Many homeowners believe that adequate surge protection begins and ends with a power strip. Sure, power strips help protect vulnerable electronics, but unfortunately, they’re seldom enough on their own.
First of all, not all surge protectors live up to their name. Some are little more than fancy extension cords. Secondly, a surge will follow any wire into the house and leave appliances, televisions, satellite systems, and more just as vulnerable as computers to the effects of surges.
Two Types of Electrical Surges
When most people imagine a power surge, they think of a dramatic lightning strike and lots of sparks. This type of power surge may only last for a few millionths of a second, but it can carry tens of thousands of volts and is enough to fry circuit boards, crash hard drives, and ruin entertainment systems. These lightning-induced power surges are the most powerful, but they’re not the most common. In fact, most surge-related damage is not caused by lightning at all.
A more common, albeit lesser-known type of power surge can be caused by downed power lines, sudden changes in electricity use by a nearby factory, or even the cycling on and off of energy-sucking devices in the home. The damage inflicted by this type of power surge can be instantaneous but may not show up for some time. In fact, you may not notice the power surge at all, until one day the affected appliances stop working.
Two-Pronged Approach to Surge Protection
So what can you do to guard against power surges when a power strip is not enough? The best defense against power surges is a two-pronged approach, which includes a whole house surge protector along with a “plug-in” surge protector for vulnerable electronics. Both types of surge protectors essentially act as a pressure-release valve, diverting excess voltage from a surge to the ground wire. As soon as voltage levels return to normal, the flow of electricity is restored.
A whole house surge protector is hard-wired into the home’s service panel. The entire installation typically takes a licensed electrician as little as two hours to complete. You probably want a whole house surge protector that is rated to stop a 40,000 amp surge, at minimum. Look for surge protector with lights or alarms that indicate when a device has taken a hit. Separate, smaller whole-house units are also available for the phone and cable lines.
On their own, a whole house surge protector may not be able to stop all excess energy from making its way into the home. This is where plug-in surge protectors or power strips come in. Plug-in surge protectors act in the same manner as whole house protectors, but on a much smaller scale. They are a buffer between individual appliances and wall outlets, diverting excess voltage during a surge to protect vulnerable electronics.
Grounded Wiring is Invaluable for True Surge Protection
Even the most expensive surge protectors can’t do their job if the house wiring isn’t properly grounded. There has to be somewhere for the electricity go to, and without a good ground, the current may follow another path. This means that the surge could easily end up inside your modem or television.
Protection against power surges is important to protecting your home’s appliances, technology, and electrical system. Whether you need an assessment of the electrical health of your home, or need a whole home surge protector installed, the licensed electricians at White’s Electrical can help you.