What are surge protectors?
A surge protector helps protect you and your appliances from voltage spikes. Let’s get a bit more technical. A surge protector is a capacitor bank that absorbs any spike in voltage you may have in your home and directs it towards your grounding system. Which is a pathway that serves as an alternate route for an electrical current to flow to ground. The surge protector does this so the voltage spikes don’t go through your wires in your house and affect your appliances, computers, or TVs.
Now that we covered that, do you need to know what a voltage spike is? Let us cover all of our bases. Voltage spikes happen when there is a fluctuation in volts within your home. The Pennsylvania Utility Commission allows the utilities to fluctuate 10% of the rated voltage that comes through your home. In 120 volts you can be as high as 122-125 and as low as 110 volts depending on where the power is coming from to your home. When you get those variations in voltage it affects the longevity of your appliances or power cords and how long they last.
Voltage spikes happen every single day, multiple times a day. Sometimes you notice them without realizing that’s what’s happening. Ever notice your lights randomly flicker once or experience a brownout? Yep, that’s a voltage spike. While it seems like such a small thing that can do no harm, it can. Voltage spikes attack the electronics circuit boards, these boards are designed to work within a specific range but the closer you get to the minimum and maximum limits of that range, the harder it is on the components of the circuit board. Similar to how your brakes wear out on your car. The more surges you have the quicker your circuit boards wear out.
Surge protectors will help even out the spike so it keeps your current more consistent throughout your house which will extend the life of the circuit boards, AC units, Refrigerator, furnaces, etc.
So this something I should have in my house, but how do you get one and where do they even go?
We want to be sure you’re informed and ready for anything. Safety is always a priority in our eyes. We think you should be protected as best you can be. You can have protection from surge protectors on 3 different levels, we recommend having all 3 in your home. The first level and the biggest is a whole home surge protector. These are designed to handle a larger surge and are installed in your main panel box which is usually in your garage or basement. Depending on the brand it can be a rectangle, square, or circle, but it would be visible on the outside of the box and marked as a surge protector.
The second level of protection is surge protection for appliances on air conditioning condensing units and furnaces. The third and final level of protection is having surge strips in your home. These are strips that you would plug your computer or TV into. They look very similar to a regular power strip, they just happen to be better. Usually, a surge strip will be labeled and a little bit thicker than a normal power strip. Transformation Electric recommends that you have all three layers of protection because the more you have the more you’re protected. This will not only keep your expensive appliances around longer, but it can also help protect you from any fire hazards.
The 2020 National Electrical Code requires whole house surge protection when we install a new service. This is required because if you do get a large enough surge that causes damage to your circuit board it could catch on fire. Pennsylvania is 2 codes behind so this will not go into effect until 2026, but Transformation Electric is still encouraging this to be done now!
Are surge protectors a one time buy and are they expensive?
Nothing lasts forever, but they can last a long time! It all just depends on the quality and brand. Just like most things, the more money you invest the better quality you’ll get out of your surge protector. Transformation Electric did research on best protection and for whole-home protection from us, it will be between $425 and $550 depending on the application. For this, we install Siemens products. For secondary surge protection, we install Intermatic products in AC compressors and furnaces which costs anywhere from $100 to $350. As for plug strips, Transformation Electric doesn’t sell these, but you can find them at any regular box store. Just know, you don’t want the cheap one. Spending the extra money on one will extend the life of your appliances and save you money in the long run!
It’s never too late to get a surge protector of any sort. Transformation Electric can install your whole home surge protector if your house doesn’t have one currently. You just need space in your panel to add to breakers for a surge protector and if you don’t have space, we can add a subpanel or increase the size of the service. If you do have one but need to check if it’s working, most surge protectors will have an LED light on it to let you know it’s working. With the Siemens product, there are green LED lights on the face of it and also an audible alarm. So if the surge protector is no longer providing protection, the lights will go off and there will be an alarm to let you know it’s no longer working. Plug strips will typically have the same LED lights to let you know it is protecting your appliances, but if they don’t they will generally just stop providing power to whatever is plugged into them!
Why should I consider installing one now?
Surge protectors work behind the scenes to help keep you and your appliances safe. Whether it is overtime protection from voltage spikes or even something as big as a lightning strike, these can come in handy. If one of these things were to happen and really cause damage to the circuit boards on your appliances, it might be a challenge for you to get a new appliance right now. There’s currently a shortage of appliance tin and wiring harnesses right now, so there’s a short supply of appliances. You may not be able to find the model you want, so protecting what you have is a good idea.
Last but not least, if you have a whole house generator, a portable generator, or considering having one, you definitely want to have a surge protector installed. Generators don’t provide clean power as the utilities do, so the surge protector will help protect your home from the dirty power the generator is going to produce. This is not as much of an issue for a gas generator, but it is still a good idea to have it installed because when it kicks on you’re going to get a spike.
Give Transformation Electric a call at 724-266-7177 for any further information or questions you may have on surge protectors and how they are an important safety net to have in your home.