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Boat Tech Guide: Electrical Systems

Electrical Surge Suppressors - current as of February 2009
by Chuck Husick

Virtually anyone who owns a computer is already familiar with the need for an AC surge suppressor. Usually incorporated in an outlet strip or built into the system's uninterruptable power supply, the suppressor protects the costly computer from being damaged by a momentary surge of higher than normal voltage on the power line.

The potential for damage to electrical and electronic equipment on board a boat caused by powerline voltage surges can be greater than for similar equipment used in homes or offices. In addition, damaging voltage surges can also occur on the boat's 12 or 24 volt DC supply. Although the types of AC line voltage surge protectors used ashore may be useful on a boat they are not specifically designed to function in the often harsh marine environment. In addition, these line current rated devices cannot protect equipment connected to the boat's low voltage DC power system.

Charles Marine offers special marine rated, 12 or 24 volt DC or 120 / 240 volt AC, Underwriter's Laboratory approved surge suppressors specifically designed for use on boats. The devices contain Metal Oxide Varistors, solid state, voltage sensitive switches that react to a voltage surge in a fraction of a millionth of a second, short circuiting the input circuit, protecting the connected power consumers from damage. The operational readiness of these surge protectors is monitored and indicated by front panel indicator lamps. These high quality surge protectors are not cheap, except when compared with the value of the computers, entertainment systems and other electronics commonly installed on today's boats and yachts.

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