A power surge happens in a fraction of a second. Maybe you see the lights flicker, or your computer locks up for no apparent reason. You might not notice anything at all.
But that little surge in the current flowing through the wires of your house can have big consequences. The Insurance Information Institute includes insurance claims from power surges in the same category as damage from lightning strikes. Together they resulted in more than $1 billion in insured losses in 2011, with an average claim of $5,112. There’s an easy and affordable way to steer clear of those kinds of losses. They’re called whole-house surge protectors, and here’s how they work.
What causes power surges
Most people worry about a power surge being caused by something outside of their home, like a lightning strike or a damaged power line. While lightning is the most dangerous cause of surges, it’s far from the most common. According to the NEMA Surge Protection Institute, 60-80 percent of power surges start inside the home, typically from major appliances and systems that cycle on and off, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, and clothes dryers. Over time, those fluctuations take a toll on sensitive electronics, such as plasma TVs, computer equipment, microwaves, and smart appliances, causing delicate circuit boards to malfunction or burn out prematurely.
Whole-house surge protection
The good news is that protection is readily available, and even our top-of-the-line solutions are affordable. The gold standard is a two-tiered system: a whole-house surge protective device, or SPD, installed at the circuit breaker box, and plug-in SPDs on individual outlets.
A whole Home Surge Protector can protect against up to 50,000 amps of current flowing into your home from the outside; normal household power is 200 to 400 amps. When a sudden surge occurs the device detects the excess current and safely diverts it through the house’s grounding path.
For the most sensitive electronics, such as computers and home entertainment systems, a second layer of protection is recommended in the form of point-of-use surge protector. You can get them from any electronics retailer. A quality point-of-use surge protector starts at about $30 and comes with a warranty to replace damaged equipment if the device fails. Whole Home Surge Protection will not protect your home against a direct lightning strike. But weighed against the damage even everyday power fluctuations can cause, whole-house surge protection is an investment well worth the cost.