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Isolation is Your Best Investment



Electrical transients damages expensive M2M networking devices every day. Lightning strikes alone are responsible for $4 billion to $5 billion in damages each year and that’s just in the United States. This video will describe some of the ways in which surge suppressors and isolators can protect your equipment investments and help you avoid downtime.

Transcript for Connectivity College: Isolation is Your Best Investment Video

Hi I'm Paul Frisbie. I'm here to talk to you about isolation and surge suppression and how they can protect your equipment against damage and down time caused by high voltage transient events.
 
Transients can be caused by anything from transmission line surges, to wiring errors, to ground loops, or even mother nature.
 
Let's start with mother nature.
 
NASA's national severe storms laboratory reports that there are about 138 million lightning strikes per year. That's 4.38 every second. For those of you who can never resist saying, hey what about leap years, I have that number too... it's 4.37 strikes every second so simmer down. 
 
The National Safety Institute estimates that these lightning strikes cost companies and individuals between 4 and 5 billion dollars every year in damaged equipment alone, never mind the cost of downtime and the man hours that have to be invested for repair and reconfiguration. 
 
Here's how it happens. When a surge of current is released in the ground by a lightning strike or something similar like a downed power line, the energy spreads out like a wave. The ground potential at the release point could be hundreds of volts higher than it'll be even a few hundred feet away. As the current moves through the ground, it tries to find a way to equalize. And it will naturally follow the path of least resistance. If your building is nearby, it'll be connected to the ground via grounding wires, cables, and other access points. These wires provide an exponentially easier path for the high voltage to travel across as it attempts to equalize. The result can be large amounts of current entering the building at multiple entry points. 
 
Transient voltage, surges, and ground loops have two primary paths they can follow, the data lines and the power supply lines, both need to be protected. 
 
You have several potential lines of defense. The first is surge suppression. A surge suppressor attempts to limit the voltage supply to a device by either blocking or by shorting the ground, any unwanted voltages above a certain safe threshold. Imagine a large dam stopping a big surge of water and then slowly letting it out through the spillway and you'll have a general picture.
 
A heavy-duty DIN rail or cabinet mount surge suppressor serves as an excellent first line of defense. You can get them with surge protection ratings of up to 39 kilo-amps and less than 1 nanosecond response time. And, depending upon the device, they'l protect serial, Ethernet,or USB lines. 
 
But what happens when the wave is higher than the dam? Now it's time for isolation. You get some isolation from the transformers inside your various pieces of  equipment, but only within their designed frequency ranges. When they encounter high surge levels, they'll start heating up and burning out. Now the transformers can't protect lines that carry digital signals like the ones used in serial communications. Unmodulated digital data requires wide range frequencies and so transformers aren't helpful.
 
To protect your data lines and attached devices, you need a dedicated isolator. Isolators convert the data signal to either a beam of light or a magnetic field and then back to an electrical signal again. The data is able to cross the isolation barrier but the transients and surges can't. There's no physical connection there, no actual piece of wire to carry the transient to the other side.
 
Ideally, the isolator should isolate each of the data ports as well as the power supply. Internal circuitry should be strictly separated with no electrical connections between any two ports on the board. This kind of isolation represents some of the highest protection you can get. It cuts off all available pathways for transient surges and ground loops. 
 
Deciding where to put surge protection and where to put isolation and learning how to properly install the right equipment can be complicated. But you can get free tech support and advice from B&B Electronics, Monday through Friday. And our application engineers are always happy to help.
 
Thanks for watching.