Getting Power Right in Your Smart Home
On the BRAVAS Luxury Living Podcast, we were recently joined by Jimmy Paschke, Sales Manager at SurgeX Residential. We discussed many issues around getting the power systems right for your luxury smart home. You can listen to the podcast here. A couple of the ideas we discussed may be worth a deeper dive - Surge Protection and Power Conditioning.
For most of us, the idea of our home being hit by something like lightning seems a very far off risk to worry about. According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, while the odds of you being hit by lightning are 1 in 280,000, the odds of your home being hit are 1 in 200. That may be higher than you thought. Given that, a surge protector can be a very inexpensive precaution to save expensive devices from sudden and random power spikes in current. It is also important to remember that power surges don't just come from what you do in your home; they can come from phone and cable TV lines as well.
For many of us, there is a hope that the fuses in our power strips can solve this problem. Yet there is a huge difference between the protection you get from a surge protector, also called surge suppressors, and a power strip. While some of these do have a circuit breaker (on/off switch) of some sort, few offer any real "protection."
While surge protectors can be relatively cheap too, unlike power strips, they offer some level of protection against power spikes, although how much depends on how much you want to spend. Of course, if you are powering your $100,000 two-channel hi-fi music system, you might want to spend a little more than if it's just protecting your TV.
It might be worth noting that some surge protectors do have a warranty on them. There have been reports of a warranty that says, "If your electronic equipment is damaged by a surge, spike, or lightning strike while properly connected to this power strip, we will repair or replace it, up to $300,000."
Finally, it is worth remembering that these protectors are active and always have current running through them. That means they do not last forever. It's hard to give advice as to how long they last, but if the device is important and you have had the surge protectors for a 'few years', it might be time for a change.
While surge protectors may be a great defense against damaging voltage spikes if you really have a $100,000 audio system, it might not be enough. There are other sources of power problems like Radio frequency interference (RFI), electromagnetic interference (EMI), and voltage fluctuations that can also affect sound, entertainment, and office devices, causing a reduction in sound and picture quality.
As Mr. Electric points out: “A power conditioner can act as a buffer between the outlet and your system, smoothing out voltage fluctuations as well as radio and electromagnetic interference that can affect system performance. Initially used in industrial research and laboratory applications, not long after the introduction of home computer systems, the usefulness of surge protection, uninterruptible power supplies, and (later) power conditioners were brought to light, as were the advantages of their use with other home electronics, such as entertainment and sound equipment.”
This level of protection can be more expensive than just putting surge protectors in place. There tend to be three different types of conditioners:
- Passive-type filters - the cheapest type - shunt high-frequency noise components away through a capacitor to ground. These offer very basic noise-reduction capabilities.
- Balanced transformer – more expensive than passive-type - they are also larger, heavier, and noisier, and offer limited power delivery due to the damping effect of the balancing transformer.
- AC regenerative types - these high-end conditioners use automatic voltage stabilization circuitry with a microprocessor-controlled variable transformer, delivering full, completely new AC voltage to your entertainment system regardless of fluctuations or surges, and is nearly noise-free.
Making a decision on power conditioning is mostly based on what you are trying to protect and how much you want to insure it!
A friend in need
If you feel this is all too complicated, give the Luxury Living Podcast a listen – it might help. If not, why not give your local BRAVAS team a call? When we work on new homes, we often include these capabilities, but if you want to retrofit your home, we can help too.