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In-Wall Surge Protectors and Surge Suppression Receptacles

Instead of using bulky surge protector strips, you can now install a point-of-use surge protection receptacle to protect appliances and electronics from voltage spikes.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Wire the surge protector outlet

Do you have any new appliances with fancy digital displays? You could be in for some expensive repairs unless you protect them with “point-of-use” surge suppression. Small internal power surges in your home’s electrical system occur every time you turn on or shut off devices with motors, such as power tools, vacuum cleaners and hair dryers. These small voltage spikes can wreck the sensitive electronic circuitry in programmable appliances such as ranges, dishwashers, refrigerators, washers and dryers.

The best way to protect your appliances from internal voltage spikes is to invest in high-quality point-of-use surge protectors. (To protect appliances from external voltage spikes, install a whole-house surge protector at the circuit breaker panel.) Rather than using bulky surge protector strips behind appliances, follow our tips and swap out the existing electrical receptacles behind your appliances for surge suppression receptacles. (Electric ranges require an independent 240-volt circuit, so they’re usually protected from in-house surges.)

Some types of surge protection receptacles (available at electrical supply houses and online retailers) have a signal to alert you when they’re no longer providing surge protection and need to be replaced (surge suppressors do wear out). To install the surge protector, disconnect the power to the existing receptacle and use a non-contact voltage tester to make sure the power is off. Remove the cover plate and the screws that hold the receptacle in the box. Gently pull the receptacle out from the wall. If the wires are “stabbed” into the back, clip the wire ends. Use a wire stripper to remove the insulation from the last 1/2 in. of the wires. Insert each wire into the appropriate hole in the new receptacle and tighten the terminal screws securely. Wrap the end of the bare copper or green wire (ground) around the green screw and tighten. Gently push the outlet back into the box and tighten the mounting screws. Replace the cover plate, restore the power and check to see that the green LED is lit.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Needle-nose pliers
    • Non-contact voltage tester
    • Wire stripper/cutter

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Surge protection duplex receptacle

Comments from DIY Community Members

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December 26, 12:40 PM [GMT -5]

Point of use Surge Protection Devices (SPD) are low impedance circuits designed to clip transient over-voltage that can damage sensitive AC loads. Most electrical products can easily withstand over-voltages up to 700 volts. SPD’s are sacrificial devices that will operate for many years without requiring replacement. However, SPD’s are not immune to electrical faults. They will fail during ground fault conditions. The longer your electrical system takes to clear a fault, the more apt your electronics are to be damaged. Better designed SPD’s will fail open during ground faults and hopefully protect your electronics. For this reason, having the ability being to replace or remove the SPD from the circuit is more desirable than having the SPD enjoined with the AC receptacle. Things to remember about severe electrical conditions are: High voltage transients and circuit faults are more common than you realize. The best surge devices are listed to UL 1449 3rd Edition. Surge protectors like fault protection are only as good as your electrical grounding.

August 15, 1:29 AM [GMT -5]

Can a surge protector be mounted in a non-metallic box? Sure. You will note that photo #2 of this article shows that very installation.

January 04, 11:01 AM [GMT -5]

Can I install a surge protection receptacle into an existing box that is plastic? Or do i need to replace the box with metal? I noticed that the receptacles at Home Depot come only with metal boxes.

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