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Video: Power Protection & Management


Amanda talks to Jimmy from Panamax about how the quality of the power in your home can affect the performance of your TV, DVR, and other audio/video gear. Jimmy uses some cool hands-on demos to see what can happen when you don't have good power protection and conditioning at home.

Thanks to Panamax for participating and for providing the demonstrations.

Amanda: Hi. I'm Amanda, and this is Jimmy. He works at Panamax, and he's been here today doing a training on their power management equipment. So we just wanted to grab a camera and show you kind of — the kinds of things that can happen if you don't have good power management at home.

Jimmy: So basically, power management consists of filtration, you know, making sure that the dirty power coming in gets filtered and it's clean power going out. We'll talk to why that's important. Isolating that filtered power so that as we connect more and more things into our system, audio and video gear, the products are isolated so that they don't backwash their dirty power back into the system. And then power regulation. We try to make the product a little more stable.

Amanda: That's what most equipment likes. They want 120 volts.

Jimmy: Yeah, exactly. They love 120 volts. And then we've got power protection, and that's the area of power management that I think most of us feel more comfortable with.

Power filtration

Jimmy: When I travel around the country, I'm an empirical kind of guy and I like to take things like this noise sniffer and plug it into various outlets to kind of get an idea of where we stand with the type of power we're working with. With dirty power, it's like a mask. It would almost be like taking Vaseline and spreading it across your display which you would never want to do. So here we'll go to the wall outlet and this noise sniffer will be an audible way for us to hear how much noise we have coming through the power line. [loud buzzing] So this is actually, in my travels, I would say this is probably nine out of ten, ten being the worst. This is fairly dirty power that we've got here at the Crutchfield headquarters training room. If it's in our home environment, a lot of times if you think you have clean power, you know, what's your neighbor have? You know there could be four to eight homes in any given neighborhood that are sharing off the same transponder [correction: transformer]. And so if you're watching your 1080p television, is your neighbor washing dishes or doing the laundry? You know, what kind of other equipment do you have in your house that's adding noise back into your audio/video system?

Amanda: Cool. So what this will do then ...

Jimmy: I'm going to plug this same noise sniffer that we just plugged into your power here at the headquarters into our power regulating device here and basically what we're going to see is the direct impact that linear filtration has, or filtration in general of power has on dirty power. And if I turn this all the way up, I think I hear crickets outside. I can now feel confident that when I put the 1080p progressive display or the 1080p Blu-ray piece into my audio/video rack I'm going to actually benefit from the full 1080p resolution of that product.

Power isolation

Jimmy: The stuff we have in our home can actually add noise back into the audio/video gear, and the audio/video gear itself can add noise back into the product.

Amanda: And that's where the isolation comes in.

Jimmy: And so I'll actually turn the product around. So everywhere you see a white line around the outlet banks, those are actually isolated from each other, meaning if I plugged a source in here, let's say it were a media server, or a HD DVR, set top box of some sort, those types of sources have power switching supplies, just like a computer would have a power switching supply inside of it, and that'll actually generate noise back into a television product, the display device, if that display was not isolated from the source.

Amanda: So what this'll do is just protect your TV and your amplifier and everything from each other. It'll keep them from making noise for each other.

Jimmy: Yeah, protection, I would say in the sense that it's not allowing one to see the others.

Power regulation

Jimmy: Another thing that we can do with this box is power regulation. So isolation...

Amanda: Because you'll get surges and dips in your power all the time. As it's summer and everyone's air conditioning is on, or...

Jimmy: That's a very good example.

Amanda: ...as the power comes back on after a storm or anything like that.

Jimmy: So, we have 118 volts coming in. That's pretty good. That's pretty close to 120. But what would happen if I were in a neighborhood that, maybe even as the neighbors came home from work or what not and everybody kicked on the A/C and started using their home entertainment...

Amanda: Turning on TVs, yeah.

Jimmy: ...products, you know our voltage that's available to us might start to dip down. So here now we've gotten power to come down using a Variac to 104 volts in, and as you can see, I'm at 120 volts, 122 volts out.

Amanda: That's still keeping it consistent for all the gear you have connected.

Jimmy: And it's certainly better than what I had coming in, so 104 volts over time products when they don't see that 120, their life could actually start to depreciate.

Power protection

Jimmy: So power protection, what do you think? What do you, what do you feel safe with?

Amanda: Uh, well, probably not with that, yeah.

Jimmy: I'll tell you what you shouldn't feel safe with, and unfortunately as an example, before I started with this company, this is what I had in my house. In fact, I had twelve pieces of this in my house. In fact, the home office had three of these daisy-chained. And when I interviewed with the company and the company was able to blow these up in the parking lot, I, I was dumbfounded because it's UL listed, it says "surge protection" on it. And the reason I was dumbfounded is it didn't protect itself, let alone the product connected to it. Perhaps the best at power protection, is the level at which you get automatic voltage monitoring. And auto voltage monitoring is basically like a traffic cop that says, "Hey, you know if I'm well below 90 volts or if I'm much higher than 137 volts, you're not allowed to come near my TV." And the TV will be represented by this hot appliance lamp. So what I have is much like a, a, transponder in your neighborhood that can step down or up voltages coming through from the power grid. And if you can feast your eyes here on this volt meter, you can see I'm fluctuating anywhere between 119 and 121 volts.

Amanda: That's pretty standard.

Jimmy: Pretty standard yeah. We're within our plus or minus five percent so we're okay. Now this box will actually send up to 213 volts or so out to a TV, and the TV is represented by the hot appliance lamp, so it can actually take this amount of voltage without frying.

Amanda: Cool.

Jimmy: And although most customers think that a bright TV might look good in this case it's not going to be good that the light gets brighter, because the light getting brighter means that we actually have 200 plus volts coming into it, and 200 plus volts plus coming into your TV might actually kill it. So here we go, we'll give it a try. All right.

Amanda: And that's hooked up to power protection.

Jimmy: So that's, that's 200 volts going into this television. And what I'll show you in contrast is the Panamax product will show us a red light which means unsafe voltage. So if you are ever in doubt as to why your gear wasn't lighting up, you could check that first. I'll send the same voltage, 213 volts to the Panamax piece in between it and the light bulb, your TV, and we'll see what happens. And so traffic was redirected.

Amanda: It shuts it right off.

Jimmy: I have unsafe voltage on the Panamax, I'm still holding my finger down. I'm still sending, I'm at 210 volts, between 209 and 211 volts going out to the television.

Amanda: So that's doing right now is basically saving your TV from...

Jimmy: Absolutely.

Amanda: ...from breaking.

Jimmy: This is a great thing because not only is it saving your TV, your Panamax piece is still hard at work. It's not powered off. It's actually waiting for 120 volts to come back through. When 120 volts comes back through, the TV's back on. Now it may be on stand-by, but at least it's working.

Amanda: How many volts do you get with a lightning strike, if you have lightning hit an antenna or something? How many volts does that send through your power wiring into your components to your TV?

Jimmy: As many as 6000 volts can travel through your home, and if it can make it, it'll make it to your gear through the Romex® that's connected in between your walls and the components that you have in your rack.

Amanda: Yep.

Jimmy: And that certainly qualifies as a catastrophic surge. I should warn everyone though that only about 35 percent of the time should you be concerned with a catastrophic surge like lightning. A lot of us have never even seen a lightning strike in the house. Doesn't mean it's not going to happen, it just isn't as frequent as the surges that we get on a day to day basis inside our home. We advocate protecting the coax connections, the Ethernet connections, as well as the electrical connections in between products. And as long as the gear's connected appropriately, we do have, in many cases, a connected equipment policy for all the gear that's connected to your Panamax equipment should a catastrophic surge take any of that gear out.

Amanda: All right. So there you have it. That is all things power management. And thank you Jimmy from Panamax for showing what can happen with these demos and for showing us that it's more than just protection that's involved.

Jimmy: Excellent. Thank you.

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