Effects of surge voltages

More often than not, surge voltages which couple into a circuit cause considerable damage to equipment and devices. Devices that are in constant use are at particularly high risk. Here this damage can result in extremely high costs.

It is not only the replacement or repair of damaged devices that costs money. Even more expensive are long system downtimes or even the loss of software or data.

Incidence of loss

Incidence of loss caused by surge voltages (source: GDV/2013)  

Incidence of loss caused by surge voltages (source: GDV/2013)

Every year, the statistics of insurers show high figures for the incidence of loss caused by surge voltages. In the majority of cases, operators of electronic systems are compensated by their insurance for damage to the hardware. However, software damage and system failure frequently remain uninsured leading to great financial burdens.

According to statistics from German insurers for 2013, 57.9% of claims for building fire insurance related to damage caused by surge voltages. Damage caused by lightning represented 10.5%. 31.6% was attributed to other damage (source: GDV - German Insurance Association).

Risk potential

Damage caused by surge voltages on an electronic component  

Damage caused by surge voltages on an electronic component

Each circuit works with its own specific voltage. Therefore any voltage increase that exceeds the upper tolerance limit is a surge voltage.

The extent of the damage depends largely on the electric strength of the components used and the energy that can be converted in the affected circuit.

Effective protection according to the protective circuit principle

Representation of the protective circuit principle  

Representation of the protective circuit principle

The protective circuit principle describes a concept for complete protection against surge voltages. An imaginary circle should be drawn around the item to be protected. Surge protective devices should be installed at all points where cables intersect this circle. The nominal data of the relevant circuit should be taken into consideration when selecting the protective devices. The area within the protective circuit is therefore protected in such a way that conducted surge voltage couplings are prevented.

The protective circuit concept can be broken down into the following areas:

  • Power supply
  • Measurement and control technology
  • Information technology
  • Transceiver systems

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