Sponsored by Intermatic
You know you need a surge protection device for your computer and printer. But most homeowners never think about the need to protect the other electronics in their home. That’s a mistake because all electronic devices like flat panel TVs, DVD players, modem/wireless routers and audio equipment can be destroyed by power surges. Even newer appliances like washers, dryers, ranges, dishwashers, microwaves, garage door openers, and furnaces and A/C equipment contain expensive circuit boards that can be damaged by power surges.
You may think that power surges are only generated by lightning strikes. Not true. Lightning strikes can spread a powerful surge into every home around the strike area, and those surges can cause immediate and catastrophic damage to your appliances and electronics. But they’re not the only source of damaging power surges. In fact, internal switching of motors and appliances can also cause transients and surges. Those continual power spikes take a toll on every electronic device and appliance in your home, eventually causing them to fail without warning.
Your homeowner's insurance probably includes coverage for surge damage, but that coverage only kicks in after you’ve met your deductible, which is always far more ($500 or $1,000) than the cost of a whole-house surge protection device. So relying on homeowner's insurance to pay for surge-related damage after the fact doesn’t make much sense when you can prevent the damage from occurring in the first place with a quality surge protection device.
The best way to protect all your electronic devices and appliances is with a whole-house surge protection device installed at the main circuit breaker panel, along with smaller plug-in surge protection devices at each electronic device or small appliance.
A whole-house surge protection device protects both incoming power line surges and internally generated surges generated by large appliances within your home. The plug-in surge protection devices at each electronic device or small appliances stop all other types of surges. Together, the two types provide a “layered or cascading approach” to give you the ultimate power protection.
Which whole-house surge protection device should you buy?
Many companies make UL-listed whole-house surge protection devices that vary in price from as little as $30 to upward of $500. They’re available in two different styles: as a disposable sealed unit, or a cabinet style with replaceable modules. Most manufacturers use metal oxide varistor (MOV) technology to suppress surges. However, since MOVs degrade slightly with every large surge, all surge protection devices eventually fail and must be replaced.
If you choose a sealed-type surge protection device, you’ll have to replace the entire unit when it fails. That involves shutting off power to the whole house, removing the breaker panel cover and wiring in a new device. That’s fine if you’re comfortable working inside your main panel. If not, you’ll have to hire an electrician and that’ll cost about $300 each time.
However, if you or your electrician installs a whole-house Surge Protective Device with Consumable Modules, you can replace the individual modules yourself, without opening the main panel or shutting off power to the entire house.
I installed a whole-house surge protection device at my son’s house
My son just built a new home and filled it with every conceivable electronic device. And, since all his appliances have a fancy digital display, that means they all have electronic circuit boards that can be damaged by power surges. Surprisingly, even though the electricians wired his house to the gills with coaxial cable and high-speed Internet cables in every room, they didn’t install a whole-house surge protection device.
Knowing that he’s at risk for surge damage, I decided to install an Intermatic IG2240-IMS whole-house surge protection device. I chose the Intermatic unit for several reasons. First, the Intermatic replaceable consumable models are built with an advanced thermally protected MOV technology (TPMOV) that disconnects the MOV from the circuit if the surge causes an overvoltage breakdown. That’s an important safety feature. In addition, the modules have two LEDs to let you know they’re on and working, and when they require replacement. Plus, the cabinet has its own power shutoff. To replace a module, my son simply flips the switch, yanks the module and slides in a replacement.
Finally, the Intermatic whole-house surge protection device has excellent surge protection specifications and six modes of protection. So it’s definitely a high-quality unit. And, it carries a strong 10-year warranty and a $25,000 connected equipment coverage warranty for all electronics and appliances in his home. The individual replacement modules cost about $50 each.
We install the Intermatic unit
All whole-house surge protection devices work best when they're connected to a circuit breaker located right after the main breaker. That way, they can divert surges immediately as they enter the panel from outside power lines. To start the installation, we shut off the main breaker, removed the panel cover, and moved the existing breakers down two spaces to allow enough room to install a new 30-amp 220V breaker in the recommended location.
The main panel in my son’s house is mounted to studs on each side. Since we wanted to locate the Intermatic unit as close as possible to the knockout near the new breaker, we had to drill a hole through one of the studs. Next, we ran the wires from the Intermatic unit through a rigid 90-degree offset nipple, a coupler, and a rigid nipple, fitting and locknut. We secured the Intermatic cabinet to wood blocking and connected the conduit to a 3/4-in. knockout in the main panel.
We connected the two black wires directly to each terminal on the 30-amp circuit breaker. Then we routed the white and bare copper wires (following the minimum bend radius) to the neutral/grounding bar and secured them.
Then we reinstalled the main panel cover and the cover on the Intermatic unit, inserted the consumable modules and powered up the main panel and the Intermatic unit. The lights came on in each module, letting us know that we were now protected against surges.
My son had already installed plug-in surge protection devices for his TV, modem/router, computers and cell phone chargers. So he’s now fully protected.
The Intermatic IG2240-IMS costs about $300, so it’s a bit more than other units. But he’ll never have to hire an electrician (or call me!) when a module wears out. He and I now have peace of mind that he’s got the best surge protection available.
— Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor