If you are worried about lightning strikes or other events that may compromise your home’s electrical system, you might consider a whole-house surge protector. While lightning strikes and other catastrophic events can happen, they are far from the only threats to your home on an electrical level. As a matter of fact, your house probably gets jolted with voltage surges of a smaller scale dozens of times each year. Such mini-surges can still damage or permanently disable appliances and other electronics, and many of those are not cheap to replace. While you might have some of your devices protected individually, whole-house surge protectors can cover everything at once. This protection can give you a lot of peace of mind, but you are probably very curious about how home surge protectors work in the first place.
How Does Whole-House Surge Protection Work?
A whole-house surge protector is installed by an electrician. This device connects to your electric panel. From there, it provides downstream protection for all the electronics in your house that are further down the electrical current. Home surge protectors cost more than individual surge protectors that you plug into an outlet, but they offer cost-effective and resilient protection over time.
Despite the tremendous benefits they provide your home, whole-house surge protectors do not look all that interesting on a visual level. In fact, they are typically a gray box mounted on a wall to either side of your primary electrical panel. However, the work that home surge protectors perform is far from ordinary. If your surge protector senses an irregularity in the voltage of your house, it will spring into action. Situations can range from mild flutters of excess voltage to lightning strikes. When these circumstances happen, your whole-house surge protector will divert any excess voltage toward the ground. This process will keep the extra voltage from reaching your household’s appliances and electronics, keeping them safe from a damaging spike.
Power strip surge protectors are simple devices you can use on your own as soon as you take them out of their boxes. However, a whole-house surge protector needs to be connected to the electrical panel in your home, so it requires professional installation by a certified electrician. It serves as a filter that only lets out safe levels of electrical current. It sends excess voltage directly into the ground under or around your house via a grounding wire. In preventing electrical surges, your whole-house surge protector keeps expensive appliances and electronics from burning out. It might even stop electrical fires from occurring.
How Do Power Surges Result in Damage?
Most houses in the United States use electricity that meets a certain set of specifications. The power is often 120 volts and 60 hertz transmitted in a single-phase format of alternating current. The problem is that the voltage is not always steady at 120 volts. With an alternating current, the voltage can go up and down in a set rhythm with oscillations from 0 volts up to 169 volts. Still, most electronics and appliances in the U.S. are designed to accept this kind of electricity for energy.
That said, the voltage can exceed 169 volts during a power surge. Any spike, even a small one, can damage the electronics and appliances inside of your home. Anything past the normal operational range might create an arc of electricity inside an appliance. The resulting heat can damage circuit boards and interior components. Small, repeated power surges might make some electronics stop working suddenly, and they can shorten the functional lifespan of your devices.
Causes of Power Surges
In many cases, exposed or damaged wiring can be a potential source of power surges. They might even happen several times per day, and they can damage electronics, appliances, switches, and outlets. Internal power surges often do not even get noticed.
Momentary outages sometimes create electrical surges. These outages are basically hiccups to the flow of electricity in your home, and they might trip your circuit or create a sudden burst of electricity. These often happen because of external stimuli, but they might occur for internal reasons, too.
As you are likely already aware, lightning can have a dramatic impact on your electricity if it strikes. Lightning has the potential to cause fires, power outages, or blackouts. The resulting electrical surge from lightning strikes can ruin anything in your house that is plugged in at the time. The voltage spike is high enough that anything connected cannot handle the intensity. Even devices that are turned off might still be damaged just from being plugged in.
Electrical overloads can happen in commercial structures or even multi-unit residential buildings. They often occur during unusually high levels of air conditioning use in warm weather. Single-family homes are also at risk for electrical overloads when multiple devices, such as blenders, hairdryers, and microwaves, are used simultaneously.
External factors contributing to power surges include more than just lightning. They incorporate all kinds of adverse weather events. These conditions could include sweltering temperatures, high winds, and snowstorms. Animals and trees can also count in this category. Power surges can occur when tree limbs, even small ones, fall on electrical wires. Wild animals, such as snakes, squirrels, and birds, might nibble at cables or make their home in electrical equipment connected to the grid.
Is Whole-House Surge Protection Worth It?
Whole-house surge protection safeguards your electrical devices and appliances from overloads and surges, potentially saving you money in the long run. If a power surge only takes out a cheap clock, it is inconvenient. However, if it ruins your expensive TV, refrigerator, or other major appliance, you might need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to replace them.
Surge protection extends to your home’s interior wiring, lighting, switches, outlets, and plugs. This protects a subsystem of your entire house, and it might prevent the sparks or flames that could result in a fire. Whole-house surge protection adds an extra element of safety to your residence.
The downside of home surge protection is the cost. The surge protector alone can run hundreds of dollars. Professional installation services are also costly, but they are necessary for proper performance.
Depending on the unit you choose and the labor costs involved, your whole-house surge protector might cost anywhere from $200 to $700. Then again, a lightning strike might cost you $10,000 in equipment and appliance damage in an age where electronic devices are more sensitive to power surges. If you incur a fire due to a power surge, the cost of a whole-house surge protector suddenly seems insignificant.
Outside Help for Inside Protection
A whole-house surge protector can give you peace of mind and protect your home’s electronics from power surges. However, you need experienced electricians to install them safely for optimal performance. At Absolute Services, you can count on us for your home’s electrical, heating, cooling, nd plumbing needs. If you live in Louisville, Elizabethtown, or the surrounding areas, contact us at Absolute Services to receive a quote for home surge protection.