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How to Choose Surge Protection for Your Home
(Part 2)

Click here to return to Part 1

Shopping Tips

Here are some shopping tips to use when purchasing your surge protection system...

Service Entrance Surge Protection

Service entrance surge protection devices will either be a TVSS or a secondary surge arrester. It is not possible to compare the capabilities of a TVSS to a secondary surge arrester because they are tested differently. State Farm is not recommending one type over another. We will offer suggested specs for both.

  • Tested Product: It is very important that the device has been tested. Look for a secondary surge arrester that is tested according to the recommendations of IEEE C62.11 or a TVSS that has been tested in accordance with UL 1449, 2nd Edition.
  • Fuse Protection: Look for a TVSS device that has thermal fuse protection. If the device is a secondary surge arrester, make sure it is fused.
  • Clamping Voltage (Rating): TVSS service entrance surge protectors will typically have a clamping voltage higher than 330 volts.

    We do not currently have a recommendation for a minimum clamping voltage for TVSS service entrance surge protectors. For information purposes only, it appears most of the established manufacturers of these devices have a clamping voltage no higher than 800 volts.
    The lower the clamping voltage the better the protection.
    Service entrance surge protection devices classified as secondary surge arresters will not have a clamping voltage because they are not tested to UL 1449. Purchase a device that is tested according to the recommendations of IEEE C62.11. Talk with the manufacturer about the device's capabilities. Since there is no standardized test method for secondary surge arresters, each manufacturer may test their product differently, making a performance comparison between products difficult or impossible.
  • Surge Protection on All Electrical Wires: Verify the surge protection is on all electrical wires. TVSS devices should indicate protection for Line to Neutral (L-N), Line to Ground (L-G), and Neutral to Ground (N-G). Secondary surge arresters mounted on the utility side of the electrical panel will have only L-N protection.
  • Telephone and Cable TV Protection: Install surge protection on the incoming telephone and cable TV lines as well as the electrical line. It is possible to accomplish this with one surge protection device or separate surge protection devices at each utility line.
  • Working Indicator Light: Most all service entrance surge protection devices have indicator lights that will signify if there are any problems with the protection. Be sure the device you buy has this feature. Most of these devices, if the surge protection capabilities are destroyed, will still conduct electricity. The indicator lights are a way to check to make sure the device is still protecting.
  • Good Warranty: Find an established manufacturer with a good reputation. Their warranty should cover any damage to the equipment that is protected by their product.
  • Joule Rating: The joule rating indicates how much energy a surge protection device can handle. Because testing to determine joule ratings has not yet been standardized, the joule rating cannot currently be used for comparing products.

Point-of-Use Surge Protectors

  • Tested Product: These types of surge protectors all fall under the category of TVSS. Purchase only devices that have been tested to UL 1449, 2nd Edition.

  • Thermal Fuse Protection: Look for a device that has thermal fuse protection.

  • Clamping Voltage (Rating): Purchase TVSSs with a listed clamping voltage of 330-volts, the best rating given under UL 1449. It will not be difficult to find TVSSs that plug into outlets and have a clamping voltage of 330-volts. However, we could not find surge protection outlets with clamping voltages less than 400-volts.
    The clamping voltage can be found on the surge protector's rating plate (see below)

    Surge protector clamping voltage information

  • Surge Protection on All Electrical Wires: Make sure the surge protection is on all electrical wires. The device should indicate protection for Line to Neutral (L-N), Line to Ground (L-G), and Neutral to Ground (N-G). A clamping voltage of 330-volts should be listed for all three wires.

  • Fax/Modem and Coax Protection: When purchasing a point-of-use type surge protector for a computer, VCR, or TV, look for a device with telephone and coax cable jacks for protection of those lines if the item being protected has those types of hookups. Remember, power surges can enter through the electrical, telephone, or coax lines.

  • Loss of Power After Catastrophic Failure Feature: Look for point-of-use surge protection devices that no longer conduct electricity once the capacity to protect against power surges has been lost.
    Surge protection devices are designed to sacrifice themselves for the equipment they are used to protect. Once they have had too many surges, they no longer protect. However, if they still conduct electricity, a homeowner may never be aware the device has lost its ability to protect. With this feature, once the protection has been destroyed by a power surge, the surge protector outlets will no longer be powered.
  • Ground Wire Indicator Light: A convenient feature to have is a plug-in type surge protector that has a light that will indicate whether or not the outlet it is being plugged into is properly grounded. Grounding is required for the surge protection device to work most effectively.

  • Good Warranty: Find an established manufacturer with a good reputation. Their warranty should cover any damage to the equipment that is connected through their surge protection device.

  • Joule Rating: The joule rating indicates how much energy a surge protection device can handle. Because testing to determine joule ratings has not yet been standardized, the joule rating cannot currently be used for comparing products.

Surge Protectors must be properly grounded

Without proper grounding a surge protection device's ability to protect is greatly diminished or impeded. Do not connect a plug-in type point-of-use surge protection device to an electrical outlet by using a two-prong extension cord. The surge protection device's ability to protect against power surges will be diminished. And many surge protection device warranties will not cover any damage if this is done.

Planning of Electrical Circuits

If you are building a new home or remodeling, properly organizing the electrical circuits can reduce exposure of power surges to sensitive equipment. Don't place wall outlets that are going to be used for computers, TVs, microwaves, and stereos on the same circuits powering large appliances with motors, such as refrigerators or freezers.

Costs of surge protection

Service entrance surge protection at the main electrical panel or electric meter requires installation by a qualified electrician. Installing it at the electric meter also requires the approval of the utility company. Service entrance surge protection (for the electrical system only) can also be accomplished with plug-on devices that snap into the electrical panel just like a circuit breaker.

Costs for service entrance surge protection can start at $80 (material and labor) for the plug-on type devices inside the electrical panel. For those mounted on the outside of the main electrical panel or installed at the electrical meter, the range is $150 to $500 (material and labor).

Costs can range from $20 to over $100 for better quality point-of-use type surge protection devices that plug into electrical outlets.

Surge protection outlets, which require the services of a qualified electrician, cost around $40 (material only) as compared with a typical electrical outlet that costs around $2 to $4 (material only).

Conclusion

Why hasn't damage from power surges been a problem before now? Power surges have always existed. Appliances and products going into our homes, however, have changed.

Sensitive electronic circuitry is appearing in more and more appliances in the typical American home. Also, the amount of electronic equipment in the home is increasing -- DVD players, satellite TV, video games, stereo systems, and personal computers are becoming commonplace.

The electronic circuitry is getting more dense and compact, making the circuitry more vulnerable to damage from power surges. Equipment and appliances are becoming more interconnected with one another and more connections will be made with phone lines and coax cable lines. Electric utility companies are deregulating at a time when there will be more demand for electrical power. All this increases the chances of damage from power surges.

The cost and number of electronics and smart appliances in the home will continue to increase. Combining this with the potential increase in power surges means damage from power surges will cost us more in the future.

The cost is not borne solely by insurance companies. The consumer loses also. Most power surges do not originate from lightning strikes. Damage from power surges created by the utility company or generated within the home is either not covered or has coverage limitations in most insurance policies.
Even for damage caused by lightning, coverage is often limited (depending on type of insurance coverage) because of the depreciation on the piece of equipment and the deductible. Because of the potential financial loss to the homeowner, a good surge protection plan should be considered, no matter where you live in the country.

Understanding the problem and knowing what options are available to you puts you ahead in the protection of your property.

State Farm® believes the information contained in this article is reliable and accurate. We cannot, however, guarantee the performance of all items demonstrated or described in all situations. Always consult an experienced contractor or other expert to determine the best application of these ideas or products in your home.

Thanks to our friends at State Farm Insurance from allowing us to reprint this article.

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