Whole House Surge Protector Frequently Asked Questions

Jesse Kuhlman News

Whole house surge protectors were introduced into the market decades ago.  During recent years they have really taken off due to a change in electrical code in 2020.  This code change required whole house surge protectors to be installed during all new service upgrades and service installs.  For example, if you were updating your electrical system with a 200 amp panel upgrade, the electrician installing it would have to install a whole house surge protector by code.
This change in code sent the sales of whole house surge protectors through the roof and made everyone take notice.  Why is our electrical code requiring them?  What are the pros and cons of them?  I’m not planning on upgrading my service, should I install one?  We’ll answer all these questions and more below!
Q: How does a whole house surge protector work?
A: Put simply it works like a relief valve or filter, preventing high voltages from making it into your branch circuit wiring which connects to your appliances, HVAC systems, TV’s, computers etc.  When the voltage spike happens, this excess voltage is directed out of the panel through the surge protector device.
Q: What causes a surge in a home?
A: Surges come from a few different places.  Lightning, power company surges, downed power lines and internal surges.  The most common and least talked about by far, are internal surges.  These internal surges come from your heavy electrical loads like your air conditioner, refrigerator, disposal, heat pump, EV charger etc.  When these heavy loads start to operate, they divert more of the homes voltage to them, resulting in a surge to other electronics.  These internal surges can happen many times per hour throughout the day.
Q: What items in my house will a whole house surge protector help to protect?
A: Nearly everything in your home has electronics these days.  We can start with the obvious things like your computer and TV.  But what about your HVAC systems (Heating and cooling systems)?  These have circuit boards / electronics within them to operate.  Does the thought of getting longer life out of your expensive heating and cooling system sound good?
People often forget about their dimmer switches, GFCI receptacles and arc-fault circuit breakers.  These all have electronics within them as well.
Another big one is your EV (electric vehicle) and charger.  When these are connected to your home, they become susceptible to surges.  All EV chargers have internal surge equipment, but these should be supplemented by a whole house surge protector which will increase the lifespan of the EV chargers integral surge protection.
Q: Will a whole house surge protector improve the lifespan of electronic equipment in my home?
The data shows that electronic equipment within a home that has a whole house surge protector will last 25% longer than the same equipment in a home without surge protection.
Most people will buy cheap surge protector strips to protect a computer or TV.  What about the electronics in our fridge, dryer, HVAC system etc.?  These pieces of equipment can be many times the cost of a TV.
A single whole house surge protector can offer significant protection and longer life to all electronics within your home.
Q: Will a whole house surge protector help with my smoke alarms going off for what seems like no reason?
A: Everyone that has smoke detectors has experienced middle the night nuisance alarms.  The smoke detector goes off, you jump out of bed all groggy and confused to look for a potential fire and there is no smoke anywhere.  What gives?
In most cases these nuisance alarms are triggered by surges from your own home, or the power company.  When the voltage changes at the smoke detectors, it throws the smoke detectors into an alarm mode.
We have had great luck installing whole house surge protectors in these situations.  I would say over 95% of the time it solves the nuisance alarm issue.
Another interesting fact from The Fire Protection Research Foundation , they performed a study and found that over 34% of respondents with surge damage reported their smoke detectors failed or had loss of function.
Q: Are whole house surge protectors hard to install?
A: Under most circumstances they are simple installs and can be done within 1-2 hours.  Some whole house surge protectors install in place of a circuit breaker, which means they require two spots in your panel.  If your panel does not have any open spots this style of surge protector won’t be possible to install.
Another option is to install a surge protector that goes on the outside (or inside) of your panel.  This style has wires connecting to a circuit breaker.  The style that we use here at KES can be wired to its own circuit breaker, or added to an existing two pole circuit breaker.  Meaning this type of surge protector can be installed in almost any panel, regardless of if the panel is full.
Q: Are there any cons to whole house surge protectors?
The only con to installing a whole house surge protector is the cost of the unit and to install it.
Q: How much does it cost to install a whole house surge protector in my home?
A: We install them for $375.00 if bundled with any other service / estimate.  If you want one installed by itself, we charge $500.00.  We use a premium surge protector that offers a $100k limited warranty on electrical equipment within your home if it fails in the event of a surge. The style we use can be installed inside or outside of the panel, and can connect to its own circuit breaker or an existing one if necessary.
Q: Will a whole house surge protector protect my home from a direct lighting strike?
A: You have probably already guessed the answer to this question.  The answer is absolutely no.  Have you ever seen a house that was struck by lightning? Many years ago, I was home and our house was struck and it left a HOLE in the side of our house.  Yeah, a hole…No surge protector is going to stop lightning from blasting a hole in the side of your home.
Depending on where the lighting strikes, there is a chance the whole house surge protector could save some of your electrical appliances.  It will really depend on where the strike takes place in relation to your electrical panel and the path the electricity takes once the strike happens.

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