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Shunt mode surge protectors are typically based on circuits that contain metal oxide varistor (MOVs) which, under normal operating voltages, act as an open circuit and allow no current to flow through them. The MOVs will start to conduct should the voltage level rise above the clamping voltage of the MOVs (i.e. a surge condition), shunting the potentially damaging surge away from connected equipment. MOVs are sacrificial devices – they only have capacity to absorb a certain number of surges before they fail. The main benefit of MOVs and the reason you see them used so much is that they are cheap.
The diagram below from SurgeX shows how an ‘all mode’ MOV device works.
The main issues with ‘all mode’ MOVs are as follows:
Nyal Mellor, Founder, Acoustic Frontiers