Power surges happen when there is a boost in the electrical charge at some place in the power lines. This causes the potential electrical energy to increase, which can overflow the current going to your outlet. Many different things can cause this to happen.
The most well known occurrance is most likely lightning, although it is in actuality the least common occurance. When lightning strikes close to a power line, whether it is below ground, in a building or along poles, the electrical energy can increase electrical pressure by millions of volts. This causes a large power surge that will short almost any surge protector. In a lightning storm, it is not a good idea to rely on your surge protector to save your computer. It is better to unplug your computer.
A more common occurance of a power surge happens in high-power electrical devices, such as elevators, air conditioners and refrigerators. This high-powered equipment requires a ton of energy to switch on and off components like compressors and motors. This consequently creates sudden, short demands for power, which upset the steady flow of voltage in the electrical system. While these surges are not as intense as a lightning surge, they can be powerful enough to damage components, and they happen quite often in most building's electrical systems.
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