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Old 12-22-2011, 08:13 PM   #1
FlyBy
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Default Whole-House Surge Protectors

So I'm getting ready to renovate my grandparents old house come spring time and I've been looking into a lot of things that I want to put in my own house someday. You'd figure with my grandfather being an electrical engineer, that his house would be perfect in the wiring world (too bad it isn't).

What I'm looking at are breaker panel mounted surge protectors that cover all the circuits in a panel. Anyone have any experience or have them in their own homes?

1. Are they worth it?
2. Does this eliminate the need for surge suppressors on major electronic devices (PC's, tv's, etc)
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Old 12-22-2011, 08:17 PM   #2
porcupine73
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

I've got that sort of device on a couple of my panels. They can help protect against surges coming in the power mains. But due to wave propagation / standing waves, they may not necessarily completely protect other circuits from surges coming in another circuit, such as a lightning strike coming in a TV antenna.

I've thrown out all my plastic surge protectors because they can be fire hazards. The MOV's start to conduct after they take enough surge hits and eventually can melt the plastic case and even start on fire.

Last edited by porcupine73; 12-22-2011 at 08:19 PM.
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Old 12-22-2011, 08:23 PM   #3
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

They can be worth installing, but they don't necessarily eliminate the need for individual surge suppressors. They'll help diminish surges that come in on the service line, but if for instance lightning strikes the house directly it will bypass the whole house suppressor - that's where individual suppressors can come in handy.
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Old 12-22-2011, 08:28 PM   #4
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

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Originally Posted by porcupine73 View Post
I've thrown out all my plastic surge protectors because they can be fire hazards. The MOV's start to conduct after they take enough surge hits and eventually can melt the plastic case and even start on fire.
I know house fires all too well. My grandfather's company was forensic electrical engineering dealing with loss analysis. I don't have any old strips laying around or connected to expensive equipment, too risky with age.
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Old 12-22-2011, 08:31 PM   #5
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

Keep the leads as short as possible is the key best protection. be sure to put the devices on the exterior of the panel. The built in models are good but when they blow they do alot of damage to the panel. Any valued equipment should have its own protection. In this case more is better
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Old 12-22-2011, 08:43 PM   #6
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

Keeping the leads as short as possible is less important than how you route the leads. You want them to not have any kinks, and to take widely radiused turns. These work best when they're farthest from the main breaker in the panel, and require a very good grounding system.

Oh, and for those saying they don't protect you if your house is directly struck by lightning: true, but neither do surge strips. If you take a direct lightning hit, you're making an insurance claim. Plain and simple.
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Old 12-22-2011, 09:20 PM   #7
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

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Oh, and for those saying they don't protect you if your house is directly struck by lightning: true, but neither do surge strips. If you take a direct lightning hit, you're making an insurance claim. Plain and simple.
Yes, it's true you can't absolutely prevent damage, but you'll have a better chance with multiple levels of protection.
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Old 12-22-2011, 09:27 PM   #8
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

The newest issue of the Family Handyman has an article on this but I haven't yet read through it, but it talks about installation and benefits, etc.
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Old 12-22-2011, 09:39 PM   #9
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

I have this installed in my shop and plan to install the same in the house when we build it.

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Old 12-23-2011, 05:36 AM   #10
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

Being and Electrical Technologist who does forensic investigations with our provincial utility, I can say they do work. As mentioned above, they do not eliminate the need for "layers" of protection. I would also recommend using a small UPS (uninterruptable power supply) on large items such as servers, LCD TV's and the like. Eaton makes a real nice compact unit that's available at Costco.

Merry Christmas Everyone!
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Old 12-23-2011, 05:51 AM   #11
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

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Originally Posted by NLBUILDER View Post
Being and Electrical Technologist who does forensic investigations with our provincial utility, I can say they do work. As mentioned above, they do not eliminate the need for "layers" of protection. I would also recommend using a small UPS (uninterruptable power supply) on large items such as servers, LCD TV's and the like. Eaton makes a real nice compact unit that's available at Costco.

Merry Christmas Everyone!
May I ask why the UPS? I guess I understand a server but why a TV? Surge protection is fully understandable but why UPS?
If I'm watching TV and the power goes out-so what the TV goes off. I have an LED TV and if the breaker pops (it has happened with the wife plugging in a heater) it does not come back on until the power button is pushed.
Thanks for any info.
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Old 12-23-2011, 07:19 AM   #12
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

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Originally Posted by malibu101 View Post
May I ask why the UPS? I guess I understand a server but why a TV? Surge protection is fully understandable but why UPS?
If I'm watching TV and the power goes out-so what the TV goes off. I have an LED TV and if the breaker pops (it has happened with the wife plugging in a heater) it does not come back on until the power button is pushed.
Thanks for any info.
The ups is a sacrificial piece of insurance. The idea is that the UPS also has surge protection built in, which is good. The better part is that the UPS monitors line voltage and will disconnect the incoming voltage when there are power issues and it won't reconnect it until the voltage is within safe range. It really depends on the cost of the TV , I guess. If you have a $400 walmart TV it doesn't make much sense using a $200 UPS. On a $2000 TV it might be worth having.


I Use Ditek whole house surge protectors with Ditek DTK-8FF surge strips in key locations. I use APC UPS' on my TV/Home Theater equipment, my alarm panel and accessories, and on my computers / servers. It's cheap insurance. Once again there is no guarantee, but something is better than nothing.

I have worked with surge protection in various forms in the security industry for 15 years. I can tell you that it does work.
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Old 12-23-2011, 07:55 AM   #13
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

Yes, well said gatchel. The UPS will always provide constant "clean" power regardless of the input, and when the input becomes unuasble it will provide it's own power, and disconnect from the main supply.

The whole idea is to use the UPS to constantly filter and condition the power from the UPS, not to watch TV when the main power is out. My home theater has a 2K plasma, so $138.00 UPS is cheap insurance.
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Old 12-23-2011, 09:03 AM   #14
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

Thanks for the info on UPS's!!!!!
I guess over my holiday vaction I will be shopping for a UPS.
As was said by NLBUILDER losing a UPS is cheaper than losing my new $1K 60" LED TV.
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Old 12-23-2011, 09:11 AM   #15
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

I do NOT want to derail this post but may I ask.....
What is everyones thought on surge protection on the incoming cable from the cable company. It is grounded at the NID on the outside of the house but that's it.
Should there be (is there even such a thing) a surge suppressor on the incoming coax?
I'm now giving a bit more thought to my new bigscreen after reading a few things here.
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Old 12-23-2011, 10:22 AM   #16
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

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Originally Posted by NLBUILDER View Post
The UPS will always provide constant "clean" power regardless of the input, and when the input becomes unuasble it will provide it's own power, and disconnect from the main supply.
This UPS "clean" power myth isn't entirely true.
Just about all UPS's in the size range that plugs into a 110V outlet are of the "standby" type. Those pass line voltage directly through (with a couple of MOV's in the system for surge protection, but usually nothing more than can be found in a $10 surge strip). When the power goes out, they start up their inverter, and connect that to the output, usually in well less than one cycle, but it takes FAR longer for this switchover to occur (a few milliseconds), than the time it takes for a surge to strike (on the order of picoseconds). The "voltage correction" feature on the better models of this type uses a 1:1 transformer between the input and output, with two extra taps to bring it up or down a few percent during an overvoltage or brownout. If you didn't have that feature, it would just switch to battery during these conditions, so this is more important for staying online during a brownout, than actually protecting your electronics.

There is a UPS configuration called "online" which rectifies all of the input power to charge the batteries, and then uses the DC to run the inverter all the time, which does provide "clean" power all the time. I know Eaton makes UPS's of this variety, but I don't know if the models sold at Costco are of this type.

The downside to an online UPS, is that by running the inverter 24x7, it is wastes electricity. The inverter burns some power no matter what you're using, and depending on the electronics, they're somewhere between 80% and 90% efficient.

Last edited by rlitman; 12-23-2011 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 12-23-2011, 10:47 AM   #17
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

Hi.

What the surge arrestor does very well is to control the surge voltage across itself. The " arrestor " voltage is depending on the surge current and the rise time of same, typical values in low voltage at a lightning strike in the feeder line close to the house is 10kA with a rise time of a few µs´s.

The voltage at a downstream point away from the arrestor will depend on the connected load, the inductance and the capacitance. A value of twice the arrestor voltage 20 " wire" meters away from the arrestor is not unrealistic.
One good way to clamp this voltage increase is to install surge capacitors close to sensitive objects, they are less prone to start fires than a secondary surge arrestor.

And as pointed out in earlier posts, install the surge arestors so that they are well away from anything combustible. A roofed wire cage and polymeric insulation on the arrestors is the best way to guard against fires.

However, before doing anything of this I would contact the utility and :
Ask for their recommendations
Insist that they run a ground wire of adequate area at least 3´above the house feeder for at least a few hundred yards. The " umbrella " line is the best lightning protection.
Arrange open air spark gaps in the last two or three poles before your house. The utility will know how to do this.

Best regards

Ola
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Old 12-23-2011, 01:47 PM   #18
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

Several years ago - during the summer - I came up the driveway - hit the garage opener & the door started up then went down - hit it again & same thing happened - then it started to cycle up & down on it's own. Went inside the house & microwave was flashing - but I still had lights. Went outside to check if anything was wrong with the incoming power lines - took awhile but found my neutral had seperated for whatever reason. Called the power company & tech comes out & fixes the neutral - he asked if I had lost the garage opener & anything else - he was right it fried my garage door opener fortunately I had disconnected the heat pump or it might have fried it also. When I asked him about a surge protector maybe preventing what happened - he said not in this case but if I wanted to purchase a whole house surge unit from the power co. it was available for a nominal fee, It installs either prior to the meter socket or is built into the meter socket itself - not sure.. I would contact your power co. & ask about such an item.
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Old 12-23-2011, 03:22 PM   #19
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

There are surge protectors available from the power company that hook up to the meter. They're usually around $5 month, with the advantage being free installation and free replacement if it goes bad/gets blown. But, after a little while, you end up paying more.

I put in a $100 whole panel surge protector from Amazon. I added 2 breakers so it was on its own circuit. Simple as adding a new circuit. I also bought a cable line surge protector for about $15 off Amazon. I don't have a phone line but that may be worth protecting also.
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Old 12-23-2011, 04:26 PM   #20
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Default Re: Whole-House Surge Protectors

Quote:
Originally Posted by malibu101 View Post
I do NOT want to derail this post but may I ask.....
What is everyones thought on surge protection on the incoming cable from the cable company. It is grounded at the NID on the outside of the house but that's it.
Should there be (is there even such a thing) a surge suppressor on the incoming coax?
I'm now giving a bit more thought to my new bigscreen after reading a few things here.
Any copper or other wire that comes from outside of the house is a point of "surge" entry to your house.

Ditek makes a kit. I believe the part number was WH-8. It covers the power, coax, and telephone. It's not a bad deal but it is a more expensive bunch of devices.

You could always get FIOS and alleviate the problem all together if it is available and they are still installing it in your are. Lightening can't travel through glass.
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