Are These Unseen Problems Slowly Killing Your A/V Equipment?

Projector bulbs failing earlier than normal could be a sign that your client’s home has power anomalies that require surge suppression. Where do MOV, UPS and other technologies fit in?

Dave D’Agostino

Getting a new piece of equipment or device is exciting. When a component is fresh out of the box and you peel off that protective plastic sheet in satisfaction, the device usually works perfectly, giving a great experience without any issues.

However, this shiny-and-new phase doesn’t last forever; and as time goes on, an integrator might start to make excuses for the equipment’s performance as it starts to act up.

While it’s possible the root cause could be a defective unit or improper installation, it’s more likely that unseen power anomalies in your client’s home are quietly compromising the equipment. Although you may be unable to physically see power issues, they happen often and proper protection is required.

When we think about power anomalies, an image of a lightning bolt usually comes to mind. While this act of nature is still an important threat to protect against, the following are far more common:

  • Low-level surges
  • Spikes
  • Electromagnetic interference (EMI)
  • Radio frequency interference noise (RFI)
  • Sags
  • Swells

These account for 80 percent of power-related incidents and can disrupt, degrade, damage, and shut down equipment. These low-level disturbances are estimated to occur between 50 and 60 times per month.

“Essentially, without the proper protection, degradation effects caused by unseen power anomalies can haunt a piece of equipment, leading to continuous malfunction.”

— Dave D’Agostino, Ametek

As these constant power anomalies bombard the equipment, they can cause them to malfunction and lead to unnecessary repair or replacement. Aside from disruption in performance or the need for repair, the equipment’s lifespan is shortened by these power events.

In other words, repeated exposure can cause devices that should last ten years to potentially only last three or four before requiring maintenance. If poor power quality is the root cause, replacing the unit only means the same ordeal could be repeated. 

For example, a projector bulb could fail earlier than it was expected to, causing the user to think that there’s a fault with the projector. If it repeatedly fails early in its life cycle, power issues could be causing long-term degradation in the device that affects its performance and lifecycle.

Essentially, without the proper protection, degradation effects caused by unseen power anomalies can haunt a piece of equipment, leading to continuous malfunction — even if it has already been replaced. This can affect a dealer’s reputation and cause the customer to have a negative experience.

Fortunately, there are several methods of protecting equipment against these power anomalies. UPS (uninterruptable power source) typically come to mind, and are a seemingly simple solution to protect equipment by providing enough power to ensure proper shutdown during a power outage or brownout.

However, a UPS only provides a temporary fix and if no one is present at the time of the outage, the battery will eventually die and the device can be subject to damage due to improper shut down.

At the core, a UPS is only a baby step towards proper power protection. The metal oxide varistor (MOV) technology found in most UPS solutions is a sacrificial technology with a limited lifespan of its own; and as such, there is no way for the user to tell when its life has ended, which leaves devices vulnerable to damaging surge affects.

Suppress & Eliminate Surges

True protection equipment needs to be able to suppress, or better yet, eliminate surges, but also safeguard equipment from power anomalies to keep it up-and-running longer. Adequate surge protection should rely on more than batteries and MOVs to provide both dealers and end users with true piece of mind.

When discussing power protection and management for connected devices, you should always ask the question: “Is it sacrificial protection or is it non-sacrificial?”

It’s important to ask because solutions relying on MOV technology are sacrificial in nature and handle surge energy by diverting the bulk of it from the hot to the neutral and ground. Contamination of the ground and neutral wires can lead to further complications including distorted images, humming, buzzing, and noise interference in audio/video systems.

Non-sacrificial protection has an unlimited lifespan and can be continuously struck by surge energy without fear of degradation.

As an example, Advanced Series Mode products are capable of eliminating surge energy up to 6,000 volts while providing clean power to connected devices without exposing equipment to damaging in-rush, “let-through” energy, or ground contamination.

This non-sacrificial solution safeguards connected equipment from the damaging effects of surge energy and ground contamination to ensure equipment functions at top performance levels for the full lifetime of the product.

Proper protection can give dealers, as well as their customers, the piece of mind that their valuable equipment will continue to provide “fresh-out-of-the-box” performance without falling victim to degradation from unseen forces. 

Dave D’Agostino is director, sales for AMETEK Electronic Systems Protection.

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