Chesapeake Home Theatre & Hi-Fi

Larry Dent is the owner of Chesapeake Home Theatre & Hi-Fi.

These articles were written for the Islander Weekly.

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Larry's Tech Talk

What’s the “Worst” that could happen? Or…“don’t mess with anything you can’t see!” You’ve got the power!

Complaining about the price of gasoline is a common topic of conversion these days. And America’s dependence on oil and foreign oil is just as scary. But if our country is dependent on anything, it is Electric Power!

Think about it, we depend on electricity for heating, communicating, cooking, lighting, entertainment, and many, many more everyday necessities that we take for granted. You would probably be OK if you had to go a few days without your car. But, the electric meter at your house never stops. If you’re old enough to remember the New York City blackout, you know what I am talking about. People were trapped in elevators. The city was dark and almost everything stopped in the city they say “never sleeps”. Other than the fact that there was a baby boom 9 months later (that minor detail is true!) the Big Apple came to a screeching halt when the electric power went out.

Yeah, but let me ask the question again. What’s the worst that could happen? Without electricity, you wouldn’t have a computer or TV! It’s funny, if someone’s telephone goes out they will appear a little concerned and want it fixed in a few days. But if a family’s TV goes out, it needs immediate attention! And what could be worse than no electricity? How about having electricity and a “fried” TV!?!

I might be wrong, but it sure seems like this time of the year, the Eastern Shore has more lightning strikes than other parts of the country. I have witnessed 3 strikes in my neighborhood in the past few years. And you guessed it, one of them fried my a/v receiver. Sure, I had it powered through an expensive surge protector, but the surge came in over the coax cable I had connected to an FM antenna. My DirecTV receiver was also fried. I have to guess that the power surge device did its job, but the spike came in via the cable connected to the dish. In our world of electronics, internet, telephones, computers, and even invisible dog fences, power surges might be the worst that could happen. And yes, I have a friend that in addition to losing every TV and appliance in his house, his invisible pet fence was rendered useless too.

I know what you’re thinking, just go to the hardware and get an inexpensive power strip with built-in surge. That might work to some extent, but how about that TV that is mounted on the wall? Is it protected? And remember, power surges can enter appliances via telephone lines, coax cables and any connected wire or cable. Some people might think their 5 year extended warranty will cover a surge. Check your coverage, most warranties specifically exclude power surges. Your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will cover surges, but what is the deductible amount on your policy? It’s just a bad situation and at the least a major inconvenience when a family’s TV (or other component) doesn’t respond to the “on” button. And usually there are no visible signs of damage.

The leading manufacturers of both plasma and LCD TVs claim that the average life span of current generation flat panels is roughly 40 years! That’s 40,000 hours to an average household’s TV daily use. But that number is concluded from labs with perfect conditions. Let’s assume you’re protected from big surges like lightning storms. The second power protection has to be a steady 120 volts of power. Electronic devices do not like peaks and valleys in voltage. If you live an older home or your neighborhood has power fluctuations you should consider a power conditioner. These devices protect against both power spikes and maintains a steady 120 volts to your electronic components. If the power drops or spikes a power conditioner will actually turn your components off to protect them. Your cost will be a few hundred bucks, but it will prolong the life of your family’s audio and video investments and computers.

A not-so-wise man once told me something I considered very wise. “Don’t mess with anything you can’t see!” The first thing I can relate that to is Electricity!

You’ve got the power!