A major power surge can be one of the biggest electrical issues your home can experience. Although surge protector strips are definitely useful in certain situations, they aren’t a substitute for whole-home surge protection. This article will explain all you need to know about power surges and what causes them and also the reasons why you should definitely consider investing in whole-home surge protection.

How Surge Protection Works

Any type of surge protector has an internal mechanism that essentially monitors the voltage of the electrical current flowing through it. The surge protector has a preset “clamping voltage,” which is how many volts it takes to activate the protector. If the current ever exceeds the clamping voltage, the surge protector will almost instantly redirect the excess electricity into the ground wire so that it can be safely dispersed.

Understanding Internal and External Power Surges

Most power surges are internal, which means that they originate from within the building’s electrical system. Internal power surges commonly occur due to issues like faulty or damaged wiring or because the electrical system or one electrical circuit is overloaded. More powerful appliances can also sometimes cause a power surge when they turn on since they require so much power to start. While this more commonly happens with air conditioners and refrigerators, the issue can also sometimes arise when using power tools and hair dryers.

Internal power surges are a concern since they have the potential to do quite a bit of damage to appliances and sensitive electronic devices. Nonetheless, most internal surges aren’t all that powerful and are usually only confined to one circuit.

External power surges are when something causes the current in the electrical grid to spike. This leads to the voltage of the current flowing into a building spiking way above what its electrical system can safely handle. The most common causes of external power surges are things like lightning strikes, downed power lines, and blown transformers.

Why Surge Protector Strips Aren’t Always Sufficient

Plugging TVs, computers, stereo equipment and other sensitive or expensive electronic devices into a surge protector strip is a smart idea. As long as you use a surge strip with a fairly low clamping voltage, say no higher than 400 volts, it should protect whatever is plugged into it from being damaged by an internal power surge. The main problem is that surge strips are only effective against internal surges and offer zero protection against external surges.

Surge strips also have a joules rating, which is how much total current they can handle before they fail and no longer offer any protection. Every surge that the strip handles has a cumulative effect and subtracts from the total joules of protection the strip has left. A high-quality surge strip normally offers 2,000 to 3,000 joules of protection. If the strip is rated at 2,000 joules, it would take 10 surges of 200 joules each or one 2,000-joule surge for it to fail. The issue in this regard is that an external power surge can easily release tens of thousands of joules in an instant, which means it would immediately overwhelm even the very best surge strip and prevent it from working.

Why a Whole-Home Surge Protector Is a Great Investment

A whole-home surge protector is the only effective option that can prevent damage from most external power surges. This type of device is installed in between where the wire from the electrical grid connects to the building’s electric service panel. The clamping voltage of a decent whole-home surge protector will usually be under 400 volts, which means it will protect against even more minor external surges.

Most high-quality devices can also handle up to 50,000 amps of electricity without failing. An extremely powerful bolt of lightning can release more than 100,000 amps, but most lightning strikes only cause the power to surge to be 5,000 and 25,000 amps on average. This means a whole-home surge protector should protect your house and electrical system against the vast majority of external surges. Generally speaking, the only time you may still need to worry is if an extremely strong bolt of lightning were to directly strike your house.

If the surge protector detects the current flowing into your home is above its clamping voltage, it will usually activate in less than a nanosecond. When it activates, it channels the electricity into the copper grounding rod outside the building. This allows the current to be safely released into the ground outside instead of flowing into the building’s electrical system.

The national average cost to install a whole-home surge protector is around $300. There are situations where you may end up paying a few hundred dollars more. Nonetheless, even having to pay around $1,000 will be well worth it. That’s because the majority of more powerful external surges will usually cause damage well in excess of $10,000.

The electrical wiring in your home is only designed to handle either 120 or 240 volts. When the voltage flowing through any wire spikes too high, it quickly causes the wire to start overheating. This can lead to the wire melting or catching fire and possibly burning the house down. Even if a fire doesn’t start, an external power surge is still likely to do extensive damage to at least some of the home’s wiring, outlets and switches. All hardwired appliances and everything plugged into an outlet are also likely to get fried or suffer severe damage. This means you could be forced to replace or repair most of your appliances as well as TVs and computers. You may also need to do extensive rewiring or other major electrical repairs.

As with surge strips, whole-home surge protectors can only handle so much current before they fail. While the device should protect against all but the most powerful power surges, a strong surge will still likely cause it to burn out. This isn’t an immediate issue since power surges generally only last for a fraction of a second. Nonetheless, it does mean that you’ll want to have your surge protector inspected and tested as soon as possible any time it had to activate since you may potentially need to have it replaced. Still, having to replace it will be much less expensive compared to the damage that likely would’ve occurred if you didn’t have one in the first place.

If you’re considering installing whole-home surge protection for your house, you can count on Tingley Home Services to help. We’ve been serving customers in Milford and the surrounding areas since 2003, and our team of expert electricians specializes in installing surge protection, EV charging stations, whole-home generators and more. We can also take care of any of your electrical upgrade or repair needs. Also, we have a team of certified HVAC technicians that are ready to help if you need any air conditioning or heating repairs, maintenance or installation services. We work on and install central air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces and ductless mini-splits and can professionally handle all of your home comfort needs. Contact us today if you have any questions about whole-home surge protection or need to schedule any help with your home’s electrical or HVAC system.

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