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Power Surge vs Spike

Posted on 2002-04-09
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Last Modified: 2008-01-09
How to verify that a internal modem card was destroyed by a power surge and not a power spike, for warranty claim purposes.
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Question by:hhheng
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Wakeup earned 50 total points
ID: 6930363
Q.: What's the difference between a power spike and a power surge?
A.: A power spike is a very short burst of high voltage lasting just a fraction of a second; a power surge is a longer burst of high voltage. Because these events occur so quickly - often with no apparent interruption of power service - their damaging effects tend to be cumulative rather than immediate.

Power spike A sudden increase of power that lasts less than a millionth of a second.

Power surge A sudden increase of power that can last several seconds.


Here are some examples of the differences.  It may not be very easy to tell which is which.  But here is what I have found.

http://www.cowlitzpud.org/Surge%20Protectors.htm
http://www.electrosafe.co.nz/power2.htm
http://www.hometoys.com/htinews/dec98/articles/apc/apc.htm

So from the looks and sounds of it, it may be do to a power spike.  But not real definite way to tell.  Surges last longer than spikes...so if it was a surge it is possible that more damage could have been done.  But depends also on the hardware you have....if you have a surge suppressor or spike suppressor etc.  If you have a surge suppressor and it failed to protect some of your equipment like your modem because it was either not quick enough orrrrrr....the power surge/spike went through the phone lines then it would be a different matter....unless you had a supressor that covered your phone lines as well.
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Expert Comment

by:rid
ID: 6930704
Sounds improbable to me that an internal modem should succumb to either event. Computer PSU normally executes some kind of regulation. Other components (memory, video card) seem more fragile. Not that it's impossible of course. Overvoltage on line in seems a more reasonable cause for damage. That would be a "spike" probably, caused by lightning or other violent electrical event, rather than a "surge", since it is hard to imagine a damaging surge in such a system (if we agree on a surge being some sort of prolonged overvoltage).

Regards
/RID
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Author Comment

by:hhheng
ID: 6930791
Weblink on power surge & spike are good reading materials. I now understand better, though it's a litte too late. I slept through a thunderstorm and the next morning, my modem couldn't make a dial tone. So I have to purchase another modem card. Since warranty for modem covers only power surge, I guess power spike make a hole on my pocket as well. Better buy a surge/spike supressor to prevent any more damage.

Thanks Wakeup and RID

Cheers..
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Expert Comment

by:Wakeup
ID: 6930820
no prob rid.  I have seen that happen before with a couple clients in the past.  Even with surge/spike supressors, modems fry because they are hooked into the fone line.  If a fone pole gets zapped with electricity it Can/May/could/would cause problems.  So if you get a surge/spike supressor make sure it has ones capable of protecting the fone line.
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Expert Comment

by:rid
ID: 6930875
Additional:
Many devices intended for phone line connection have a spike protection circuitry at the input point, consisting of two small resistors and an overvoltage breakdown device. A spike will cause a breakdown/shortcircuit and the resistors will fry, all according to plan. If you're lucky these resistors are "big" enough to see and unsolder/replace. This has helped me on a few occasions.

Cheers
/RID
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Author Comment

by:hhheng
ID: 6931704
Thanks for the added comments.

Cheers again...
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