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Product Highlights : What's the Best Way to Protect Expensive Pool Equipment From Power Surges?

Pool & Spa, Surge Protection

What's the Best Way to Protect Expensive Pool Equipment From Power Surges?

Hint: Not with GFCI

Pool surge protection

You may not know it but power surges are unavoidable and frequent. They can damage your expensive new pool equipment and, contrary to popular belief, cannot be controlled with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s.) 

An informal survey of pool owners revealed a common misconception in regards to the protection of electrical equipment relied on for pool fun and relaxation. Despite the advanced (and expensive) technology used in pool and spa equipment design, many pool owners think ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles or breakers installed in the electrical panel provide sufficient protection from surges. However, GFCIs do not protect against power surges as commonly believed. 

A power surge (sometimes referred to as an electrical surge or voltage spike) is a sudden increase in current in an electrical circuit. Usually lasting only a matter of microseconds, this boost can spread throughout an entire electrical system, causing damage to connected appliances and devices, as well as to hard-wired systems. 

Though commonly associated with thunderstorms and weather conditions, electrical surges are triggered in many different ways and can occur in an instant. 60% to 80% of surges are created just by the normal operation of high-powered electrical devices switching on and off. Examples of home appliances and equipment that can cause switching surges are air conditioners, heat pumps, electric clothes dryers and refrigerators. 

Whether from a high-impact instance or through repeated, low-level surges, these voltage spikes are the silent killers responsible for degrading and eroding components in valuable electronic equipment. 

Another source of power surges is lightning. Although lightning is the least common cause of power surges, lightning’s behavior is random and unpredictable. Direct lightning strikes can cause instantaneous damage, sometimes frying circuits and melting plastic parts. Since swimming pools are connected to a much larger surface area via underground water pipes, gas lines, electric and telephone wiring, etc., indirect lightning strikes can have a far-reaching effect, but are less dramatic. 

So how can expensive pool and spa equipment be protected against failure from power surges? Whereas a GFCI is designed to shut down power to an electrical circuit when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water, a surge protective device (SPD) is specifically designed to protect electrical systems by absorbing the surge spike and diverting or suppressing it before it can travel further. This prevents overheating or other damage to electrical equipment. 

A surge protective device can be installed on the pool’s electrical supply panel or spa disconnect to protect electrical equipment from surges, including: 

  • Gas and electric high-efficiency heaters
  • Single and variable speed pool pumps 
  • Pool automation systems
  • Water feature pumps
  • Chlorinators
  • Suction cleaners
  • Stereo and speaker systems
  • Flat screen televisions
  • Portable hot tubs

With a typical installation time of 10 minutes onto a pool sub-panel, junction box or spa disconnect, adding an SPD is an inexpensive and convenient “insurance policy” for the pool and spa owner. Intermatic offers the PS3000 Surge Protective Device which includes a 3-year, $7,500 connected equipment warranty. This device uses state-of-the-art Thermally Protected Metal Oxide Varistor (TPMOV®) surge protection technology to eliminate the potentially hazardous failure modes commonly associated with standard MOV technology. A green LED indicator light is constantly lit while the unit is in operation. When the LED light is OFF, the homeowner will know the device needs to be replaced to ensure ongoing protection.

The PS3000 Surge Protective Device is a simple and cost-effective investment that helps contribute to non-stop pool season fun.

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