'll try to be brief. If we think in a linear fashion about this stuff, it'll drive you crazy -- MOV to Series Mode to Balanced Power to Voltage Regulator to Whole House Surge Protector to 20A Dedicated Circuit to Use-One-Leg-Only on the Service Panel and on and on.
    Perhaps you can fashion a more holistic approach wherein we might collaborate. Which is to say: What do you wish to achieve?
    * A buy it and forget it surge protector only.
    * Voltage stabilization if living with an unstable power delivery environment.
    * What exactly do you wish to protect now and in the future.
    *Are you inclined to be minimalist or absolute in your criteria.
    This isnt rocket science and we dont have to torture it.
    It sounds like you are looking at 20 amp rated circuit rated stuff but be aware that power amps rarely achieve that continuous level of power consumption.
    A 1800VA power amp isnt going to draw 1800 watts from the line in real-world use, so rating everything to handle this can be over-design. Yes, this big amp is bested used on a 20A circuit, but most if not all consumer electronics we use are designed for 15A.
    PS Audio is terra incognita to me because I personally havent been drawn there and haven't looked into it. I read the big 600 Power Plant is 60percent efficient and an electricity eater, that's all.
    I dont think the case has been closed on MOV tecchnology usefulness; it's the original U.L. testing standard. (Aside: U.L. says beware of advertising that says "UL tested." The real stuff is "UL Rated" or MORE PRECISELY "UL Listed.").
    It's late, so I'll have to put off reading up on U.L. 1449 Second Edition!
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Now that is an important point you made Bill! UL tested vs UL Rated. The latter implies it meets the guidelines. The former merely indicates it was tested. For all we know, and its very pessimistic on my part, it was tested, failed, but they're probably within legal limits to state it was in fact tested. Hell it might've been tested and found to pass through 2000 volts!! Buyer beware!
     
  13. Jim_C

    Jim_C Cinematographer

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    Let me see if I can sum this up clearly and succinctly (yeah, right). [​IMG]
    >>* A buy it and forget it surge protector only.* Voltage stabilization if living with an unstable power delivery environment.
     
  14. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    Jim,
    I’m impressed with your handle on amperage and power line capacity. While you add up the amps, I add up the watts but it leads us to the same capacity ceiling. Applying the same 80% safety factor results in useable 16 amps on a 20A circuit.
    Placing the sub on a separate circuit can be prudent; go for this if you like. I have everything on one 20A circuit: Anthem 1800VA power amp wall direct; the rest behind a surge unit -- Yamaha rcvr as prepro; SVS 25-31PC; standard 27in TV and usual HT peripherals. Very mid-fi. Operation seems nominal in real-world. My 20A ckt is not “dedicated,” it’s standard house wiring that probably runs thru 6 junction boxes and all the potential losses from all those connections and/or wire nuts. In HT use, tho, nothing else is being drawn/used from the other outlets.
    Voltage stabilizers: personally, I am backing off this device because I don’t experience “severe brownouts” and “sustained overvoltages,” so far as I know, these the typical defining terms for applying a voltage regulator. The most effective employ isolation transformers and these are the $1,000 and up models. If I were to get one, I like the build specs of the non-isol xfmr Tripp Lite LCR2400 (2400 watt) for ~$300. TrippLite claims AV use as well as computer station for this unit and comes with RF/EMI AC noise filtering. It’s 12-outlet and 26lbs.
    The only not-straightforward element is surge-unit capability for least current-limiting for amps and receivers. I certainly would want an AVR with all its electronics to be protected behind a surge suppressor; we’ve seen the stories here. Many large power amps can be plugged into the wall, and I’m told Parasound offers this for the HCA1205A. You need the manufacturer’s advice here, coupled with your confidence in the construction of your 20A circuit. (And by all means upgrade the duplex outlet(s) to 15A Industrial or Commercial Grade with side screws. One COULD use a 20A outlet, but ask an electrician if this isn’t overkill given your intended loads.
    Now, drum roll…………
    It looks to me that the Series Mode-based Adcom ACE-615 is the most feature-refined, new (intro’d in 2000) all-in-one package with 8 outlets providing the same proprietary licensing as Brickwall. Reliableaudiovideo.com sells it for $319. HERE
    Here’s the feature list:
    ·3 front panel LEDs labeled Accessories, Amplifiers, Unswitched
    ·2 coax sets for Cabletv and Sat/DSS and 2 tel lines
    ·4 Switched AC outlets w/ 30-sec delay on turn-on
    ·2 Unswitched outlets w/ 10-sec delay on turn-on for amps
    ·Remotely activated and deactivated 12V trigger
    ·EMI/RF noise filtering
    ·Dimensions: 3 ¼in x 17in x 11 1/2in so yes, it’s rack mount type
    ·Shipping wt 15 lbs.
    To please Chu Gai, I add the Adcom claims it meets the highest federal govt 1996 protocol certification (I believe this is termed UL 1449 Adjunct testing) of Grade A Endurance (1000 surges to 6000 volts and 3000 amps per surge); Class 1 Performance (280 volts measured clamping where 330V is the previous standard (lower is better); Mode 1 or no ground circuit shunting. This is said to prevent ground “contamination.”
    There it is. This oughta meet well over 90% of your hopes, go beyond minimal and then some for an unbelievable price for (claimed) non-fail surge protection technology.
    Left anything out? Might be nice to use a small surge protector on the SVS if plugged independently.
    A very sensible look at what a surge protector offers (shut down only in the LOWEST sags and HIGHEST surge/spikes) is offered by this utility company guy in this topic’s original Receivers Forum:
    HERE
    edited for url link
     
  15. Jim_C

    Jim_C Cinematographer

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    Okay, I'm going to take all of this great information and see what setup makes sense for me. I'll check out the Adcom in more detail. It sounds like it could be the answer.

    One last question for now. Do these things put off heat and do I need to provide a lot of ventilation? If it's going in a rack then I'm not going to have much room at all.
     
  16. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    nah, these boxes dont get hot or even very warm. there are no xfmrs inside, just circuit breaker, capacitors and LEDs for the most part.

    I have a multi-outlet 450VA UPS running my computer station and the only thing "warm" is the 12V wall-wart to the DSL modem.
     
  17. Blake R

    Blake R Stunt Coordinator

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    I don't want to over-exercise the expert label but as an electrical engineer who works in commercial building design this discussion makes me batty. I have not read each and every message so I may be redundant. And I'm sure there are other EE's out there who would disagree but here I go. Since about 1993 I have been to a half dozen TVSS seminars given by reps who would of course always claim their product's performance was superior to all others. I've seen everything from wagon wheel MOV arrays to selenium surge suppression plates. A word about MOV's. The metal oxide varistor is and will continue to be the dominant suppression method. They are cheap, durable, and they're turn-on time and device characteristics make them ideal for the application. I have yet to hear of a new device or technology that was worth any where near what a company wanted for it. A MOV is a very low tech device. As far as classes of semiconductors are concerned a MOV is practically a chunk of stone. When I hear people talking about paying $300 and $400 for this stuff it makes me crazy. A dump truck full of MOV's is not worth $300.

    The UL standard 1449 is like all other UL standards. It establishes a level of performance under certain conditions. If you want the UL label on your product then design to those standards. I have mentioned in this newsgroup before FORGET ENERGY DISSIPATION figures they are virtually useless. Clamping level, surge current withstand, and multimode protection are what to look for. I remember years ago they were making cheap TVSS strips with clamping levels as low as 130v. Even a brief line variation like an over voltage could easily turn the MOV(s) on long enough to destroy it. The UL standard is a good one but it's just a starting point. If you provide protection at each level of your distribution system you don't have to buy overpriced crap. In my house I have a $50 intermatic surge suppressor at the load center and inexpensive UL rated, multi-mode TVSS outlet strips at the end of the line. We have plenty of ugly storms here in tornado alley and I've never lost a piece of equipment or an X-10 device. And the X-10 devices have always been egregiously sensitive to even moderate electrical storms. This TVSS stuff is almost as bad as the cable insanity when it comes to the overpriced technology hustle involved.
     
  18. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    Blake,
    This is good stuff and thanks for chiming in. We have been dancing aound the specs you talk about but I’ll bet it’s difficult reading for those just popping in because we are ontheone-handthis-ontheother-handthat.
    A parallel thread on “Panamax 5100/5300” continues this review which ranges from the ~$349 Panamax 5300 to the $60 TrippLite Isobar6 DBS, a UL 1449 device.
    Chu Gai’s link to MOV topology (20mm MOVs) and the Panamax website “technical paper” appear to offer long-term assurances about buying suppressors built with MOVs .
    I advocate a Whole House Surge Suppressor (there are behind the meter and in the breaker box types) as well as point-of-use boxes in front of the electrical path for the gear in the house – for those people who live in storm country, and may have above-ground electric transmission lines. The prudent kind of person may also want whole-house for the rest of the home appliances besides HT.
    “FORGET ENERGY DISSIPATION figures they are virtually useless.” This seems to apply to Joule (surge energy) Ratings offered with MOV-based units (?)
    “Even a brief line variation like an overvoltage could easily turn on MOVs long enough to destroy it.” Just to clarify, I think this means “it’s ok, the MOV caught the overvoltage” rather than “uh-oh, the overvoltage destroyed the MOV(s).”
    "Clamping level, surge current withstand and mulimodal protection are what to look for…"
    Clamping level (the lower the figure the better) is 330V (spike clamping voltage) at the UL 1449 standard. If nothing else, the majority of HT surge protector buyers can look for this label and forget the rest of this tech-babble where we get into UL 1449 Second Edition-Adjunct Testing to Grade A, Class 1, Mode 1 with no failures. “MultiModal” -- I understand this as how the surge/spike is handled in relation to ground, wherein the full spike protection path is: line-to-neutral, neutral-to-ground, line-to-ground.
    “This Transient Voltage Surge Suppression stuff is almost as bad as cable insanity when it comes to the overpriced technology hustle…’
    …it certainly can be. Many will be drawn to TrippLite and Belkin -- old-line commercial manufacturers -- for sensible pricing.
    EDIT: I note on belkin.com for their SurgeMaster series that there is no mention of UL 1449 rating; altho Belkin does claim this in some other products.
    bill
     
  19. Blake R

    Blake R Stunt Coordinator

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    This IS good stuff Bill. I see it is as overanalyzed in the HTF as it is in the consulting profession where I've made my living since 1993. The only story of catastophic failure due to surge I know about personally, comes from another EE who I have worked with for years. His home took a direct lightning strike on the chimney about 15 feet from the service drop to his load center. The damage read like a grocery list. He lost his TV, AV receiver, VCR, CD player, and garage door opener. There are no off the shelf TVSS's available that would have survived such an encounter. Only multi-tiered industrial grade TVSS can do that. For the ultra-paranoid HT people I would recommend the following:

    1. A lightning arrestor at the service entrance.
    2. A good panel protector at the load center
    3. Good quality terminal devices such as TVSS power strips or, if you want to spend the money, hospital grade TVSS receptacles from a device maker like Hubbell or Pass&Seymore

    And if you want any of this stuff to work right make certain your grounding system is tight. If you've got cold water pipe ground, make sure the clamp is tight. If you're ground electrode is a driven rod, make certain the rod's termination to the GEC(Grounding Electrode Conductor) is solid. And make certain that all grounds and neutrals in the load center are tight as well. If you live in southern Florida or tornado alley, move immediately.
     
  20. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Blake...a good read for sure! What're your thoughts on electrolytic grounding devices? Overkill?
     

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