Nearly every modern home contains electronic devices that can adversely react to power surges. These devices include computers, kitchen appliances, laundry equipment, multimedia players, and gaming consoles. To operate properly, components within these devices require the correct consistent voltage.
Unfortunately, sudden surges of power can cause home electronics to malfunction or suffer irreparable damage. These voltage spikes can occur during common thunderstorms, outages, or blackouts as well as during weather emergencies like hurricanes or tornadoes. Investing in a whole-home surge protector can help shield your belongings no matter what.
What Is a Whole-House Surge Protector?
A whole-house surge protector is a non-descript box mounted between your house’s circuit breaker panel and the general or communal power grid. Due to the complex wiring involved, you will need to hire a licensed electrician to complete the installation. Upon activation, the surge protector regulates the flow of electrical current to every device in the home.
Surge protectors essentially act as filters that only allow safe electrical current levels into your home. These devices help prevent high current levels or voltage spikes from passing through into the household electrical system. For example, whenever a surge protector detects a voltage irregularity or high surge, it can divert any excess electrical current into the ground wiring instead.
While many people associate surge protection with simple power strips, whole-home surge protectors can safeguard important hardwired appliances like water heaters and air conditioning units. Home surge protectors can also shield large items that may not accommodate smaller power strips. Examples of such appliances include the washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, or furnace.
Home surge protectors are common in areas that experience frequent thunderstorms. These surge protectors are also important in states susceptible to hurricanes, tornadoes, or fallen power lines due to blizzards or heavy snow. Experts also recommend that home business owners or people with work-at-home employment install surge protectors to protect electronics from loss or damage.
What Causes Power Surges?
The typical home has more electronic appliances and devices than ever before. By design, most electronics in the United States can accept around 120 volts of alternating current. These electronics usually include a converter that fluctuates the current supply to match the appropriate DC output. Surges in electrical current that occur well above the 120-volt standard can damage your electronic device’s internal components. Although a voltage spike may last for only a few milliseconds, it can carry tens of thousands of volts that can burn fry circuit boards, crash hard drives, destroy motherboards, and ruin important appliances.
Large power surges can occur in several ways. Among these larger surges, lightning remains the most powerful. For example, a 200,000-amp strike that hits a power line can destroy standard 20-amp wiring. According to the National Weather Service, nearly 20 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur annually in the United States.
In addition to lightning, tree limbs and car accidents can bring down power lines and cause an outage. Other sources of large surges include sudden changes in electricity from nearby businesses or power grid switching from the electric utility company. Even outdoor animals, like squirrels or birds, can interfere with electrical equipment by climbing up transformers and causing them to malfunction and go offline.
Small power surges can also occur within your home grid. For example, short transient surges can happen due to circuit overload from high-power air conditioning motors, hair dryers, space heaters, or home power tools. These small voltage spikes rarely cause serious damage in a single event. However, repeated spikes can damage connections on delicate circuit boards over time. This process is known as “electronic rust” or “slowly emerging product damage.” It shortens the lifespan of appliances and can result in a costly replacement or repair bill.
Internal surges can also happen due to the on-and-off cycle of power-intensive appliances like laser printers, electric washers, and dryers, microwave ovens, or refrigerators. In extreme circumstances, these devices can overheat and cause an electrical fire. This is especially true for older homes with aluminum wiring instead of updated copper wiring.
What Devices are Vulnerable to Power Surges?
Any device plugged into the home power grid can experience the adverse effects of a voltage spike or high surge. In the modern world, household electronics are particularly vulnerable. Instead of mechanical operation, most appliances now consist of circuit boards, digital displays, and motherboards. Common devices in need of protection can include the following:
- Personal computers
- Washing machines and dryers
- HVAC systems
- Humidifiers and furnaces
- Televisions and entertainment systems
- Gaming systems
Smart household appliances, LED light bulbs, and LED strips are also at risk during any high surges. Finally, you may wish to install a surge protector to protect your smartphone, laptop, or tablet. One voltage spike can wipe out a circuit board beyond repair, causing you to lose your favorite apps and vast amounts of personal data.
Should You Get a Whole-House Surge Protector?
Surge protectors are common in commercial buildings. Installation in industrial settings can help shield equipment and machinery from possible damage. However, whole-home surge protectors are just as useful for residential homes.
Foremost, surge protectors help shield appliances that are hardwired into your home grid. These items can include anything from your stove and dishwasher to your wall-mounted television set. Large appliances can cost thousands to repair or replace, so a surge protector can potentially save on expenses in the long run.
It is also important to consider a surge protector to help with devices that undergo a regular on-and-off cycle within your home. These “on/off” appliances can include refrigerators, air conditioners, and home heaters. A power surge that causes a refrigerator “blowout” can result in spoiled food and a costly replacement. Voltage spikes that cause an air conditioner or heater breakdown can make your house dangerously hot, cold, or humid during extreme weather. Whole-house surge protectors provide peace of mind when you own appliances that generate power during the course of regular cycling operations.
Individuals who work remotely at home or own a home business should also consider installing a surge protector. In this instance, a household going offline due to a power surge can result in a significant revenue loss. Depending on the product or service, frequent downtimes can also diminish the trust that clients have in the business. Since time is money, it is better to avoid power outages whenever possible when running a home-based enterprise.
Similarly, gamers should also consider surge protectors to prevent damage to expensive electronics. In the gaming world, consoles are worth thousands of dollars, and limited-edition releases are often irreplaceable. Safeguard these items so that they remain in excellent condition for your collection or for resale.
Finally, many households install surge protectors as a preventative measure against extreme weather. People who live in regions prone to ice blizzards or snowstorms can use surge protectors to help prevent outages from downed power lines. Heavy snowing can also prevent trucks from reaching power lines for repairs, so home protection can help you avoid additional wait times due to power restoration delays.
Contact Us Today for Peace of Mind
Homes in the Tampa Bay area can particularly benefit from whole-house surge protection against weather-related outages and emergencies. Installing this type of surge protector requires the knowledge and expertise of a licensed electrician. Contact Comfort All-Stars today to get the best electrical protection for your Tampa home. We provide HVAC and electrical services.