Protecting your home from Power Surges

We’ve all experienced coming home and seeing every clock in the house flashing due to the power going out sometime during the day.  Maybe it’s because we have been home more, maybe the time of year, but recently I have noticed more “power surges” at our house.  This made me think about how it could be effecting appliances in our home, and should we be doing more to protect our investments?

According to “This Old House”, many homeowners believe adequate surge protection begins and ends with plugging their computer or appliances into a power strip.  However, not all surge protectors live up to their name; some are little more than glorified extension cords.  Second, a surge will follow any wire into a house — phone and cable lines included — and threatens televisions, satellite systems, computers, and modems.

There are two types of Power Surges and two types of surge protectors!  The first type of power surge happens when a high volt of electric comes down the line usually from a very close lightning strike.   These are less frequently experienced, but do cause the most damage.

The second is far more common, but not as dramatic.  These are surges caused by downed power lines, sudden changes in electricity use by a nearby factory, or even the cycling on and off of laser printers, electric dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, and other energy-sucking devices in the home. The damage inflicted by these minor power fluctuations can be instantaneous — but may not show up for some time. “You might not even notice it,” says Andy Ligor, a consultant with A.M.I. Systems Inc., a firm that installs both residential and commercial surge-protection systems. “Then a year or so later your microwave stops working.”

Depending on your budget, getting a whole house surge protector can give you protection against very large surges and to all of your incoming lines.  The other approach is a plug-in unit to protect individual appliances.  But make sure you are purchasing a protector, and not just a multi-plug extension cord.

Before buying a plug-in unit, check that it does the following:

•Meets UL Standard 1449 (second edition)
•Has a clamping voltage — the amount that triggers the diversion of electricity to the ground — of 400 volts or less. The lower the number, the better the protection
•Absorbs at least 600 joules of energy
•Protects all three incoming lines: hot, neutral, and ground. Look for “L-N, L-G, N-G” (line to neutral, line to ground, neutral to ground) on the product’s spec sheet
•Stops functioning when its circuits are damaged by a surge



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