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Power conditioning

4849 Views 21 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  lcaillo
There is lot's of hype and mis-information out there on 'surge suppressors' and 'power conditioners'. The truth is that most power conditioners that offer surge protection use MOV's in shunt to ground or neutral to direct the 'surge' of power away from the line. The problem with this approach is that this just puts dangerous voltage spikes on your ground and neutral conductors and can still cause equipment damage. Also, most MOV's only work once (if it's a big spike) then they're popped.

There of seveal methods to get around this problem.. Use an "on-line" UPS system where your power is not directly connected to the grid but rather constantly being re-generated via some kind of storage system (usually batteries and capacitors) and power inverter.. These systems are very expensive, and a big surge can still take out the generation side of the system.

Series-mode protection offers superior protection. Series-mode units employ a large torridial choke or inductor in series with the line conductor which will absorb the majority of excess voltage and then dissipates the excess energy into a load. The side benefit to series mode protection is that the huge choke required to absorb the transients also filters the AC better than anything I've encountered. (see my blog: http://adventuresinmodioland.blogspot.com/2010/03/power-conditioners-and-hype.html)

There is one company out there that holds the patent to this technology and I think you all should know about this type of suppression since we're trying to protect our equipment, which for some is their livlihood. I have no vested interest in this company and am only endorsing this product because it is the only one out there that really does the job. (see their liturature on this: http://www.surgex.com/library/10001_WhatisTrueSeriesMode.html)
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This is a great post. I suspect a lot of people look away from these devices, simply because (of course), we'd all rather have another piece of gear such as effects, compression, software, mics - almost anything rather than blowing money on a "boring" power backup system.

I work with a lot of clients (paying ones), and we do have power surges every now and then. What I discovered a few years back is that if your hard drive is in the process of writing to the disk when the power drops out, the risk of the needle gouging the hard drive is high, destroying much data. And if it happens to do so near the FAT sector, you could lose everything! I worked for a large company that had set up offices in a new area without backup. There was new construction going on in the building and we were losing power 2-3 times per day. And we went through about 8-10 hard drives per month!

My first piece of battery back-up was from APC - the "Back-UPS" models. I don't remember them having much competition in the late 1990's. Since then, I found some better prices on other brands. Anyway, I don't dare turn on the power switch for a session without one in line - my rear-end has been saved many times by the one I have!
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How are these Triplite isobars? I have 4 of them or similar in use at home. Are these really as good as I thought. Makes me wonder if spending the money on a decent APC battery backup wold be in the end much better. I just always thought that the APC units (unless you spent hundreds) were no better and in some cases worse.
The product I've suggested (Surgex) is not a UPS, just a surge suppressor - but the very best. What we've done in some installations is plug the UPS into the Surgex, which is a virtually bulletproof combo.

I've seen UPS backup systems blown-up from a power surge, the MOV's inside did a good job of diverting all that voltage and current to the neutral which took out the UPS and everything plugged into it.

Most power stips and even some 'pro' rack-mount 'power conditioners' just use a bunch of MOV's and some RFI filtering. I'm sure some are better than others, and lot's have fancy displays for current and voltage, etc. Some even shut down in an over-voltage situation, but no other power conditioner on the market uses the Series Mode surge suppression. Look at the link that I posted previoulsy to get the full picture.

Plug your favorite power-strip / distribution / UPS into one and protect everything!
I think that the Tripplite ISO-BAR uses similar technology. Looks pretty good.
But the Tripp-Lite still uses MOV's which are a problem.. again, read the white paper on Surgex's website.


There is also an interesting article about AV system power conditioning and grounding:
So whats the verdict on the furman units then? I see them everywhere.
Good info this :T

There is another discussion going on about power conditioning in the home studio forum, so I thought I'd cross reference the two posts for anyone interested.....the other thread is here:

I have a Furman unit on my bench. It's about 10 years old and I've been through it to see what it's got. It has a handy voltage and current meter on the front panel and a circuit that will shut everything off if there is an over-voltage or over-current condition but I have no idea how it handles transient surges.. it also uses the dreaded MOV's.
I like to use Furman units for sensitive gear, mostly because they have a voltage indicator LED strip which can pinpoint or eliminate power from any issues encountered.

I use UPSs for any computer, hard drive or recording equipment that might damage media from power transients or brownouts/outtages. I have a UPS built into my recording racks because they record multitrack to PATA hard drives -I have sat in my FOH tent with nothing but the glow from my recording racks at festivals where aux gear has tripped generator supplies :)
This brings up a question in my head about regulated and balanced [Furman] power supply. If it is regulated and balanced, isn't this good, since the neutral is isolated from ground and also there is less noise pumped onto the line from voltage regulators, since the variation of line voltage into the voltage regulator in a piece of equipment has to go somewhere?
Another question to add to the one above ^^ Can a person replace MOVs without to much trouble? I have an Triplite isobar thats about 15 years old now and I know that something is not right with it as its noisy and makes clicking sounds in my system is being used.
What we've done in some installations is plug the UPS into the Surgex, which is a virtually bulletproof combo.
Ha! Interesting point. Where can you buy those Sergex pieces? Is it online or in store?

Kirill :T
Surgex is a commercial product usually purchased through distribution, though it may be available retail at some outlets. Markertek sells Surgex online: http://www.markertek.com/SurgeX.xhtml
Here's the Canadian distributor - they may be able to tell you which dealer in your area carries Surgex.

Erikson Audio - 800-667-3745

21000 TransCanada Highway
Baie D'Urfé
Quebec, Canada, H9X 4B7
Toll free: 800-667-3745
514-457-0055- fax
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Thanks man! I'll check it out most definitely!

Kirill :T
Would a home theater need a UPS (like the APC) as well as a Surgex? Or would the Surgex take care of protection and cleaning-up the power?
Wow, it's been a while since I've posted here..

Yes, the Surgex consumer grade stuff is designed for home theater and stereo systems and is every bit as good as the commercial stuff, just more expensive!

The Surgex filters out noise to a greater degree than anything else I've tried and will kill any spike coming over the AC, but it is not a UPS. They do sell a unit that combines UPS and surge suppression (as well as EMI, RFI suppression) in one box.

I saved money and purchased the SA-15 commercial unit and plugged all my power strips into it (it has one duplex). They sell units that have multiple outlets and rack mount versions, and the comsumer (home theater) grade units have fancy faceplates and light and cost more.:spend:

Pick you poison! I still love mine - you can hear the difference it makes in cleaning up grunge on the AC. :T
I've never considered the Furman and others like it anything more than a power strip that rack mounts and looks nice. I can turn on the whole rack with one switch. Sometime they even have pull out dim-able lights for the front of your rack. I probably have 10 of these scattered around on different guitar and PA racks. On my guitar amps and PA rack in the studio I also have a 12 AMP and a 16 Amp OneAC power conditioners. These originally were used for the first large high speed copiers that were very sensitive to power fluctuation. Worked in a quick printing shop in the early eighties and when they were replaced I grabbed them. They weigh about 95 lbs. each and I'm not sure how much good they are doing but it makes me feel better so I leave them inline. Any one know of these. They have a huge coil and 4 very large caps each. I'm not kidding about the weight.

I did have a lightning strike about 15 years ago that fried a bunch of gear. Having good homeowners insurance made my year. Couldn't believe how much new gear I received after the inital panic seeing cap blown completely of circuit boards. Still have most of it today. I don't think anything would of stopped the massive surge from the lightning.:yikes:
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Basic surge protection with proper installation and good system grounding can protect quite well. We are in one of the highest lightning areas in the country (many times more frequent than most other areas) and have seen many systems damaged. The dealer that I provided service for a decade, however, had an amazingly low incidence of damage on his customer's systems. They were diligent about installing them correctly and using basic, good quality surge suppressors. I do not recall ever seeing damage on a properly installed system. Every time that I did see damage, something was not connected properly or not grounded properly. Even in some very serious lightning strikes, protected equipment suffered no damage.
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