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Location: Power Disruptions Defined

Lags, Sags, Spikes, and Transients; Electrical Disruptions Defined

Electrical Problems - Lags, Sags, Surges, Spikes and Transients

Electricity is most easily viewed as the wave it produces. A clean, stable alternating current sine wave would look like this at 115VAC at 60hz, typically the 120 volts at your wall outlet in the United States.
However, there are a number of ways the real world affects this perfect wave. Each has a name, a resulting wave pattern, and is damaging to your sensitive equipment.
Voltage Sag
Voltage Sags are usually short-term fluctuations and are also referred to as "brownouts" or lags. Voltage sags can be locally caused by the starting of heavy motors and other inductive load equipment, utility circuits next to your own failing, amperage increase on wires leading to voltage drop, and other local regional inductive loads.

Voltage Surge
Also typically short-term in nature, are less common than voltage sags, but have the potential to be more damaging to sensitive electronic equipment. They can be caused by utility problems the sudden reduction of amperage through wire resulting in higher wattage, or as heavy motors and inductive loads are switched off. The quality of your inverter and the resulting reaction time will dictate the longevity of this state in a DC-AC system. In a strictly AC setup, line conditioners, and voltage regulators are used to tame this problem. A typical surge suppressor is ineffective against these since the common "clamping voltage" for these devices is usually outside the range of the infraction. Below the device's "clamping voltage" the device does "See" the spike and will not respond even though the voltage level may be high enough to cause equipment damage.

Line Noise
Noise is a catch word sometimes used to describe very small and persistent disturbances. These do not have damaging effects but can be a nuisance as it creates a noise in sensitive sound systems. Sparking or arcing across power-line related hardware causes virtually all power-line noise that originates from utility equipment. A breakdown and ionization of air occurs, which results in a current flow between the two conductors on either side of the gap. The FCC stops requires all utilites to cease operating the device once it is found. Line conditioners are used to fix the problem.

Voltage Spikes & Transients
The duration of these events is typically measured in milliseconds and is normally a result of utility grid power and lightning strikes to power lines, or the switching of heavy loads on the utility grid. The problem with spikes and transients is they can reach voltage levels up to several thousands of volts. These shocks therefore can be very damaging to equipment. Voltage regulators, line conditioners, and uninterruptible power supplies are the best protectors against these. As a more economical insurance, surge suppressors can limit the amplitude, and thereby the risk of damage.


Click here for how to build a Large, Scalable Uninterruptable Power Supply
Most of today's sensitive electronics, basically all those computers and flatscreen televisions distributed in the United States, like clean power and a battery backup to facilitate uninterruptable power. This idea can be scaled up to a single circuit, an apartment, an office, or a residential metroplex. To have the cleanest power, and safeguard your electronics you should really be filtering and backing up your own power. The easiest way to do this is to use a battery, charger, and an inverter, all the parts inside a uninterruptable power supply. By building your own, you control the storage capacity of the battery bank.

By transforming energy from AC to DC and back through a quality charger, battery, and inverter system you have built a system to eliminate sags (power in batteries act like capacitors), eliminate surges (quality inverter is used to it), eliminate noise (you are in control of the tight connections, not the utility), and eliminate spikes and transients (you know when you are hit by lightning).

DIY, Upgrade an Old UPS with More Battery Power
Click here for how to build a Large, Scalable Uninterruptable Power Supply
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