A whole-home surge protector is a unique device installed at the point where the power line supplying your house connects to the main electrical service panel. Its primary function is to prevent electrical damage and fire during a significant external power surge.
An external power surge occurs when the voltage in the electrical grid suddenly spikes, sending a massive electrical current into the home. Such surges can happen due to lightning strikes, downed power lines, or blown transformers.
In some cases, a sudden, drastic change in electricity usage in the area can also lead to power surging and too much electrical current flowing into your home. This article will explain how whole-home surge protection works, how it can protect your home and belongings, and why investing in it is worthwhile.
How Whole-Home Surge Protection Works
A whole-home surge protector works similarly to your electrical panel’s circuit breakers. The surge protector and circuit breakers monitor voltage and instantly trigger when the voltage exceeds a safe level. However, a circuit breaker simply trips and opens the circuit so that electricity immediately stops flowing through that particular circuit.
Conversely, a whole-home surge protector prevents most of the current from flowing out of the grid and into your home. When the voltage rises above the surge protector’s set limit, it activates within a nanosecond and diverts the electricity into the ground rod outside the house. This surge protector’s set limit ensures that the flow of electricity to your home is quickly shifted to the ground for safety.
Difference Between Whole-Home Surge Protection and Surge-Protector Strips
Most people have sensitive and expensive electronics like TVs, computers, and stereos plugged into surge-protector strips. Using surge-protector strips is a good idea, as they will prevent your electronics from being damaged if there is ever an internal power surge in the circuit that supplies power to your devices. Internal power surges typically occur due to issues like damaged, frayed, or loose wires, which can cause a short circuit or arc fault that instantly generates a massive increase in the voltage flowing through the circuit.
All surge protector strips have “clamping voltage” between 330 and 500 volts. The clamping voltage tells you how many volts it takes to trigger the surge strip to activate and stop electricity from flowing, and you’re always best to choose a strip with a lower clamping voltage. The problem with surge strips is that they can only withstand so much current before they fail. If the power surge exceeds the maximum, the surge strip will instantly burn out and stop working. This implies the electricity would continue flowing out of the outlet and almost certainly fry whatever you plugged into the strip.
The maximum for high-quality surge strips is typically around 6,000 volts, but many can only handle between 2,000 and 4,000 volts. Most external power surges only last for less than a second and typically reach around 6,000 volts. However, external power surges can easily exceed 10,000 volts, so surge strips won’t offer any protection should your home ever experience a significant external surge.
The other thing to understand about surge strips is that they only protect whatever is plugged into them. The issue with external power surges is that the increased voltage causes all of the wires in a home to instantly become extremely hot to the point where they can potentially start to melt or catch fire. The only way to prevent this is with a whole-home surge protector, preventing the high voltage from surging through your electrical system.
A high-quality, whole-home surge protector can usually withstand up to 20,000 volts. The best units also have a clamping voltage of around 400 volts, which means they will trigger even if there is only a slight surge in power. Lightning bolts typically carry about 300 million volts, meaning that a whole-home surge protector may fail and not protect your home if it is directly hit by lightning. However, direct lightning strikes are relatively rare, and a whole-home surge protector will usually still work if lightning hits a power pole in your neighborhood or even your neighbor’s house.
Benefits of Whole-Home Surge Protection
The price of whole-home surge protection will always be far cheaper than how much you could pay if a significant power surge hits your home. The surge protectors that we install also have an added guarantee to cover damage caused, should their product fail. (Pro tip: keep all your appliance receipts!) In addition, you may even be able to take advantage of a discount on homeowner’s insurance policies if you have whole-home surge protection.
If an external power surge hits your home, it could quickly end up causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. A power surge could also cause your home to catch fire, which is something that whole-home surge protection will usually help to prevent.
In most cases, you’ll have to replace some outlets and light switches. You may also need to have some of the circuits, or your entire home rewired if the surge damages your wiring. You’ll also likely need to replace your electrical panel since a power surge typically ruins the circuit breakers and the panel itself.
Even if you use surge protector strips, an external power surge can quickly fry the control board and electronic components in your dishwasher, stove oven, washing machine, dryer, water heater, etc. This means that you may have to replace some or all of your appliances depending on the extent of the damage. An external power surge will almost certainly force you to replace your TVs, computers, and other sensitive electronics.
Most homeowner’s insurance policies typically cover damages caused by a power surge to your home and belongings. However, the extent of coverage depends on your specific policy details and limits. Even if your insurance covers the damages, you’ll still have to deal with the inconvenience of replacing everything and repairing all the damage.
We at Norman Air are experts in providing whole-home surge protection services to ensure your home is safe and secure. Our licensed electricians can also assist you in installing an EV charging station or a whole-home generator and handle any other electrical installation needs. Our services also include professional electrical safety inspections and repairs. Since 2008, we have been proudly serving customers in Norman and the OKC Metro area, and we are the top choice for HVAC and plumbing services in the region.
We offer 24/7 emergency services. Sign up for Max Membership for exclusive benefits, including front-of-the-line service, a 15% discount on service repairs, and more. To learn more about how we can help you install a whole-home surge protector or schedule a service appointment, don’t hesitate to contact our expert home service team at Norman Air.