When you purchase an AC or refrigerator today, you find that manufacturers advertise their products can work without stabilizers or come with inbuilt stabilizers.
They use words like ‘Stabilizer-free’ or ‘Works without external stabilizer’ or ‘Inbuilt Stabilizer’ to market their products.
What do these words indicate?
Should we go for an external stabilizer, or can we dispense with their use? Let us understand the significance of a voltage stabilizer and why we use the appliance in our homes.
Why do we use voltage stabilizers?
People living in the metros like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, etc., do not face power outages frequently. Besides, houses in these cities receive a stable electric current supply without voltage fluctuations.
However, it is not so in rural areas and smaller towns because power cuts and voltage fluctuations are common.
Any electrical device works within a specific voltage range. If the input voltage goes below the minimum supported voltage or exceeds the maximum voltage levels, the circuits can get damaged, leading to expensive repair jobs. Hence, we use voltage stabilizers that stabilize the input voltage before distributing it to the device.
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How does the external voltage stabilizer work?
The ideal input voltage in India is 220V. However, the input voltage is never constant. It can vary from 200V to 240V during the normal course. Usually, our electrical appliances can handle minimum voltage fluctuations.
At times, during power outages or breakdowns, the voltage levels can drop much below 200V. Simultaneously, the voltage levels can surge and go well above 240V, especially at power resumption. These voltage drops or surges can damage your electrical equipment.
The voltage stabilizers have special circuits that can handle low and high voltages. The voltage stabilizer works on the input voltage levels and converts them to 220V before sending it to the electrical device it connects with.
Thus, it protects electrical devices like refrigerators, televisions, and air conditioners, from damage. It explains why you have these voltage stabilizers in every home and preferably for every device.
These voltage stabilizers come equipped with switches that switch off the power supply if the input voltage level is outside the range supported by the stabilizer.
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Concept of Stabilizer-Free operation
Today, you have air conditioners, refrigerators, and washing machines working on inverter technology. This technology envisages the motor to work at varying speeds depending on the load. Hence, these machines can work at varying input voltages.
Generally, you see such machines capable of working with input voltage much below and above the standard voltage of 220V. For example, you can find such appliances working in voltage ranges 135V to 290V, etc. Therefore, these electrical appliances can work even if the input voltage drops up to 135V or goes up to 290V. The manufacturers specify the voltage range that the specific product can support.
The question now arises as to what can happen if the input voltage range is outside the supported range?
Unfortunately, these appliances cannot handle voltage fluctuations outside the supported range. It is as good as an unprotected device. The voltage fluctuation ends up damaging the product.
Now, we come to the products that come with an inbuilt stabilizer.
Unfortunately, many people confuse ‘stabilizer-free operations’ with ‘inbuilt stabilizer.’ They feel that the electrical appliance can handle all voltage fluctuations, irrespective of the input voltage.
The Concept of Inbuilt Stabilizer
We have seen that the stabilizer-free operations cannot handle input voltage beyond the supported voltage range.
However, if the electrical appliance features an inbuilt stabilizer, it comes with a cut-off switch similar to the external stabilizers. It switches off the power supply if the input voltage is outside the supported range. Otherwise, it works as a regular external stabilizer to stabilize the voltage supplied to the electrical appliance.
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We shall consider the same example discussed above.
If our device has an inbuilt stabilizer, our electrical appliance remains safe because of the presence of the cut-off switch. It will switch off the power supply if the voltage levels drop below 135V or goes above 290V. Thus, it ensures that the machine works properly in the supported voltage range at all times.
Now, the concept of stabilizer-free operations and inbuilt stabilizers has become clear. Therefore, you should concentrate on the following aspects when purchasing an electrical appliance.
- Check out whether the machine indicates the voltage range it can support in the event of fluctuations. Manufacturers must declare this information in the specification sheet.
- Ensure whether the appliance comes equipped with an inbuilt stabilizer or offers stabilizer-free operations. It is a marketing gimmick that manufacturers usually play to confuse customers.
- If the appliance offers stabilizer-free operations, it is advisable to get an external stabilizer. Maybe the city where you live might not experience voltage fluctuations. But, there is no way for you to know what the input voltage is. Power surges can always happen during the resumption of the power supply. As a result, the input voltage can shoot up abnormally before stabilizing. This momentary surge is sufficient to damage your expensive AC or refrigerator.
Which voltage stabilizer should you purchase?
One should always go for a reputed voltage stabilizer brand. Retailers might coerce you to purchase inexpensive voltage stabilizers, and you could end up purchasing one to save a few thousand rupees.
However, you should understand that you are endangering your expensive electrical equipment like your AC or Fridge in the bargain.
- Choose a reputed brand by doing your homework right.
- Check out the voltage range supported by the external voltage stabilizer. The range should extend to a substantial degree on either side of the voltage range supported by the device. In our example, our device supported an input voltage range of 135V to 290V. Hence, the voltage stabilizer we intend to purchase should support a higher range, say from 100V to 400V. Otherwise, there is no use in purchasing the voltage stabilizer.
- Call an electrician to check whether the output voltage of the voltage stabilizer is in the acceptable range of 220V or thereabouts, even during the voltage fluctuations.
Many people confuse between a voltage stabilizer and a circuit breaker present in almost every house today. They feel that the circuit breaker trips during excess or low voltage situations and arrests current flow. It is not so. Let us understand the difference between a circuit breaker and a voltage stabilizer.
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Circuit Breaker vs Voltage Stabilizer
The primary responsibility of a circuit breaker is to prevent electrical fires. First, it cuts off the power supply by tripping. Thus, it prevents the electrical wires from starting a fire.
The voltage stabilizer is a surge protector that protects electrical appliances from voltage fluctuations.
Let us discuss this aspect in detail to understand the concept better.
If there is excess current flowing through the wires, they can overheat and cause electrical fires.
For example, when you have a 15 amps circuit and the current flowing through it is 25 amps. Under such circumstances, the circuit breaker trips and stops the current flow through the specific circuit. It can happen when we connect multiple devices to a single power source.
It can also happen if you connect a powerful appliance like a water heater to a power plug socket capable of handling lower electrical current.
Voltage stabilizers are different in their functioning. They prevent voltage drops or surges from damaging your electrical equipment. A power surge can happen anytime. It can be due to lightning attacks, faulty wiring, power outages, power plant maintenance, or even bad electrical components.
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Voltage Stabilizers – Should we invest or not?
So, we come to the final part of our discussion. Should we invest in voltage stabilizers or not? The answer is simple.
If we value the safety of our electrical appliances, it is better to invest in a voltage stabilizer. Even though we might be residing in an area where there has never been any voltage fluctuation, no one can guarantee that there will not be any in the future. A momentary surge is sufficient to cause massive damage (at times, irreparable) to your expensive electrical gadgets. Therefore, it is advisable to have a voltage stabilizer even if your product manufacturer advertises ‘Stabilizer-free operations’ or ‘Comes with Inbuilt stabilizer,’ etc. However, the inbuilt stabilizer is any day preferable to ‘stabilizer-free operations.
The moral of the story – It is better to be safe than to be sorry.
Dr. V. Suvidha has Ph.D in Electrical Engineering. She is an Expert in Power Systems, Electrical Machines, Micro Grids, and Renewable Energy Systems.