Got your electronics fried from a power surge? Or maybe you want some protection after hearing about your neighbor’s unfortunate power surge accident.
There are a lot of different options that you can use to safeguard your house and electronics from these transient power surges.
In this article, you’re going to learn the basics so you can easily make an informed decision on what solution you really need for your home.
What’s a Surge Protector?
A surge protector is basically a device that will protect your electrical equipment from a sudden burst of energy known as a power surge.
Take note that a lightning strike is not the biggest danger to your electronics. The fact is that 80% of power surges are generated inside your home and this is mainly caused by power hungry, motor driven appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators, etc.
It’s a rare situation where a single huge spike will destroy your equipment. There are small surges that happen on a regular basis and these surges will eventually add up and degrade the performance of your electronics. Your local power company can also introduce these harmful power surges and that’s why it’s also important to use surge protection in your electrical service panel.
Also there’s no existing surge protection for a direct lightning strike. You have to look into lightning rods if you’re really worried about that.
Types of Surge Protection
This website primarily focuses on whole house surge protectors but take note that it’s not a complete solution when you want total protection from damaging electrical surges.
It would definitely help improve your situation and it does make you feel a lot safer but it’s not a complete and enough solution. What you want to try and achieve is a layered and cascading approach. You have your first level of protection at the power meter then the second level is going to be at your breaker panel. Lastly, the third level of suppression is at the point where you plug your electronic devices.
Let’s discuss the 3 most popular and practical types of surge protection.
They are also known as secondary surge arresters and they’re typically installed on the line side of the main service entrance. This is between your utility pole and where the electricity enters your service panel. You can think of them as your first line of defense when it comes to voltage spikes as they protect from nearby lightning strikes and transient surges from your power company.
A whole house surge protector is categorized as a type-2 SPD and is known as service or branch surge panel. They’re installed on the load side of the main service entrance and they also provide protection from nearby lightning strikes and other internally generated power surges from motor driven appliances.
This category provides point of use surge protection and it’s more commonly known as power strips. They suppress the lower level voltage spikes that can be damaging to more sensitive electronics like your computer, audio component, televisions and other household appliances.
Take note that power strips should indicate that they have surge protection capabilities in order to really protect you from voltage spikes.
This is also known as surge protection modules and they give a different kind of point of use protection than your power strips. This type of surge protection is more ideal for industrial use
A popular approach that many people do is layer their surge protection. They will install a whole house surge protector (type 2) and they will also use power strips to provide point of use protection as their last line of protection for their more sensitive electronics.
Best Whole House Surge Protectors for 2015
Square D HEPD80 Whole House Surge Protector
The Square D HEPD80 has a really high surge current rating of 80,000 amps as many of the whole house surge suppressors in the market only gives you 30,000 amps of protection.
When it comes to adhering to standards, this Square D surge protector is in compliance with the UL1449 certification. It has a type 4X NEMA enclosure which means that it’s rated for indoor and outdoor installation.
Installing the Square D HEPD80 is very simple especially if you have some experience in working in your breaker panel. It will probably take you around 20-30 minutes to set it all up. It’s designed to be installed directly to your breaker panel but you might have some difficulties if you have a flush mounted panel.
The price of the Square D HEPD80 is very cheap when you compare it with other type-2 surge protectors that have a surge rating of 80K amps. Currently its price is just over $100 and others with the same surge rating can reach up to $400.
A problem with the Square D HEPD80 which you might experience with other whole house surge protectors is the time when you file an insurance claim. You will have to go through many challenging and technical hoops before you can receive any compensation for your claims.
The Intermatic IG1240RC3 has a maximum surge capacity of 60,000 amps. They’re also fully compliant with the UL1449 and they have a NEMA 3R rating which is also rated for an indoor or outdoor use.
This is designed for a 120/240 VAC single (split) phase and you can set it up using a 15A or 20A 2-pole breaker. Setting it up will take you an average of 20 minutes provided you know what you’re doing.
There’s a 4-wire hookup; you will need 2 available spaces in your breaker panel for a 20 amp 2-pole circuit. The other 2 wires will be for the terminals on the ground bus bar. The installation instructions are enough to be easily followed but it would be a lot better if the information is more organized.
Take note that the Intermatic IG1240RC3 is a fairly large whole house surge protector so check out your breaker panel to see if there’s enough space inside. The length of the lead wires is only 6 inches long and it’s made up of tinned copper so it’s not going to get oxidized.
When it comes to the price, the Intermatic IG1240RC3 is sort of the middle ground when it comes to the price and level of protection with other Intermatic surge protectors. The cheaper units will only give you a 3-way surge suppression but this particular model will provide you with 6 levels of protection.
One of the things that many people loved about the Intermatic company is their level of support. They are very much dedicated in providing a high quality of support with their customers. If you want to claim the warranty, you can just easily call them up, fill out some forms and you’ll be receiving a new unit in just a short amount of time.
Installing the Leviton 51120-1 whole house surge protector is just as easy as the other units in the market. You have to remember though that you will require 4 wires during the installation but these wires are not really included in your purchase.
The Leviton 51120-1 already includes a J-Box metal NEMA type-1 enclosure. The enclosure category states that you can only use and install this unit indoors. It’s also compliant with the UL1449 3rd edition and it does have 2 indicator lights that will notify you of its protecting status.
The price is going to be more expensive when you compare it with other type-2 surge protectors. However, the price is going to reflect the quality of the product because the Leviton 51120-1 has the highest specifications when you talk about surge protection for single phase residential use.
The Siemens QSA2020SPD will already have two 1-pole circuit breakers which are SWD and HACR rated. The SWD rating means that you can use it for switching the lights and the HACR rating means that it’s ideal if you have some heating, air conditioning and refrigeration applications in your house.
The installation of the Siemens QSA2020SPD is a lot easier because it already includes a couple of circuit breakers. This is a really good advantage when it comes to installing as many of the other units don’t come with circuit breakers. Average time to install this is just only around 10-15 minutes while regular whole house SPDs will take over 20 minutes.
Although one important note you to remember is that you must have a Siemens panel in order to install this specific surge protector. But if you have a Murray panel then that would be okay as it’s just basically the same.
The warranty for the Siemens QSA2020SPD is not really that favorable for consumers especially when you compare it with others. The warranty period is only for 24 months (2 years) and they exclude some connected equipment. The will also give you a lower equipment coverage which is only $20,000.
The Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA has a quick connect design that will help you to easily connect it to any breaker panel. Out of all the whole house surge protectors in the market, this is the only one that’s being endorsed by a celebrity home improvement contractor, Mike Holmes.
This unit is also fully compliant with the Underwriters Laboratories 1499 3rd edition and installation time is around 30 minutes for someone who knows how to work with a breaker panel. You will need a 50-amp 2-pole breaker and you have to install this on 2 breaker slots that are available. Take note that you do not need any kind of conduit to install it in your panel.
One issue though is that there are no included breakers with this unit.
Square D HOM2175SB
The Square D HOM2175SB will give you equal protection to all your circuits and receptacles throughout your house. This unit can be used in the service entrance, combination service entrance device and in Homeline load centers.
It’s also fully compliant with the UL1499 3rd edition and is designed for surge protection of single phase, 3-wire, 120/240 Vac, 50/60 Hz electrical applications and appliances.
It has a 22,500 amp maximum surge current capacity and you will have a three-year warranty. However, the equipment coverage warranty is a bit low as you’ll only get a $10,000 coverage that includes major appliances like refrigerators, oven, washer, dryer and air conditioners. Your audio components, video gear, televisions and computers are all excluded in this warranty.
The Intermatic IG2240-IMS has consumable modules and this feature will help you in replacing a surge module when it’s been compromised by a voltage spike. This whole house surge protector is also compliant with the standards set by the Underwriters Laboratories (UL 1499 3rd edition).
The Intermatic IG2240-IMS has a thermally protected MOV (TPMOV) which is a technology patented by the Mersen Electrical Power. Mersen claims that the TPMOV technology will give you a fail-safe device when it comes to surge protection.
Intermatic is not the only one who sells a surge protector with consumable modules. Leviton also carries a surge panel with replaceable surge modules but their price is between $400 to over $1,000. While the price for the Intermatic IG2240-IMS is only just around $200.
Sycom Whole House Surge Protector
The Sycom SYC-120/240-T2 is actually the surge protector that Mike Holmes recommended in many of his Holmes for Homes episodes before he signed as an endorser for Eaton.
This is also fully compliant with the UL 1449 3rd edition which is not very obvious unless you go to their official website and download its specifications sheet.
It has a NEMA 4 enclosure type rating and that means that it’s perfectly fine to install it indoors or outdoors. The Sycom SYC-120/240-T2 whole surge protector will also provide additional suppression with the Spike-Ender coaxial cable protector. This basically helps in protecting cable modems, HDTV receivers, etc. from damaging voltage spikes.
Important Criteria When Choosing Whole House Surge Protectors
Compliant with UL 1449 – Make sure that the whole house surge protector is fully compliant with the Underwriters Laboratories, UL 1449 3rd edition. The UL 1449 is a safety and performance standards of surge protection equipment by the Underwriters Laboratories and it was revised to its 3rd edition back in 2009. Basically, the changes were about the compliance with the international standards and the change in testing procedures to better recreate practical and real-life situations. In short, consumers are the biggest winners with this revision.
Protection Modes – Learn what modes of protection your surge protection provides. An ideal device should at least have 3 modes of protection and they are Line to Neutral, Line to Ground and Neutral to Ground on both of the lines.
Maximum Surge Capacity – This one is measured in kiloAmps and this basically tells you how much of a surge the device can survive.
Short Circuit Current Rating – This will tell you the highest level of short circuit current that surge suppressor can ward off.
Maximum Continuous Operating Voltage – This is probably the most important criteria when checking out a whole house surge protector and basically what you want to look out for is a higher number.
Warranty – Make sure that you carefully read the warranty information for a device. There a lot of technicalities that these companies will throw on you so it’s best to read the fine print.