Whole house surge protectors

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Ian Gills, Sep 17, 2009.

  1. Ian Gills

    Ian Gills Senior Robin Hood Guy

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    I do not know anything about these but may feel I need one.

    So:

    1) what do they do?

    2) how do they work?

    3) what is the difference between them (the prices seem to vary dramatically).

    Cheers!

    Should I also consider surge protectors for my phone line and co-ax cable?

    ANSWER ME! (please).
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2009
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    New England
    Electronics don't like surges. Getting hit by numerous small surges takes its toll on them slower than a single big one, but ends in the same result...you blow an IC junction or some other failure. Some things IN your house produce surges, and the closer to the point of use you can put the surge suppression, the better the protection. That being said, a lot can come from outside as well. That's where a whole-house suppressor can help. They generally have two important ratings: response rate (low nano-second is good), and peak energy (often measured in joules). The faster they respond and the more energy they can divert or absorb the better. You pay for those capabilities. Some also filter out noise, and that adds a bunch more to the costs as well. Having a whole-house suppressor won't absorb all of the noise or surges that a large motor can induce (such as an a/c compressor or other large load motors), so expensive things like computers and entertainment equipment can benefit from them as well.

    As to cable boxes...sort of depends on who owns them. Building a decent filter/surge suppressor that doesn't phase shift or affect signal strength is not cheap. Do too much filtering on say a phone line and your DSL may no longer work. Anything that exits the house could be affected by external influences.

    My approach was a relatively inexpensive whole-house device, and individual ones at expensive components. Your results may differ...
  3. Ian Gills

    Ian Gills Senior Robin Hood Guy

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    Thanks Jad.
  4. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

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    Basically whole house surge protectors do the same thing as the power strip surge protectors they sell in stores. They protect electronic gizmos from voltage surges.

    Basically a voltage surge can wreck all electronic things in a house. Needless to say, this can be quite expensive!

    And these days you have 240 volt things with electronics in them like a range or maybe A/C or a clothes dryer. And you can't exactly plug these into a surge protector power strip! So whole house is the way to go for that.

    In my house I have a whole house surge protector which looks like a double breaker. Then I also have surge protectors at each outlet where I have something plugged in. I've had this set-up for about 8 years and have not have anything electronic get fried by a voltage surge.
  5. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

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    Look at Fig. 8.1
    http://books.google.com/books?id=SY...esult&ct=result&resnum=4#v=onepage&q=&f=false

    I've lived in NJ, TX and MD my whole life and never needed a surge protector.

    Florida has a lot of lightning strikes and here's what their PoCo offers.

    2000 joules, per mode (per path of current)
    4000 joules, total
    80,000 amps, max

    Insurance, $5k per item

    $9/mon for a 10 yr warranty
    design lifetime 10 yrs.

    The Present Value of a $9/mon annuity at 7% interest
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Present_value
    is about $800 so I wouldn't spend more than that.

    If the warranty cost is $0.90 per month the likelihood each month that one of your things would get clobbered is 0.9/5000 = 1 in 5600 if you lived in FL.

    The Ozarks are also susceptible but their PoCo wouldn't speak to me.

    BTW, you have good avatars. . .their progression seems to be telling a whole story of strife and conflict. . .
    You wouldn't want to see my progression. . .:(
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2009
  6. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

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    That's a very good point about paying $5 (or whatever) a month for something you can buy yourself. Like a surge protector or a DSL modem from the phone company.

    Add those $5 up, by 12 months and you get $60.

    Then by 20 years living in the house and you get $1,200.00!
  7. dhla

    dhla Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I bought a Leviton 51120-1, all in. For the record, I have no connection to either manufacturer or seller... but that was by far the best price I found.

    I had an electrician install that on the panel. I just bought two T5280, which are just coming out from Leviton, which are tamper-resistant versions of the 5280. (I have 2 kids under the age of 4, so I am actually interested in TR as a feature).

    I was just posting the questions about self-grounding receptacles because the 5280 is self-grounding and I wanted to know how to handle in a blue box.

    BTW, I did all this because both LCD TVs went bad - both with bad power supplies - after the lights flickered briefly. Fortunately under warranty. But my research told me I should get the whole-house surge (the 51120-1) as a result.

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 19, 2014
  8. Ian Gills

    Ian Gills Senior Robin Hood Guy

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    OK, this is good. But what I really want to know is why spend $170 on a Leviton when you could have spent less that $60 on something like a Intermatic IG1240RC.

    What are you paying for?
  9. FloridaOrange

    FloridaOrange Plumbing Designer

    Messages:
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    Location:
    SW Florida
    I have a whole house suppressor supplied by the power company - I'm sure I paid for it somewhere though. I still run suppressor/backups at all my TV's and Computers. With the backup I'll have about 20-30 minutes of TV time when the power goes out.

    I think SW Florida is the lightning capital of the US if not the world.
  10. Ian Gills

    Ian Gills Senior Robin Hood Guy

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    It is indeed. But I prefer to think of it as:

    [​IMG]
  11. dhla

    dhla Member

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    Location:
    Los Angeles
    You asked about the difference between Leviton and Intermatic. I can't give you any kind of informed answer... however, when I went to put a "timer switch" in my entry way to control my exterior lights, I did quite a bit of research. Both Leviton and Intermatic offered products with comparable features - in fact, intermatic offered slightly better features - but I went with the Leviton because there were a number of complaints about reliability and quality of the Intermatic product and there were no comments about those issues with the Leviton product.
  12. Scuba_Dave

    Scuba_Dave Extreme DIY Homeowner

    Messages:
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    Location:
    South of Boston, MA
    I have a UPS/surge on my LCD TV & my computer
    Planning to put one on the panel

    One house that was renovated (basically done) was hit by a surge
    TV's, fridge, stove + more was wiped out
    Total $11k in damages:

    http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,387874,00.html

  13. Ian Gills

    Ian Gills Senior Robin Hood Guy

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    Location:
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    If I wire a GFCI receptacle to the hot wires entering my panel and then wire the panel on the load side of the GFCI receptacle would that stop a lightning strike?
  14. Scuba_Dave

    Scuba_Dave Extreme DIY Homeowner

    Messages:
    885
    Location:
    South of Boston, MA
    Sure...it would stop all power as the GFCI melted from the 200a feed :D
  15. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,460
    Location:
    MD
    You're paying for energy absorbing capability.

    If you plot
    price vs. joules absorbed
    for several makes/models you might find some units are not worth it and others are bargains.

    On the example graph in this link the Intel 840 doesn't seem to be a good buy because the price is high relative to the performance you get.
    http://www.cnet.com.au/dual-core-desktop-cpu-bout-amd-vs-intel_p8-240058761.htm

    But there are diminishing returns when you approach the level of FL's surge protectors.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2009
  16. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    If you are looking for a less expensive way to protect your electronics, the above is not going to work. If it did, then everyone would be doing this.

    Very experienced electrical engineers go to a lot of effort and testing to design surge protectors. Best to use what they recommend to use which would be a surge protector and not a GFCI. GFCI's are the best thing to use to protect people from being electrocuted. Electrical engineers design them for that application. And you would not use a surge protector to protect someone from being electrocuted!

    So use the device which is designed specifically for the application you are using it for.

    So far as surge protection, you pretty much get what you pay for.

    A good rule of thumb so far as the power strips is the guarantee which comes with them. If a manufacturer says they will replace any damaged equipment plugged into that power strip, then that is a good indication it will work well. These are the more expensive surge protection power strips. Note what it say about "joules" as compared with other less expensive power strips.

    Then for whole house surge protectors, look for "joules". More is better and will probably have a higher price.
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