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How to Test a MOV (Metal Oxide Varistor) Surge Protector Device

How to Test a MOV (Metal Oxide Varistor) Surge Protector Device

The article discusses a set up for testing MOVs which are special devices specified for absorbing instantaneous high surge currents that may accidentally occur in our mains electrical lines. The idea was requested by Mr. Kevin

 Technical Specifications

 I'm Kevin Montañez, a university Electrical Engineering student here in Cebu, Philippines. As I told you before, I will get back to you if I have more questions. 🙂

I am hoping you'll entertain my query again. Attached is the surge protection circuit we have decided for our group research/thesis. This is just one part of our project which is to have a built-in sure protection for wall outlets using 2 diodes with cathodes connected to each other and MOVs.

Although you have recommended before to use NTC thermistor instead of fuse or diodes, but I am concerned that it will cost much than the diodes. These are my questions:

1. Here in the Philippines, it is not practiced to have grounding in most residential buildings unless residential buildings for rich people of course they have.

Many buildings here are connected line-to-line instead of line-to-ground as practiced abroad. One of the characteristics of MOV is to absorbed excess voltage, where its resistance will drop, eventually current will flow to it and will be absorb.

The absorbed current will be dissipated to the grounding rod. My question is, how to dissipate the current in a line-to-line connection?

I am asking this so that by the time we will defend for our thesis, we could test it in front of the panel, sadly the school is not line-to-ground connected, and outlets don't have grounding connection.

2. How to test the varistor (MOV) to know if it really works? If it really absorb the surge voltage/current? Say for example, if a motor will be connected in our proposed outlet, it will require a large starting current. How to check if the varistor really absorbed it? What instruments do we need to conduct such testing?

3. How to test as well the 2 diodes with cathodes connected to each other?

4. I'm curious as well since you recommended before to use NTC thermistor, what usual rating would it be for the thermistor for this kind of application? How to test if it work?

I'm praying that you will read and respond to this soonest. I'll attach my email address if you prefer to respond there.

You really are a big help for our thesis and your blog and ideas are a great help as well especially for us students. Please do help us pass this subject.

Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge in Electrical Engineering! Gob bless you more!!!
Best regards,Kevin Montañez

Solving the Circuit Query

An MOV is required to be connected across LINE and NEUTRAL and not LINE and GROUND, so ground may not be required for MOVs, basically it simply needs to be connected across the load mains input terminals.

An MOV is designed to protect against instantaneous high voltage surges that may last for not more than a few nano seconds....for example if there's an instantaneous voltage spike of say 600 V for 3 nano seconds, the MOV will happily neutralize it by short circuiting it across the connected terminals.
However if this spike sustains even for a second it could cause the MOV to get destroyed and catch fire.

To demonstrate how to test an MOV you would need a 600 V AC source derived by stepping up the domestic 220 V through an auto transformer, and make the circuit set up as shown in the diagram.

Circuit Setup

The figure shows a bridge network which rectifies the 600 V AC to 700 V DC and this DC is then fired across the MOV circuit carrying a vulnerable 220 V, 10 watt lamp.

This is done through a 2uF/1KV capacitor in order to protect the MOV as it's not designed to handle sustained high surges.

Normally the connected lamp would instantly get burnt when subjected to this massive 700 V, but the experiment will hopefully show how the massive voltage is successfully absorbed and neutralized by the MOV saving the bulb's life.

The diode set up is not recommended, because TVS diodes can act like short circuit if they happen to get destroyed, this would mean the wires catching fire or the fuses blowing of.

An NTC can be selected as per its maximum voltage rating specs, this voltage rating will determine how much instantaneous high voltage the device is rated to restrict.


About the Author

I am an electronic engineer (dipIETE ), hobbyist, inventor, schematic/PCB designer, manufacturer. I am also the founder of the website: https://www.homemade-circuits.com/, where I love sharing my innovative circuit ideas and tutorials. If you have any circuit related query, you may interact through comments, I'll be most happy to help!

9 thoughts on “How to Test a MOV (Metal Oxide Varistor) Surge Protector Device”

    • Akande, there’s no easy way to test it, a bad MOV can be shorted internally or open….the above explained set up can be tried

  1. Hi sir

    I am akram,a university student from sri lanka.. first i would like to thank you for the excellent work of publishing articles and helping out students.

    Sir. i need to develop a surge arrestor monitoring device which measure surge currents and when it about to reach its maximum capacity, the device should give signal to remote pc.basically a surge counter

    pls help me with this project sir

    many thanks

  2. Good day Sir Swagatam
    Thanks for your Email on topics about “How to Select MOV” posted on : 09 May 2016 02:15 AM PDT.
    Sir, I make a ‘Android Mobile Charge Controller’ using IC MC34063 (DC12v to DC5v).
    Same here, I like to use a ‘POLY switch’ (XF075) for protection OVER LOAD through Output. !!

    So, how could I use that ‘POLY switch’ on Output to Limit the Current flow?
    Please, guide me with the circuitry for solving above.
    Thanks & best regards,
    S. Imran.

    Image Link: https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fimg.bizcoco.com%2Fupload%2F20130616%2F0_75A_60V_Polyswitch_Resettable_fuse_Resettable.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fhotitem.bizcoco.com%2Fshow%2F1399310%2FPtc-Resettable-Fuse-Schematic-Symbol.html&docid=IHT2znW7BGqmaM&tbnid=GPiQV2xdAy7m3M%3A&w=800&h=640&bih=623&biw=1366&ved=0ahUKEwiE9LXx8ZLNAhUKQI8KHWUQBjUQMwg0KBMwEw&iact=mrc&uact=8

    • Hi Syed, Polyswitches are similar to NTCs but with a feature of resetting to its original state once the over-current condition is removed.

      You just have to put it series with the positive or the negative supply line of your power supply for the intended protection…..but make sure to use the correctly rated device so that it trips at the right over current specification

  3. Hello sir u have led series dc tester..to find the damaged led easily .and sir i want to find damaged led which operates on 230v ac main …….

    • hello basit, you can use a 3v button cell and connect it across the leds, if the led lights up brightly you may assume it to be working otherwise not.

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