How Safe Are Your Appliances & Electronics from Power Surge?

How Safe Are Your Appliances & Electronics from Power Surge?

In light of the impact of the pandemic, technology has been reactivated and re-imagined. TechTuesday invites technology industry experts, app developers, entrepreneurs, and tech enthusiasts for a learning call to discuss key tech know-hows, challenges, and innovations.

Watch #techtuesday Episode #6 and meet Jim Minadeo of Zero Surge Inc.

Hosted by: Jonathan Katz of Business on a Browser


Jim Minadeo is the owner of Zero Surge and they introduced the series mode filter technology to the electronics industry. Zero Surge’s patented products have never experienced a surge failure or fire. They are designed to repeatedly withstand worst-case surges and remove EMI/RFI noise disturbances from the power line.

We all know that technology is ever-changing. In fact, the computer that we are using today is going to be replaced by a computer a year from now with higher speeds and a better processor. But did you know there’s a technology that can keep up with all of the other technology that's changing out there?

When most people think about technology, they think about what’s right in front of them. They often don't think about what supports that technology and how that technology can run safely.

This is what Zero Surge brings to the table. With the infrastructure bill just being passed recently, it shines a light on it and hopefully becomes more and more top of mind for people. They use technology that doesn't wear out, doesn't need to be upgraded and no 2.0 is needed and doesn’t need replacement.

So If you have a great computer, how do you keep it working besides doing security updates?  

Nobody ever thinks about that and then all of a sudden something will break and you don’t have any idea what went wrong. If you have already experienced this, then this article is for you.

Humble Beginnings

Zero Surge Inc. was founded about 32 years ago by a very smart engineer, Rudy Harford. He developed this technology because he was seeing that current surge protection uses something that's called a metal oxide barrister and that little thing is what every other surge protector uses. He realizes that there's a lot of inherent flaws to that technology so he came up with an inductor that actually filters surges. 

What is a Power Surge?

Surges are high-frequency noise, with an air alternating current. You have power that oscillates at 60 times a second 60 hertz and so that's the vibration that we want. 

Zero Surge Protectors 

Zero Surge protectors filter out anything that's vibrating faster than that. It's called a low pass filter. These protectors let the low-frequency energy go through, then it filters out anything that's vibrating faster. It doesn't matter if it's voltage, current surge or if it has EMI noise. The beauty of this product is, it doesn't degrade because it uses magnetics.

It’s heavy-duty because it’s made in the US. Although It does cost more than the traditional surge detector,  it never wears out so no need to replace it.

It’s doing big recently in digital menu boards because of Covid where everything is going touchless, i.e. screens and kiosks. They’ve hooked up with a couple of companies that use these things and they protect the system so they don't have to send somebody out. In fact, Wendy's used them for years on their menu boards and their POS systems to protect them. 

A lot of people when thinking of surge protectors, they think of those larger applications. But the truth is, they can also use it with their own personal computers.

Power Surge Damage to Electronics

Surge damage is when you have a random monitor going out. And because they also divert the surge when they push the problem into another part of the building, you may have a surge protector on your computer but not on your TV. The surge comes in, gets diverted by the computer, and then on its way back it hits the tv on the way out.

You thought the tv broke because it's a crappy brand but actually that surge protector probably broke and caused surge damage.

If you have a whole house generator, they're a little bit noisier and more susceptible to voltage drop issues. Zero Surge dealt with a customer who had a sub-zero refrigerator having issues. The customer thought it was surge damage but it turned out it was this voltage problem.

Traditional surge protectors don't just work all the time; they wait for something to happen. Only when the voltage rises then they do something. While it's rising, it's still that little bit of voltage difference that could damage your equipment. But we’re doing it real-time, we don't wait for the resurge to happen.
 If you call us, we do answer the phone and we do talk to people. We'll spend half an hour if it takes half an hour and then maybe sometimes at the end of the call it's like you don't really need us or you can't afford us and that's fine.
- Jim Minadeo

Q&A with Jim

Q: Do you have different surge protectors for different size applications or is it kind of a one size fits all?

A: The technology is the same, but what they offer is different convenience of how you connect.

We have plug-in models and then we have hardwired ones for hardwired applications and then we also sell the guts as an OEM product and that is incorporated into other people's products. 

For larger systems, it saves them costs because they have their box already and they don't need to buy another box or buy chords. The basic plug-ins that the majority of people would use can be handled with an eight outlet or a two outlet. 

We offer a two outlet model that you could plug into the eight outlet model UPS you can't daisy chain with another eight outlets so it's the caveats it's not daisy chaining but we protect from damage as well and then protect whatever is behind that.

 Q: Do you help people figure out what they need if someone comes to you with an issue? 

A:  We'll tell you too if you don't need it. Like refrigerators do not need surge protection. No matter how fancy it is because the motor inside that refrigerator is what's causing the problem.  People don't realize 80%t of surges originate from inside the building. Surges are because of electricity flowing when you turn on and off a light switch you create a surge because you're changing that flow. 

The analogy I like to use is like water through a hose. When you step on the hose you create a surge. The same thing happens when a toaster demands power really quickly. The toaster creates a surge, coffee machines, different heating elements, ovens, air conditioning systems, all those things create surges they don't need surge protection directly. 

Q: Is it correct to say that the surge can also be less?

A: Yeah, the surge could be in both because there's voltage and current. Power is voltage x current, so your device demands power. Your device doesn't care if the power is in voltage or current, so if the power company is not having a good day and it's 100 degrees out there and they can't support the voltage. What happens is the current rises to meet that power need and when you increase current, you increase heat, and that's what damages refrigerators because refrigerator motors don't want to get hot. So if they're hot because you've given them too much current and not enough voltage to drive them, then the windings get hot, it degrades, and then all of a sudden the refrigerator dies.

And so a technician comes out and says ‘oh you had surge damage’ but actually that was damage from days of degradation. So a surge happens within one cycle of power, so within 1 60th of a second,  it's like 50 to 100 microseconds, that damage to appliances, and it happens in two or three seconds which is like a million times longer.

Q: Standby generators and backup generators have seven to twelve months back order because of the pandemic, is there an association with that? 

A: Well that started with Sandy. That's when people realized the value of generators. And you have to realize if you have a generator you have to be careful. If it’s not grounded, then now you could be electrocuted. If you use an ungrounded generator with MOV technology, it will catch fire because this needs the ground to work. We don't need the ground to work, our technology would work better for a generator and we also work in old homes that don't have ground, and a quarter of the homes in this country don't have ground.

Q: Do you have technicians to go out to the property?

A: No, because you just plug it in.

Q: You do a ton of philanthropy, what attracted you to philanthropy and what got you started? and what do you love about it?

A: I'm sure my parents had a lot to do with it. Growing up Catholic we do a lot of charity stuff. My dad was always involved in school. I think that's how it started as a parent being involved with my children. I got involved in the PTA at first. We started doing it that way and it's just the reward of helping the kids do programs for them.  Doing the fundraising gets you involved, it gets you to meet your neighbors then it becomes a sales kind of thing to networking.

I also do HackHunterdon with Dennis and that was just a way of meeting other technology people. I always volunteer to do something else like when I volunteered to take over a meeting because my friend had to leave early, which leads me to showing up to a board meeting. It's just one of these things that  you say yes, and then five minutes later you're on a board somewhere.

Q: Would you ever consider opening up a shop? What’s next for you?

A: It's probably a whole other business. I mean we're not there yet, I would say if we doubled in size then maybe we would have to really consider it but there are the environmental issues too in New Jersey. 

Like I mentioned, HackHunterdon, we are gonna get it going again. It was a meetup on the last Thursday of the month. We're probably gonna transition it to be quarterly and try to do more like a panel discussion type thing. 

Supply Chain Issues

It started before Covid and the tariffs that the Trump administration did raising prices immediately across the board. It caused this accordion effect with the supply chain because everybody's waiting. Suppliers are trying to get exemptions and then they were also holding prices as they thought it was all temporary.

Zero Surge ended up having to raise the prices a little bit to accommodate that. It's kind of like a traffic accident where you have the accordion effect. You had a 10-mile backup, the accident's gone but then it moves and then stops, it moves and then stops. Covid was just like another accident that happened after the first accident. That made the accordion go crazy and Zero Surge lucked out because they have to order a custom product a year in advance.

They had supply through but when the pandemic stopped everything for a while and then their business picked back up, their supply was able to handle that. But then everything heated up too fast.  The shipping costs are still high. An air shipment has gone from $20 a cubic foot to around $44. It started out with the commodities, then the pandemic on top, and then the demand that went from nothing to crazy in one year - this is the supply chain issue.

FAVORITE PIECE OF TECHNOLOGY

It’s my keyboard. I have a Casio workstation and I like being able to do recordings very easily. I’d like to thank whoever invented MIDI because that's still my favorite technology.

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