Surge Protectors – MRO Electric


The under evaluating of surge protectors is not something that is exclusive to the world of industrial automation.  People tend to buy them for their multiple outlet utility overlooking their actual value.  However, surge protectors play a very pivotal role in the function and protection of our devices.  Often their importance goes unrecognized until of course disaster strikes.  In the world of industrial automation, the importance of surge protectors is just as important yet overlooked as ever.

The History of Surge Protectors

The history of surge protectors in industrial automation is a testament to human ingenuity and the necessity of protecting increasingly sophisticated machinery from electrical disturbances. The early years of industrial automation were marked by the adoption of electrical control systems, which brought about greater efficiency and precision in manufacturing. However, this transition also exposed equipment to the risks associated with electrical surges and spikes. In the mid-20th century, engineers and innovators in industrial automation recognized the need for specialized protection mechanisms.

During this period, surge protectors in industrial automation were relatively simple compared to their modern counterparts. They typically featured devices like spark gaps and surge arrestors that could divert excessive voltage away from sensitive equipment. While these early surge protection methods were effective to a certain extent, they lacked the precision and efficiency required to meet the increasingly demanding needs of industrial automation.

The Role of Surge Protectors

Surge protectors, also known as surge suppressors or transient voltage suppressors, act as the first line of defense against electrical disturbances. As their primary function, they divert excess voltage away from sensitive equipment. Doing so ensures that it remains within safe operating limits. They are comprised of specialized components such as metal oxide varistors (MOVs) or gas discharge tube. These components absorb and dissipate excess voltage. When a surge occurs, these conductive components direct the excess energy safely to ground. This prevents the surge from reaching connected devices.

Surge protectors are designed to react swiftly to voltage spikes. Often this in in a matter of nanoseconds. This rapid response time is crucial in preventing damage to sensitive electronics.

Surge protectors are available in various configurations. They offer multiple levels of protection. To protect the entire facility they can be installed at the service entrance at the distribution panel level, or at individual device level.

How to Choose the Right Surge Protector

Choosing the right surge protection solution for industrial automation requires consideration of several factors. It’s important to ensure that the voltage rating on the surge protector matches the level of the equipment it’s intended to protect. In addition to checking the voltage rating, having the appropriate current rating is also important. A surge protector should be able to handle the maximum current that could flow through it during a surge event. With surge protectors, a fast response time is crucial to minimizing exposure duration to voltage spikes. Surge protectors that have nanosecond response times are the best.

Placement of surge protectors is also vital. When choosing the location for surge protectors, a layered approach is often recommended. Usually these locations include at the entrance, the distribution panels, and at the devices themselves. Consider that an industrial enviornment is especially hard on equipment when choosing a surge protector. Making sure a surge protector that is durable will ensure long lasting protection of your equipment. Lastly the maintenance and monitoring of surge protectors is very crucial to the overall security of your equipment. When choosing a surge protector, consider investing in equipment that can alert the user if anything is malfunctioning.


Surge protectors may not be the flashy stars of industrial automation, but they ensure the reliability and longevity of critical equipment. In a world where downtime can cost thousands of dollars per minute, investing in surge protection is a necessity. By selecting the right surge protection solution and implementing a comprehensive strategy, industrial facilities can minimize the risks posed by electrical disturbances and continue to operate efficiently and profitably.

Updated on October 12, 2023 by Ken Cheng

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