As the average home continues to add electronic devices of all types, it is becoming increasing necessary for the home to be protected by a whole house surge protector. Stray electric charges can enter the home and damage or destroy expensive electronic equipment. In many cases, these surges of electric power can even lead to fire, destroying the entire home. Individual surge protection devices are mandated in most communities, but a whole house unit may be needed to protect against catastrophic damage.
So You Think You Already Have a Surge Protection System
Many homeowners and home electronics users think that they are already protected from surges. Often, they believe that the eight-outlet strip hooking up all the electronic devices is a surge protector designed to protect the equipment. In most cases this is not true. The eight-plug strip that is bought is just that, an eight-plug strip. It offers power but no surge protection.
In more modern homes there are outlets with three prongs. These outlets serve as surge suppressors. In other words, they keep you from getting an electric shock if there is some sort of current break. Water in a bathroom is an example of a current break. Most older homes do not have these outlets. In either case they are not surge protectors.
Where Do Electric Surges Come From?
The most common surge of electric power is a lightning strike. A surge can start with a bolt of lightning striking a building or an area close to it. The current then travels into the building through pipes or lines of many types. When it gets to a place where it can head for ground, like a computer, TV or phone, it grounds and blows the unit up. In many instances, the unit catches fire or transfers the power to something near it, like the equipment user. Interestingly enough, a more likely source of an electric surge in the home is a stray electric charge. These stray charges may be due to a general power surge, a tree branch falling on a power or phone line, or the turning on or off of appliances like a refrigerator.
How Do I Protect Myself?
You can protect yourself from power surges by protecting the building and appliances around you. To best protect your building, make sure it is adequately grounded. In essence, the power surge should never make it to the building. It should head right for the ground around the building. In most cases these systems are installed when the house is built or when the water system is put in place. To find out if there are protective systems in place, just call an electrician or company specializing in whole house surge protection. In any event, a licensed electrician should be doing the checking and installation. This is not a do-it-yourself project.
Ideally, a whole house surge protection system will protect everything. If, however, there are expensive individual electronic gadgets inside, you may want to add another level of protection. As you work with your electrician, ask about putting in elements for each individual electronic device. Peace of mind in this regard goes hand in hand with an insurance policy.