Power surges have always existed, but the need for effective whole house surge protector installation is greater than ever. Did you know some of the largest power surges come from within your own Cincinnati home? It’s not always thunderstorms or other external activity. A power surge occurs when the voltage exceeds the normal flow of electricity. 

Surges differ from power spikes because the uninterrupted voltage increase lasts for more than a few seconds. Unexpected voltage surges may have devastating consequences, so preventing power surges is vital to the safety of your family and home.

When thinking about options for an electrical wiring upgrade in your home, the issue of adequate surge suppression is an important consideration. Inexpensive plug-in surge suppressors offer some protection. However, individual suppressors function best as a second layer of protection after a whole-house surge suppressor installation.

The reason is simply because we have more electronic devices in the home than ever and those devices typically incorporate circuitry and microprocessors highly sensitive to voltage fluctuations. Power surges are transient spikes in voltage that usually last only a few millionths of a second but can permanently damage vulnerable electronics.

Surges may result from sources like lightning strikes or spikes in voltage due to widespread events on the grid. A common example is when normal power returns after a blackout. 

Power surges also originate entirely indoors when a large appliance drawing high amounts of amperage switches on or a malfunction like a short circuit. Effective home surge protection technology requires a two-tiered approach.

We’ll review the reasons homeowners experience power surges and what surges affect. This blog also covers the benefits of whole house surge protection and why it’s becoming more necessary all the time. 

What Causes Whole House Power Surges?

  • Power line surges
  • Lightning strikes
  • Faulty or old wiring
  • Short circuits and tripped circuit breakers
  • Normal operation of appliances and household equipment

Power line surges

When a utility company has problems with its transformers or lines, customers often experience a power surge. The same is true if high winds, ice storms, animals, fallen trees or car-pole crashes disrupt the electricity in power lines.

Lightning strikes hitting homes, power lines or the ground near utilities

Cloud-to-ground lightning strikes several miles away from your home have the potential to do damage. Lightning strikes pose a major threat to expensive electrical components.

In fact, lightning is the most frequent cause of damage to central air conditioners, requiring replacement of the entire unit. Lightning need not directly strike your house to inflict damage. 

A nearby strike can send an intense surge through power lines and into your home circuits. Plug-in suppressors alone are often insufficient to guard against a voltage spike caused by lightning.

Faulty or old wiring

Electricians commonly find older homes with outdated or poor wiring see a surge in electrical currents and appliance damage.

Short Circuits and tripped circuit breakers

Circuits shorting in an electrical system and tripped breakers may lead to a voltage surge. When this occurs, you may need an electrician to rewire your home or to install a new breaker box.

Normal operation of appliances and household equipment

Normal, everyday electrical equipment tends to be the main culprit behind power surges. High-power appliances that cycle on and off are among the leading causes of voltage spikes. Examples include HVAC systems, washing machines, refrigerators and pumps.

Power Surges, Inside and Out

Most people think of power surges coming from outside the home, like with a lightning strike. But, most surges — up to 80 percent — actually come from within your home. These are known as “switching” surges.

Think about the major systems in your home that cycle on and off. The air conditioner or heat pump is a good example. Every time it turns on, it draws a major amount of power. When it cycles off, the power need is gone. There’s a constant surge and release.

The cycling actually causes tiny surges throughout the day. They don’t cause instantaneous damage like a lightning strike would, but add to cumulative damage to sensitive electronics which shortens the life of TVs, microwaves, home theater components, pool heaters and smart appliances.

Other outside sources of power surges also require protection at the main electrical panel. These include voltage spikes that frequently occur when grid power is restored after a blackout, as well as surges due to downed power lines in a storm.

Do Whole House Surge Protectors Really Work?

Yes!  A whole-house suppressor instantly blocks the surge from entering home circuits to provide comprehensive lightning protection. Individual plug-in suppressors can’t protect electronics that aren’t plugged in, but are hard-wired instead.

Many expensive electrical devices, including major appliances like stoves, washers and dishwashers, as well as garage door openers and HVAC equipment, are hard-wired directly into your house electrical circuits. 

Security systems, sprinkler systems, and exterior lighting are hard-wired too. Only a whole-house suppressor which protects all circuits from exterior-originating surges protects hard-wired devices.

Types of Surge Protectors: Service Entrance Protection

These are “whole house” surge protection devices installed by a professional electrician at your main electrical panel or at the meter. They constantly monitor incoming utility power to protect devices in your home against power surges from the grid. 

Today, a service entrance protection device typically includes connections for phone lines, cable TV and internet routers, too, to guard against surges using them as conduits. 

A whole-house surge protector installed by a qualified professional electrician at your main electrical panel continuously “sniffs” incoming electricity before it enters household circuits. If it detects a surge, the suppressor automatically diverts the dangerously high voltage to ground instead of letting it enter the house’s circuits. This device protects your home for up to 40,000 amps. 

Types of Surge Protectors: Point Of Use Protection

These are the familiar plug-in suppressors utilized to protect individual devices such as home entertainment technology, computers and network equipment like routers. A point of use surge suppressor protects only the single device plugged into it and offers no protection to other devices in the house. 

Plug-in surge protectors should:

  • Be rated by Underwriter’s Laboratory
  • Have a clamping value of 400 volts or less
  • Absorb 600 joules or more
  • Protect all incoming lines
  • Have indicator lights to show if it’s working.

Best Case? Get Both

For comprehensive surge protection, use both types of power surge protectors. Though service entrance protection safeguards grid power, it doesn’t protect against fluctuations from inside the house. For that, use plug-in versions too. 

On the other hand, plug-ins alone are not rated to protect against severe surges from external sources like lightning or utility fluctuations, so service entrance protectors are necessary, as well. 

Is Whole House Surge Protection Worth It?

Does your home contain delicate electronics and sophisticated appliances? Those electronics are vulnerable to electrical surges. 

According to the Insurance Information Institute, lightning-caused insurance claims decreased in 2018. While part of a three-year trend, the average cost per claim soared. It’s assumed the increase since 2016 is based on the number of electronics, devices and smart home applications used in U.S. homes. 

In 2018, insurers paid more than $900 million in lightning claims to nearly 78,000 policyholders.  At a minimum, power surges damage home electronics, appliances and wired services like security systems. 

Without proper surge protection, a voltage spike can even start a fire. Reduce this hazard with whole house surge protector installation. Because of the risk of electrocution and the need for different surge protection devices for communication lines, it’s best to hire a professional to install a surge protector for your home.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Power Surge Damage?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, some homeowner policies cover damage from power surges when lightning directly strikes your home. In addition, most policies include protection against accidental or sudden damage from man-made sources. 

However, the details often specify exclusions for crucial electronic components like transistors and tubes. Be sure to check your policy for peace of mind. 

We also recommend taking an inventory of the appliances and electronics in your home. This helps determine the level of surge protection and insurance coverage you need. 

Call Apollo Home for Whole House Surge Protector Installation

We’re eager to share our expertise in electrical, plumbing and HVAC services. We’ve learned a lot in our more than 100 years and gladly use it to help you. 

Click Here to Schedule an Electrical Service, Repair or Installation

Our friendly electricians are licensed, insured, and background-checked for your peace of mind. They receive ongoing certified training to handle a variety of electrical repairs and services. Our electricians install video doorbells, smart home devices, ceiling fans, light fixtures, new outlets, GFCIs and more.

We’re happy to provide a free estimate for whole house surge protector installation, home rewiring, electric panel installation or other electrical jobs. 

Need an emergency electrical repair? If you see sparks, smoke or evidence of fire around an outlet call us. Many times electrical fires begin and spread behind walls, so don’t hesitate if you have concerns. If you have an electrical emergency, call us 24/7.

Updated August 2019