How Whole-Home Surge Protectors Work
How many times has this happened to you? There’s a lightning strike near your home, or for one reason or another, there’s a brief power outage. Next thing you know, when you try to turn on your TV, your music, your computer, or some other electronic device plugged into a wall outlet, nothing happens. And nothing is going to happen, because that power surge you experienced just fried the inside of the device.
The best way to protect your electronics is with a whole-home surge protector. To understand why, let’s take a look at:
- What is a power surge?
- How a surge protector works.
- Different kinds of surge protectors.
- The advantages of a whole-home surge protector compared to a strip surge protector.
What Is a Power Surge?
A power surge is an increase in electrical voltage above what typical household wiring can accommodate. Think of the electricity in your wires like water in your plumbing, where voltage is water pressure. Standard home electrical wiring is rated at 120 volts. If the voltage ever exceeds 120 volts, there is too much pressure. So just as a water pipe might burst if there is too much water exerting pressure on it, your electronics “burst” if they are fed too high a voltage.
You might wonder, how often does a house get struck by lightning, or how frequently will the power go off? Even if it never happens, you are still experiencing power surges. According to the Surge Protection Institute NEMA, 60-80% of power surges originate inside your home when larger appliances—like your refrigerator, air conditioner, or vacuum—turn on or off. Additional culprits include loose wiring, static electricity, faulty appliances, or when you have too many devices plugged into a single receptacle.
Even if a power surge doesn’t outright break your electronics, constant exposure to power surges puts extra strain on them, reducing their usable lifespan. If you’ve ever wondered why a TV or a computer winked out sooner than you thought it should, chances are it was exposed to periodic power surges.
What Is a Surge Protector?
As the name implies, a surge protector prevents the travel of excessive electrical voltage spikes into your electronics. Basically, a surge protector diverts the extra electricity into a ground that absorbs the extra voltage. An added feature to many surge protectors is something called “line conditioning.” That means, in addition to protecting against electrical spikes, the surge protector also works to eliminate small fluctuations in electrical current that can also damage electronic equipment over time.
Point-of-Use Surge Protectors
There are two types of point-of-use surge protectors: surge protector strips and wall-mount surge protectors.
Surge protector strips (not to be confused with simple power strips that lack surge protection) feature six to twelve outlets plugged into a single wall outlet that multiple co-located electronic devices can share. Some power strips also have an energy-saving feature that automatically shuts off power when a device isn’t in use, which saves a little on your utility bill.
You can also opt for wall-mount surge protectors, which contain anywhere from one plug to as many as four or more. Both power strip and wall-mount surge protectors may include USB ports to protect your smartphone or tablet while it is charging. You can also control some surge protectors remotely to turn them on and off.
Note that not all surge protectors are created equal. Look at things like the joule rating—the higher the rating, the better and longer protection the surge protector can provide. You also want to know the Underwriters Laboratories Voltage Protection Rating—the lower, the better. And look for a surge protector that responds in less than one nanosecond. Anything longer means your equipment is exposed to a surge for that much longer.
Before you start worrying about ratings and how to interpret them, consider the alternative. Rather than installing individual surge protectors around the house, the better option is to go with a whole-home surge protector.
The Advantages of Whole-Home Surge Protection
A whole-home surge protector is hard-wired to your electrical service panel. The obvious advantage is all your appliances are protected from surges, avoiding the need for point-of-use surge protectors at each and every outlet where electronics and appliances are plugged in.
Even the best surge protector strips offer only limited protection. For true security and peace of mind, there’s nothing better than an integrated whole-home surge protection system. A whole-house surge protector safeguards every outlet. Whenever it senses an electrical surge, excess current/voltage is diverted into the ground via a ground wire.
In addition to protecting your electronics and appliances, whole-home surge protectors also protect your electrical wiring, sockets, and circuits from damage.
A whole-home surge protector rated to stop a 40,000-amp surge is generally the minimum recommendation. You’ll also need a certified electrician to perform installation. This is not a DIY project.
Whole-home surge protectors are not foolproof. If there is ever an unusual surge that is higher than the rated amp-surge of the unit, you could still suffer damage. This is why, if you have a home theater or other expensive electronics, ask your electrician about layering the whole-house with surge protection. A layered system is whole-home surge protection connected to the electrical panel, combined with high-end point-of-use surge protectors where you have valuable electronics. With this set-up, any surge that gets past the whole-home surge protection is diverted by the second layer of surge protection.
Ongaro and Sons: Your Whole Home Surge Protection Experts
Ongaro and Sons electrical technicians provide time-tested suppression solutions that you can trust to keep your electronics and home wiring safe. Our whole-home surge protectors are wired directly into your service panel to shield your entire electrical system from damaging power fluctuations. All installations are performed by fully qualified electricians, so you can be confident in the quality of our work.
When your most valued possessions are on the line, who can you trust to keep them safe? For high-quality home surge protection and electrical expertise, you can always depend on Ongaro and Sons. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss how we can best safeguard all your important appliances and devices.