There are a total of eight outlets. Two are always on and the remaining six are connected to the on/off switch. The outlets are isolated by duplex to help prevent the cross talk between digital and analog components. To get all eight receptacles in a small space they did not include extra room for wall wart style plugs. If you plan on using all eight then you will have to use equipment with standard plugs or use another extension cord to accommodate your transformer style plugs.

When plugged in the PW8R15AUD operates silently and generates virtually no heat. It's the type of device you can hook up once and simply forget about. We like that.

In use the BrickWall does not protect against surges that might come through the telephone or TV cable. To protect against these type of surges you can purchase coax type surge suppressors from Radio Shack for about $5. When coax surge protectors fail they no longer pass a signal. The white noise on your television screen tells you it's time to install a new one.

With today's high-end plasma TV's and surround sound systems the investment in equipment can be substantial. It only makes sense to spend a few extra bucks on a surge suppressor that can provide true protection you can count on. The BrickWall PW8R15AUD is designed to do just that. Now it's time for that little tutorial we told you about.

Surge Protector Basics:
When someone asks you 'why do you need a surge protector' the first reason that pops into your head is 'to protect against lightning'. What's ironic is that there is almost nothing that can protect against a direct lightning strike. What you should be worried about is the air conditioner, washing machine or any other large appliance in your home. Starting and stopping these power hungry modern conveniences can cause power surges that hurt your delicate electronic equipment.

To protect yourself from surges you should get a surge protector. Surge protectors range in price from $5 to $150 and up. Is there a real difference between a $5 surge protector you can pick up at the local drug store and ones costing over $100' Are you really that much more protected by an expensive surge protector than a basic one' Well, when it comes to surge protectors what you don't know can hurt you (well maybe not you but certainly your equipment).

There are only two technologies widely available for surge/spike protection. Once you understand the differences between them, the decision about which technology to buy is trivially easy. Most surge suppressor today are based on Metal Oxide Varistors (MOV). The MOVs job is to shunt excess voltage to ground thereby keeping the voltage difference between hot and ground below a maximum voltage, typically 330 volts. The figures below show the Oscilloscope Traces for two popular surge protectors.

Every time a MOV shuts a spike to ground it gives up some of its life. MOVs are designed to be a consumable device. Over time they will all fail. All MOV based surge protectors have a Joule rating. This is the amount of energy the surge protector will shunt to ground before it fails.

After a MOV fails the surge protector will continue to provide power, however it will no longer provide any protection. To alert users when the MOVs have failed, manufactures have put a 'Protected' light on their surge protectors. When these no longer illuminate you are supposed to return the surge protector back to the manufacture for a replacement under their 'Lifetime Warrantee'. When was the last time you checked your surge suppressor' If you're like me, it sits in a cabinet or tucked against a wall. Out of site, out of mind.

Another problem with MOV based surge suppressor is because they shunt surges to ground they contaminate all circuits that share the same ground. This can cause data errors in networked equipment and unwanted noise in audio equipment. All MOVs have a finite clamping speed. This means some of the surge gets through before the rest is shunted to ground. Your 'protected' equipment takes a constant series of mini-spikes. Nothing you'll notice, or to invoke the equipment replacement warranty, but not good for delicate circuits either.

What about the $500,00.00 (choose your value) replacement guarantee' If you read the guarantee carefully that are some big caveats. First, the surge protector's guarantee is secondary to any other insurance policies. Which means you must first file a claim with your homeowners policy, if you have one, and the guarantee only covers what the homeowners policy does not. Secondly, you must have all of the original receipts before you can make a claim. On some guarantees you must register the equipment before it is protected. This doesn't sound like a guarantee to me.

Realizing the limitations of MOV based surge protectors it becomes quite clear that Series Mode surge suppressors are the way to go. This technology was originally created for the Department of Defense and it should be your first line of defense to protect your electronic components..

-- Dave Graesser

Dave creates IT infrastructure for the Fortune 100 and is a funkyfresh contributor.

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