- Written by Piero Gabucci
- Published on 12 April 2010
While attending CEDIA 2009 in Atlanta I was introduced to Innovolt Inc. a company founded by Georgia Tech professor Dr. Deepak Divan in 2005 to develop surge protection for all types of applications. Although they make a variety of products including LED lighting fixtures, I was most interested in those that applied to our hobby of audio/video.
I was offered a plug-in unit called Plug In Protector (PIP-8) to take home and simply plug into a few outlets around my house for the purposes of recording electrical occurrences in my house. The unit keeps track of a variety of events including spikes to outages and brownouts. After about a month I returned the device for analysis. While I had it however it gave me instant feedback lights like improper grounding at any outlet via LED light readouts.
Within days I was sent a chart that shocked me outlining the behavior of the electricity in my house.
Current Spikes - 29
Voltage Spikes – 0
Over Voltages – 1
Brown Outs -2
Outages – 22
Although the PIP-8 offers each outlet protection, something more substantial was required for a whole system and Innovolt sent their new surge protection flagship in the HEM-X1000.
- Nominal Operating Voltage: 120V AC 50/60 Hz
- Maximum Continuous Current: 15 Amperes
- Interrupt Rating: 1000 Amperes per UL 1077
- Response Time: 4 ms
- Over Voltage Limit: 145 VAC +/- 4V
- Under Voltage Limit: 90 volts
- Voltage Surge per UL 1449: 2400 Joules
- Voltage Protection Rating: L-N 500V, L-G 600V, N-G 600V
- Unconditional Replacement Guarantee
- MSRP: $999 USA
The HEM-X1000 provides 15 amperes of continuous current. It offers 11 power outlets, (with one on the front) but more so also with; an RJ11 circuit protection for telephone system, an RJ45 for your network and 5 coaxial for cable and or satellite service.
It is about 3.75” high, 19” or 17” wide and 15” deep for either rack mounting or table top applications and surprisingly very lightweight at only 13 pounds or so. Removing the cover makes it clear there isn’t much weighing this unit down.
Overall, the look and feel of the design is industrial, which is intentional. It just looks like it came off a lab shelf. The metal panels are thin and the overall finish is above average.
The rear is as I described with connections however the front boasts two LCD displays that continuously read out information or disturbance history. I found myself having a look at it each day while it scrolls through each and giving a total. When I discussed with Walter Crowder, the VP of Sales, how intense the blue light was emanating from the front, he chuckled and said new versions will include a dimmable or on/off switch.
Discussing at great length the technical aspects with Vince Luciani, Technical Support Specialist at Innovolt, he made me aware of the analytical approach to designing their power protective products. He recommended a website (also co-founded by Innovolt's Dr. Deepak Divan); www.i-grid.com, a web-based system that is a low cost monitoring system that records data and can be shared with other users. Although I spent a little time on the website I can imagine custom installers wanting to keep track for their specific locations.
Innovolt has developed what they call CVSS™ or Current and Voltage Surge Suppression which is found in all their surge protection products which identifies five areas of concern when it comes to powering our expensive equipment: Voltage surges, Over Voltage, Brownouts, Power Outage, and Voltage Sags.
The boast here is that no other power protection product on the market can offer such protection.
Each of the main areas of concern covers 99% of what causes our equipment to fail or worse, simply wear out sooner. We’re all concerned for example of lighting protection, however the data I’m told indicates this occurrence happens less than once per 10 year period. Voltage sags, however, happen significantly more often at 30-100 per year!
"Voltage Sags cause a Current Surge within our electronic equipment and can cause damage over time. When the Voltage on the grid momentarily sags, the capacitors inside our equipment discharge. When the Voltage returns, the capacitors want to charge back up and cause a substantial Current Surge. Innovolt’s CVSS™ circuitry provides Current inrush limiting to guard against these Voltage Sags. In addition, Innovolt’s products react within 4 milliseconds to disconnect electronics upon detecting Over Voltages (above 145V) and Brownouts (under Voltages below 90V).
Like most power protection devices on the market, Innovolt uses MOV’s or Metal Oxide Varistors to protect against transient Voltage surges due to lighting. However, Innovolt is unique in that the MOVs are protected by the same relay circuit that protects our connected equipment. During an Over Voltage, where MOVs get destroyed and become ineffective, they are taken off-line and are reserved for use for their real intent – during a Voltage Surge. MOV’s cannot tell the difference between a Voltage Surge (an extremely large over Voltage that lasts for microseconds) and an Over Voltage event (a Voltage of over 145V that can last until the power company fixes the problem!) and conduct in BOTH cases. In some cases, improperly protected MOV’s actually cause house fires when they are presented with an Over Voltage for a long period of time.
The HEM-X1000 also monitors brownouts which essentially is a power drop of more than 2 seconds (and can sometimes last for hours), while a blackout is complete loss of power. Again, the protection is the lifelong extension of the electronics of continuously fluctuating voltages.
Improper house electrical grounding will cause noise when over/under voltages occur. The HEM-X1000 provides four stages of RFI and EMI filtering.
Finally, the HEM-X1000 uses a microprocessor to monitor and maintain a history. Some of the data may be slightly incorrect as unplugging the unit and re-plugging actually is counted as an outage. However for the most part, this is valuable information for the lifetime monitoring of your system."
I won’t pretend to know everything I’ve written about the HEM-X1000 in great detail, but I’m glad there are passionate people who do, some are at Innovolt. They are working on real world issues such as “Smart” features like IP addressability.
And finally what’s critical to Innovolt is that they make no claim about detectible audio improvements other than maintaining the equipment’s lasting peek performing circuitry. I have never been impressed with line filters and power cleanup units from an audio improvement standpoint because I simply have never heard a difference. But, I am most concerned about protection and shut downs - all those things that wear out transistors and circuits - and to know they are protected by the best available.
As I look around my room, I have tens of thousands of dollars invested in equipment that means a whole lot to me. I want the best protection I can afford.