Adding a whole-home surge protector to your electrical system is the best way to protect your home’s major appliances and systems. A significant power surge can seriously damage your air conditioner, refrigerator, water heater, range, and other devices. When more power flows through your electrical system than it can handle, all of that additional electricity can burn out appliance motors and circuit boards. A whole-home surge protector ensures that this won’t happen.
To understand how, let’s take a closer look at how whole-home surge protectors are installed and how they work.
Types of Surge Protectors
There are three main types of surge protectors available for your home. Each of these is effective in its own way, but a whole-home surge protector is often the best choice for defense against internal and external bursts of power. These whole-home protectors can get installed directly into your home’s main electrical panel and may provide the best results.
The type 1 protectors are installed outside your home and work well for external surges. Yet, these will not prevent small eruptions of power from entering your home and causing significant damage to your belongings. Along with this system, you also have type 3 protectors, such as the spike strips used for your TV or computer. This type is usually sufficient to shield smaller appliances and devices from internal surges. However, type 3 surge arrangements are not equipped to defend against external power surges.
When more force flows through a circuit than it can handle, it causes instant heating of the wires. This warming can cause the insulation to melt and the wires to spark. All of that heat on its own also has the potential to start a fire. Out of these, the most effective way to defend your appliances from a rush of external power is with a type 2 whole-home surge protector. This defense will also safeguard your electrical system from damage or fire hazards that result from an outpour of external power.
Installing a Whole-Home Surge Protector
Installing a whole-home surge protector typically only takes a few hours. However, it is definitely something that needs to be done by a licensed electrician. The risk of electrocution or damage to your home’s electrical system is too immense. If not done correctly, you could also create a severe fire hazard. At Crowe Electric, our highly skilled electricians have years of experience installing surge protectors and will ensure the job gets completed safely and appropriately.
When installing a whole-home surge protector, our electrician will begin by shutting off the power and mounting the unit inside your electrical panel. The surge protector can technically get installed anywhere between the main electrical panel and the electricity meter. However, it is generally always best to install it in the main breaker panel if possible.
It can be necessary to replace your main breaker panel in some situations if there isn’t available space for the surge protector. The surge protector needs wiring to a di-pole or double breaker. If there isn’t a double breaker available, it may be possible to replace some of the existing breakers with double breakers to free up space. If not, it will be necessary to change the breaker to a larger one. The other option is to opt for a surge protector that gets hard-wired into the panel instead of connected to a double-breaker.
We have seen situations where people tried to avoid replacing the panel by installing the surge protector in a nearby sub-panel. This technique never gets recommended as it will only secure items connected to that panel. Any circuits upstream from the sub-panel in the main breaker panel will have little to no protection.
The surge protector gets connected to the panel’s grounding wire once it is mounted and wired to the double breaker. This step is essential as the grounding wire enables the surge protector to direct power surges away from your appliances and circuits.
Understanding How a Whole-Home Surge Protector Works
A whole-home surge protector constantly monitors the amount of voltage that is flowing through the main electrical panel. If it detects a sudden spike in voltage, it first isolates the panel to prevent the high voltage current from flowing through your electrical circuits and into your appliances.
The surge protector then directs the current to the primary grounding wire. This effort will channel the current away from the electrical panel, through the grounding wire, and into the copper ground rod outside the house. The current flows through the ground rod and disperses into the surrounding soil.
This process is similar to how the surge strip or other type 3 surge protectors work. When a surge strip detects increased current flowing through the circuit, it channels the electricity to a grounding wire where the outlet gets plugged.
External vs. Internal Power Surges
Internal power surges typically result from overloading the circuit. This overload often happens when you plug too many things in at once or attempt to draw more power than the circuit can handle. Internal power surges can also result from faulty or malfunctioning appliances or electrical shorts.
If too much energy flows through the circuit, it can damage any device on that circuit, such as your TV, microwave, computer, etc. Appliances and devices that draw a large amount of power when turning on can also cause an internal power surge. These include your air conditioner as well as things like vacuums and hair dryers.
The design of your home’s electrical system is to shield against damage caused by internal power surges. When excess power flows through the circuit, it automatically trips the circuit breaker. This action instantly disconnects the circuit and cuts off the flow of electricity to prevent overheating or damaging your appliances.
There are also situations where your electrical panel can get overloaded. This excess means that the combined power draw of all your circuits exceeds what it can handle. When this happens, it trips the main circuit breaker and shuts off the power to your home.
Lightning strikes are the most common cause of external power surges. If lightning strikes any home in the area, it can send a tremendous swell of electricity to every building downstream. External power surges can also occur due to problems with the local electrical grid.
Your main breaker should also trip due to an external power surge. However, power surges travel extremely fast, and the main breaker won’t trip in time to prevent the high voltage from surging through your electrical system. The whole thing happens in less than the blink of an eye and can instantly burn out the control or circuit boards on any appliance.
If you’re interested in learning more about whole-home surge protection, the knowledgeable team at Crowe Electric is happy to answer any questions. Our master electrician and the rest of our team have years of experience installing whole-home surge protectors, and we back up all work we perform with a full five-year warranty. To learn more about our surge protection services or if you need any other electrical assistance, give us a call today.
Owner of Crowe Electric, 331 Forest St, Rockland, MA holds a Electrician license and 1 other license according to the Massachusetts license board. Their BuildZoom score of 104 ranks in the top 9% of 139,240 Massachusetts licensed contractors.