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9 Tips for Whole Home Surge Protectors

Summer thunderstorms will be here before long and with them comes a lot of lightning. In fact, despite not being in Tornado Alley, Wisconsin is still a Top 20 state for cloud to ground lightning strikes each year. Which means Wisconsin homes are more susceptible to direct strikes and power surges that can be lethal to home electronics.

The cost of replacing a refrigerator, televisions, computers, air conditioner, or other major electric appliance can be thousands of dollars. It’s enough to make you nervous every time the forecast calls for heavy rain. The good news is that a whole house surge protector can keep them safe. Your expensive home appliances don’t have to be at risk of being damaged by electrical surges.

To help you understand more about power surges and how to protect your home, here are the most common questions we hear about whole-home surge protector installations.

1. What Is an Electrical Surge, and Why Is It a Threat to My Electronics and Appliances?

An electrical surge is a brief voltage spike in an electric circuit. This blast of extra current can overwhelm the electrical elements inside an appliance or electronic device like a computer or television. The surge can cause an arc of electricity within the device, generating heat that damages the circuit boards and other electrical components.

2. Is Lightning the Only Thing That Causes Electrical Surges?

There are two sources of power surges, external and internal. Lightning is one type of external power surge.

Power grade failures, downed power lines, and line maintenance can all disrupt the even flow of current on the lines that bring electricity to your home. As a result, external power surges can enter your home and affect every electrical device inside it.

3. What Are Internal Sources of Power Surges?

More than half of all power surges are caused by issues inside your home. Some internal causes of power surges include tripped circuit breakers, short circuits with damaged or frayed wiring, and defective appliances.

They can affect every device that is drawing power from the affected circuit.

4. What Does a Whole House Surge Protector Do?

A whole house surge protector safeguards your home’s entire electrical system; unlike smaller surge protectors, which only protect the device plugged into it, a whole house surge protector shields every outlet in your home.

When a power spike or surge tries to enter your home through the power lines, the whole house surge protector redirects the excess power to the ground. This effectively prevents the power surge from reaching any outlet or appliance inside your home.

5. Are the Electric Lines the Only Way for an External Power Surge to Enter a Home?

No. An external surge, like lightning, can follow any line leading into your home. That includes your phone line, cable TV feed, fiberoptic cables, and satellite TV cables.

This is one of the reasons a small surge protector hooked to a single device can’t protect your whole home.

6. What Types of Surge Protectors Are Available?

There are basically three types of surge protectors – whole house surge protectors, wall-mount surge protectors, and corded surge protectors.

A corded surge protector often looks like a plug strip and also serves that purpose. It is plugged into an electrical outlet, and the device you want to protect is plugged into it.

A wall-mount surge protector is similar, except there is no cord. It plugs directly into a wall outlet, and electrical components or appliances are plugged directly into it.

Both of these types of surge protectors only protect the devices plugged into them. In contrast, a whole house surge protector shields the entire electrical system, including hardwired items like smoke alarms, garage door openers, and jacuzzi tubs.

7. I Already Have a Surge Protector for My Computer; Do I Really Need a Whole House Unit?

There may have been a time when your computer may have been the only sophisticated electronic device you owned. That is likely not true today. Modern appliances like refrigerators, washers, ovens, and dishwashers contain complex electronics. Home entertainment equipment like Smart TVs and smart speakers are also susceptible to surge damage. A whole house surge protector safeguards them all.

Severe power surges can damage your home’s wiring and cause electrical fires. The small surge protector your computer is plugged into can’t protect you from that.

8. Where Is a Whole House Surge Protector Installed?

Unlike wall-mount and corded surge protectors, a whole house surge protector is hard-wired into your home’s electric panel. Because your electric panel is the central hub of your home’s electrical system, installing it there makes it possible for the surge protector to shield your entire home. Sometimes all of the components are inside the panel box. Sometimes there is a smaller, secondary box installed.

9. Is Whole House Surge Protection Installation a Do-It-Yourself Task?

Since a whole house surge protector is installed on your electric service panel, it’s a job that is best left to professionals. A licensed electrician has the expertise to safely access and work inside your main power panel. They know how to properly ground the surge protector so that spikes in electricity are safely carried away from your house.

Getting a Surge Protector for Your Own Home

A whole house surge protector safeguards every outlet in your home. It protects all of your smart devices, as well as your electrical system. If you are looking for an electrician in Janesville or Madison, WI or Dubuque, IA, the experts at Westphal & Co. are licensed electricians with over 90 years of experience. Contact us today to learn about the whole-home surge protection options available for your home.

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