Get the Facts About Surge Protection

Written by by Michael DeJoseph of Bloomfield Cooling, Heating and Electric
Updated March 14, 2014
Whole house surge protectors are designed to divert excess voltage from your home and are a great way to protect your home, says DeJoseph. (Photo courtesy of Tim Donovan)

Are you protected from power surges? It takes more than a power strip. One highly rated provider explains what it takes to protect your home from power surges.

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Are you protected from power surges? If you answer, “yes” because you have everything plugged into power strips, you are making a potentially costly assumption.

All about surge protection

First, not all surge strips are made equal. Many are not designed for real protection, they are really just fancied up extension cords. Secondly, surges do not just enter your home through electrical wiring. Surges will follow any conductible path into your home. This means any and all wires are potential conduits, including phone and cable lines.

Additionally, your computer is not the only hi-tech device in your home. Many appliances rely on circuit boards to control their many new and complex functions. They can easily be damaged by an electrical surge. 

Two types of surges that can affect your home

1. Lightning. These surges occur, as the name implies, when a lightning bolt strikes the earth. The direct protection from lightning is to ensure you have properly placed ground rods. However, grounded lightning rods will not protect or prevent surges to your wiring. 

2. Minor power fluctuations. These surges are less noticeable and can have a more delayed result. They occur when electrical loads are turned off/on by yourself or the power company. These repeated surges can slowly degrade the electronic components of your appliances until they mysteriously stop working. 

Two ways to defend against power surges

1. Install a whole house surge protector. Whole house surge protectors are designed to divert excess voltage from your home. Most insurance claims for this damage exceed $10,000. However, the $250 price tag for a main service panel surge protector will easily pay for itself.

2. Point-of-use surge protection. While these units are not adequate protection on their own, they provide a great failsafe to your whole house surge protector. Bear in mind that these power strips are also only capable of absorbing a few significant hits before they wear out. 

Buying guide

When purchasing a power strip or point of use surge protector, not all are created equal in protection, so make sure you are label savvy when you are shopping. Make sure to buy strips that have the following: 

• A UL rating of 1449. On the label, it may just say “Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor.” • Clamping voltage. Less is better in terms of clamping voltage. Close to 120 volts is safer, but UL standards are 330 volts. • Absorbs at least 600 joules of energy.• Look for “L-N, L-G, N-G.” This will protect all the lines entering your home: hot, neutral and ground.• Alarm lights to indicate when the strip is functioning and when it needs to be replaced. 

About this Angie’s List Expert: Michael DeJoseph is a master electrician with Bloomfield Cooling, Heating and Electric, providing electrical services in Little Falls, N.J. Since 1986, Bloomfield Cooling has specialized in cooling, heating, generators, electrical installations and more. They are a recipient of the 2013 Angie’s List Super Service Award.

As of March 14, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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