How Much Does a Whole House Surge Protector Cost?

Updated: Apr. 11, 2024

Whole house surge protector cost is lower than $1,000. It's a small price to prevent a power surge from destroying your essential appliances.

Electricity is the miraculous force of nature upon which modern civilization is built, but too much of it can be a bad thing. Imagine what would happen if the high-voltage signal in the power lines, or the immense energy of a lightning bolt, were to pass directly into your home appliances.

Such an electrical surge would be a disaster, but it’s one you can prevent with a surge protector. The big question is: “How much does a whole-house surge protector cost?” The answer is anywhere from $70 to $700, not including installation.

I can attest to the damage a power surge can cause. Years ago, a lightning strike destroyed our solar energy system, knocking out the inverter and the control panel for the generator. Would a surge protector have saved our system? I consulted Jay Sanders, a Batimore-based general contractor, and Kent Boll, who founded his own electrical company in 2005 and is now CEO of a multi-trade home-maintenance company based in Minnesota, for the answer. Here’s what they told me.

What Is a Whole House Surge Protector?

A whole-house surge protector is a device that detects an unsafe electrical surge and diverts it away from your home’s service panel. “Like a bouncer for your home’s electrical system, it stands guard, ready to block or redirect any sudden spikes in electrical current that could harm your appliances and gadgets,” says Sanders.

“It’s a crucial piece of equipment in regions susceptible to lightning or frequent power surges, offering an additional protective measure for precious electronics and appliances,” adds Boll.

Types of Whole House Surge Protectors

Sanders and Bell identify three types of surge protectors:

Type 1

Installed between the power meter and the grid, this type protects your electrical system from external surges that might be caused by lightning or a malfunction in the power lines.

Type 2

This is the more common type. Installed directly in the panel, this surge protector protects your electrical system from both external surges and internal surges, which might occur when a large appliance switches on.

Type 3

Besides the two main types, Boll also identifies a third type that may be installed on an electric outlet or power cord. “While they are not technically whole-house protection devices,” he says, “they are often used with Type 2 protection devices to provide a layered approach to surge protection, protecting susceptible electronics such as televisions, computers, and gaming consoles.”

How Does a Whole House Surge Protector Work?

Sanders puts this in simple terms: “It is like a filter. When it senses too much voltage, it channels the excess away from your home’s circuits, preventing damage to your electronics.”

Boll explains in more detail:

“The surge protector persistently oversees the voltage entering the home’s electrical panel. If the voltage surpasses the standard threshold (usually 120V in the U.S. for residential settings), the device recognizes this as a power surge and promptly diverts the surplus voltage away from the home’s electrical circuits, typically by grounding it (discharging it into the earth), where it poses no risk. Once the overvoltage has ceased, the device automatically resets, and normal electrical flow is restored without interrupting the power in the home.”

How Much Does a Whole House Surge Protector Cost?

The cost to purchase a whole-house surge protector ranges from $70 to $700, with the national average being around $300, according to Sanders. On top of this are installation costs, billed at a typical rate between $50 to $100 per hour (depending on the installer).

Whole house surge protector cost breakdown

  • Device: $70 to $700
  • Installation: It takes a licensed electrician about two hours to install a whole-house surge protector, with labor costs typically between $150 and $200.

Type 3 surge protectors are far less expensive, costing $20 to $30 and requiring no professional installation.

Can You Install a Whole House Surge Protector Yourself?

Installing a whole house surge protector isn’t a DIY job, according to Sanders. “It involves messing with your home’s main electrical panel, which can be dangerous if you’re not a pro. So, it’s a solid “no” for DIY and a “yes” for calling in a licensed electrician.”

Boll concurs: “Only a professional electrician is familiar with local building codes and electrical standards to ensure that the installation meets all regulatory requirements and does not void warranties or insurance policies.”

Benefits of a Whole House Surge Protector

  • They protect your appliances: Even small power surges can damage expensive appliances, particularly those with sensitive control boards, such as refrigerators and air conditioners.
  • They protect your electronic devices and data: Laptops, computers and other devices can lose valuable information when a power surge forces them to shut down.
  • They prevent fires: Power surges cause overheating, electrical arcing and fires.

Are There Rebates or Tax Breaks for Whole House Surge Protectors?

“Depending on the location, there are indeed certain state incentives available,” says Boll. “Some regions may offer incentives as part of broader initiatives to promote energy efficiency or electrical safety in homes. To find out if there are any incentives available in your area, check with local utility companies, state departments of energy, or energy conservation and efficiency websites.”

When Should You Replace a Whole House Surge Protector?

The metal oxide varistors inside whole-house surge protectors tend to corrode and wear out fairly quickly. Online experts tend to recommend replacement after two to three years, and the longest you should wait is five years.

Is a Whole-House Surge Protector Worth It?

When you compare the whole-house surge protector cost to that of losing your essential appliances in a power surge, the surge protector wins by a mile, especially if you live in an area with higher-than-average electrical storm activity.

About the Experts

  • Jay Sanders is a licensed contractor. He’s been working on construction for more than 10 years and is CEO of Maryland Contractors, which offers building and renovation services in the Baltimore area.
  • Kent Boll entered his family electrical business and founded Boy’s Electric in 2005. In 2017, he founded Airtech, which offered HVAC and plumbing as well as electrical services. He is currently CEO of Service Today!, which adds pool maintenance to its list of services.