By AJ Danboise

Power surges can wreak havoc on your electronics and appliances. While large, destructive power surges from things like lightning strikes are fairly rare, small power surges happen every day. Over time, the cumulative damage from small surges adds up.

Power surges are too common and too damaging to ignore. But which is better, whole-home surge protection installed at the electrical panel or plug-in surge protectors from your local home improvement store? The expert electricians at AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical provide some insight below.

What is a Power Surge?

A surge is an increase in voltage above the designated level (standard voltage in the US is 120 volts) that lasts for three nanoseconds or more. A “spike” is an increase in voltage that lasts only one or two nanoseconds.

Depending on the strength of the surge or spike, it can seriously damage and sometimes break a machine. Even when a surge does not inflict noticeable damage, over time, the extra strain on the electrical components can lead to premature repairs and replacements.

Power surges can come from:

  • Power Grid Switching (Utility Grid Transfers)
  • Lightning
  • Blackouts and Power Outages
  • Internal Switching (Turning Devices On/Off)
  • Downed or Damaged Utility Lines

Whole-Home Surge Protector or Plug-In Surge Protector? The Two-Tiered Approach

In this case, it’s not a matter of either/or. For the best protection against power spike damage, it’s a good idea to use both whole-home surge protection and additional plug-in surge protection (for higher-priced, more sensitive items such as computers). This is known as the two-tiered approach.

The reason why it’s a good idea to add extra surge protection to certain devices is because sometimes a power surge is created on a shared circuit. For instance, turning on the sound system can cause a damaging surge to your TV if it is on the same circuit. In this case, a power surge in a shared circuit could compromise anything plugged into that circuit.

Whole-house surge protection provides protection for all of your motors, lights, outlets, and any hard-wired items. Use the two-tiered approach with plug-in surge protection for your sensitive electronics, such as TVs and computers.

How Does a Whole-Home Surge Protector Work?

Whole-home surge protection will save you money and protect your property. Installed directly to the electrical panel, the whole-house surge protector safeguards your entire electrical system—every outlet, switch, and motor.

While plug-in surge protectors may be able to protect the devices that are plugged into it, they won’t be able to protect any other electrical devices in your home, such as your HVAC system and other expensive appliances.

Whole-home surge protection safeguards the following from electrical damage:

  • HVAC systems
  • Washing machines
  • TVs
  • Refrigerators & other large appliances
  • Data, phone, & cable lines

These large appliances often require larger dedicated circuits that don’t have any type of surge protection installed. Additionally, a lot of the plug-in surge protection types are not good enough to protect your devices from very large power surges coming from lightning or the electrical grid.

Is Whole House Surge Protection Worth It?

Absolutely. Due to the inability of plug-in surge protectors to protect the entire home, we highly recommend investing in whole-home surge protection to protect your appliances and electronics. These protection devices are installed directly into the circuit breaker box to protect every single circuit in your home, including data, phone and cable lines. They are the best and most comprehensive form of surge protection available to you.

Plug-In Surge Protection

It’s a good idea to use plug-in surge protectors for your computers and entertainment system. Plug-in surge protectors (aka point-of-use surge protection devices) are best if used in conjunction with whole-house surge protection. If you do use a plug-in surge protector, make sure it is a surge protector (many power strips offer zero surge protection).

When purchasing a plug-in surge protector, make sure to check the following:

  • Look for a “transient voltage surge suppressor” that has been tested by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • For more protection, choose a surge protector with a higher absorption rating (the more joules, the better)

Reduce Standby Energy Loss

One of the benefits of using plug-in surge protection is being able to flip the on/off switch to all of the plugged in devices. Instead of having to individually unplug each device, you can simply flip a switch. By turning the surge protector power switch off you can save money and energy on standby energy loss. Standby power is the electricity that is consumed by appliances and electronics even when they are “off.” While some things like refrigerators and modems you’ll want to keep plugged in at all time, other devices can be unplugged (or in this case switched off) to save energy.

Protect Your House from Surges and Spikes!

You are taking a big and unnecessary risk by not having surge protection for your expensive electronics and appliances. Voltage spikes can come from lightning storms, yes, but little ones are happening all of the time. Every time you turn on a large appliance, a small spike in voltage occurs. Over time, these small surges will damage your electronics, reducing their performance and lifespan.

  • Both whole-home and plug-in surge protection divert dangerous spike and surge energy to the ground line, creating an essential line of defense for your sensitive electrical equipment.
  • Investing in surge protection pays for itself within the first year. It’s a small expense to pay for protecting your computers, phones, TVs, refrigerators, HVAC system and other appliances.

Call AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical today at (248) 477-3626 or contact us online to get started with whole-home surge protection in Farmington Hills!

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