Whole-house surge protectors

Discussion in 'Workshop and Home Improvement' started by KLF, Jun 7, 2010.

  1. KLF

    KLF Frame waxer

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    Took a serious hit on Saturday, lost the cable modem ($70), one computer motherboard ($$$), CO2 detector in the basement ($40), and it looks like the almost-new Hunter irrigation system controller is fried. Trying to avoid this happening again.

    I keep hearing about these whole-house devices you put next to or inside your service panel, the electrician that just wired up the Habitat duplex I'm building installed them too. Are they worth it? Do they work? I see them range in price of $40 to north of $200.

    Thing is, the modem and computer were unplugged at the time, so they got whacked thru the cable. No way to protect against that other than to also pull the cable off from the wall before the storm.
  2. LAMBCRUSHER

    LAMBCRUSHER

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    I have installed about a dozen and a half of the whole house jobbies that tie directly to the breakers. I have not had any complaints yet for about 2 years since the first ones were installed. We don't really install them for squirts and grins; usually it is because the client has had a bad surge. We are in an are that is notorious for surges taking out appliances/computers, so I'd venture to say that they seem to be working. The drawback to the good units is that they have to be wired to the breakers in your main, and when they absorb a big hit, they are usually toasted. Then you have to have the electrician out to remove the bad unit so you can send it in for the free replacement-and then have the electrician BACK out to reinstall. Is your cable/phone grounded to the main panel? If so (they should be), I am under the impression that the surge device will protect them too. Check out different surge protection manufacturers on line and read up on their warranty/guaranty policies and their users/owner manuals. They should have more specific info there. HTH
  3. westom

    westom

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    10
    [

    They sell in Lowes and Home Depot for less than $50. The most minimal 'whole house' protector must be 50,000 amps because direct lightning strikes are typically 20,000 amps.

    No complaints after two years? Typically destructive surges occur maybe once every seven years.

    No protector is protection. For example, if the cable was properly installed with no protector, then the cable connected short to earth ground with only a wire. That is 100% surge protection because earth ground - no a protector - is the protection.

    Protection is always about where energy dissipates. No protector stops what three miles of sky could not (even though that myth sells plug-in protectors). Every wire inside every cable connects to single point earth ground before entering the building. Or you have no protection.

    Cable TV and satellite dish must have a less than 10 foot connection hardwired to the earthing electrode. Each must have its own wire that meet all other earthing wires at that electrode.

    You cannot earth telephone. So the telco installs a 'whole house' protector for free where their wires meet yours. Massive protection for so little money. But again, if you have not provided the single point ground, then even that most superior protector is ineffective.

    AC electric is the most common source of surges. If you let a surge into the building, then that energy will hunt for earth destructively via appliances. Things such as linoleum tile, wooden tables, etc can be conductors. Nothing inside the building can avert surge damage if you let that energy inside. Either the surge is harmlessly absorbed outside the building by a single point earth ground. Or it will hunt for earth via appliances - as the OP has seen.

    So the 'whole house' protector installed in the breaker box or behind the electric meter. How many feet is that ground wire from breaker box to earth? Must have no sharp bends, no splices, separated from other non-ground wires, not inside metallic conduit, etc. Why? Because that 'whole house' protector will only be as effective as its earth ground. Notice so little discussion about the box - and still not enough said about what provides protection - earth ground. It is not exaggeration. And it demonstrates how few knew a technology that was so well understood and proven even 100 years ago.

    If the ground wire goes up over the foundation and down to earth, then earthing has been compromised. Earthing must both meet and exceed post 1990 National Electrical code. That means through the foundation and down to earth. Wire must be shorter. Eliminate those sharp bends over the foundation. Separated from other wires above the breaker box. All examples of earthing that exceeds code so as to provide effective surge protection.

    One 'whole house' protector is about $1 per protected appliance. How much do people spend on APC, Tripplite, Belkin, Monster and other ineffective protectors? $25 or $150 per? For a protector that does not even claim protection in its numeric specs?

    The principle demonstrated in this application note:
    http://www.erico.com/public/library/fep/technotes/tncr002.pdf
    Two structures. Any wire that enters either structure must first connect to that structure's single point ground. Even underground wires must be earthed before entering.

    If someone screwed up how wires enter the building, then a power utility demonstrates a kludge fix so that surge protection is possible:
    http://tinyurl.com/yefm8n9 or
    Tech Tip 08 - Indiana Business-Duke Energy

    This technology was being used over 100 years ago so that telephone operators need not remove headsets during thunderstorms. More responsible companies (General Electric, Siemens, Cutler-Hammer, Square D, Leviton, Intermatic) provide it. Protection is always - always - about where energy dissipates. Either absorbed harmlessly outside the building. Or energy hunts for earth destructively via appliances. Why do plug-in protectors not even claim protection in their specs? A protector is only as effective as its earth ground. Which is why one ‘whole house’ protector is so effective.
  4. rockcrawler

    rockcrawler SILVER Star

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    There isn't any surge protector that will protect against a "direct lightning strike". Lightnings have enough power to reach the ground from the sky through air, so some pissy surge protector won't do a thing. Neither will open switch contacts, it will jump those too. The only way to guarantee an appliance from being toasted is to pull the plug from the socket. I have seen the damage a direct lightning strike can do to a house - every wire blown out of the walls, to say nothing of the appliances. Your common surges are not to be confused with direct lightning strikes, its a different thing altogether.
    You may get away with it if the lightning hits power or phone lines some distance to you, but not a direct hit.


  5. westom

    westom

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    [QUOTE=rockcrawler;5612625]There isn't any surge protector that will protect against a "direct lightning strike". Lightnings have enough power to reach the ground from the sky through air, so some pissy surge protector won't do a thing. Neither will open switch contacts, it will jump those too. [/QUOTE]
    So your town is without phone service for four days every year or so while they replace that lightning damaged computer. According to even 1950 research in the Bell System Technical Journal, a CO suffers at least 100 surges with each thunderstorm. And you know nothing protects from direct lightning strikes only because you know. So how many times last year was your town without phones for four days?

    Meanwhile, numbers were also provided. Numbers tell which one learn and which one only recites hearsay. Typically lightning strikes are 20,000 amps. Therefore the most minimal 'whole house' protectors (sold by Cutlet-Hammer, General Electric, Square D, Leviton, Intermatic, Keison, Siemens, etc) are 50,000 amps. Conduct direct lightning strikes to earth. Remain functional. But clearly these companies are lying.

    Correctly states is that no protector will stop or absorb surges. And no open gap will stop what three miles of sky could not. And yet that is what so many claim when they recommend scams from APC, Tripplite, Belkin, and Monster Cable. That is what the plug-in protector will do. And that is not what 'whole house' protectors do.

    Why do telcos connect every incoming wire to a 'whole house' type protector? And not waste money on plug-in protectors? Because effective 'whole house' protectors have been connecting direct lightning strikes harmlessly to earth for over 100 years.

    BTW, lightning striking the power pole out on the street is the direct lightning strike to all household appliances. It is the most common direct lightning strike a home typically suffers. We are not discussing direct strikes to the roof. We are discussing direct 20,000 amps connected directly to household appliances. A direct lightning strike to AC wires down the street is a direct lightning strike into your appliances.
  6. rockcrawler

    rockcrawler SILVER Star

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    So your town is without phone service for four days every year or so while they replace that lightning damaged computer. According to even 1950 research in the Bell System Technical Journal, a CO suffers at least 100 surges with each thunderstorm. And you know nothing protects from direct lightning strikes only because you know. So how many times last year was your town without phones for four days?

    Meanwhile, numbers were also provided. Numbers tell which one learn and which one only recites hearsay. Typically lightning strikes are 20,000 amps. Therefore the most minimal 'whole house' protectors (sold by Cutlet-Hammer, General Electric, Square D, Leviton, Intermatic, Keison, Siemens, etc) are 50,000 amps. Conduct direct lightning strikes to earth. Remain functional. But clearly these companies are lying.

    Correctly states is that no protector will stop or absorb surges. And no open gap will stop what three miles of sky could not. And yet that is what so many claim when they recommend scams from APC, Tripplite, Belkin, and Monster Cable. That is what the plug-in protector will do. And that is not what 'whole house' protectors do.

    Why do telcos connect every incoming wire to a 'whole house' type protector? And not waste money on plug-in protectors? Because effective 'whole house' protectors have been connecting direct lightning strikes harmlessly to earth for over 100 years.

    BTW, lightning striking the power pole out on the street is the direct lightning strike to all household appliances. It is the most common direct lightning strike a home typically suffers. We are not discussing direct strikes to the roof. We are discussing direct 20,000 amps connected directly to household appliances. A direct lightning strike to AC wires down the street is a direct lightning strike into your appliances.
    [/QUOTE]

    You can spare me from the mis-quotations taken from the glossy sales brochures, read them years ago.

    Lightning varies widely in voltage, amperage and more importantly in this case - duration. In engineering, a maximum figure is taken and a safety factor added to that, not an average figure. The reason they are taking an average is because in this case the maximum figure alone would be impossible to create a solution for. It is the case of designing something and then finding the right "average" (lightning) for it. So you best hope that in the very unlikely event that you have a direct strike, it is an "average lightning".

    Despite of what you may think, lightning is the most frequent cause of outages. This even though there are massive surge protectors at regular intervals on transmission lines.
  7. westom

    westom

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    The OP is not asking about temporary power. Outages obviously are not hardware damage. The OP is asking about hardware protection.

    Why does a direct lightning strike cause a temporary power outage? Reclosures reconnect power after a few seconds. No hardware damage even to utility electronics called reclosures.

    OP asked for hardware protection - not blackout protection. One 'whole house' protector connects each wire short to earth ground. How well? For every protector: a protector is only as effective as that single point earth ground and how it is connected. A protector without that short connection to earth will not (and does not claim to) do effective protection.

    Listed were manufacturers who provide protectors. Concepts - ie single point earth ground. How to install that solution. Numbers (50,000 amps, 'less than 10 feet'). And prices.
  8. rockcrawler

    rockcrawler SILVER Star

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    There is always google you know.
    Here's just one I found just then:

    " Lightning strikes can damage substations, power lines and equipment."
    Understanding and Preparing for Outages - Delmarva Power

    If it can damage that then it can easily damage your home too, no?

    Just a couple of weeks ago some guy over here had a lightning go through his roof, ceiling and floorboards.

    Not to be alarmist but I think you are seriously underestimating the power of lightning.
  9. westom

    westom

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    Let's apply numbers. Most everyone has seen a lightning struck tree with extreme damage. Will assume that is what all lightning does.

    Research from the US Forestry Service discovered that well over 95% of all struck trees have little if any indication. Routine is for lightning to strike without damage. Many see the exception; then assume that is routine.

    The numbers are damning. 20,000 amps for the typical strike. 50,000 amps for a minimal 'whole house' protector. That assumes an entire surge is only earthed by your protector. That surge is shared by other power subscribers. And must be earthed by the primary protection system. Which is why informed homeowners inspect that primary system - especially if your power company is owned by First Energy:
    http://www.tvtower.com/fpl.html

    A 50,000 amp 'whole house' protector assumes the entire surge is incoming to your house. Reality: you will probably only see 20% of a 20,000 amp surge. In rare cases, that surge can be much bigger. And still well below what any 'whole house' protector must handle. Just more reasons why even a minimally sized 'whole house' protector (properly earthed) is serious protection.

    IEEE Standard (Green Book) entitled 'Static and Lightning Protection Grounding':
    > Lightning cannot be prevented; it can only be intercepted or diverted to a

    > path which will, if well designed and constructed, not result in damage.
    > Even this means is not positive, providing only 99.5-99.9% protection. ...
    > Still, a 99.5% protection level will reduce the incidence of direct strokes

    > from one stroke per 30 years ... to one stroke per
    > 6000 years ...


    It is not 100% protection. And with numbers like that, it may as well be. Routine is to have direct lightning strikes. And nobody knew a surge existed. This does not get a majority to recommend it. A majority too often must first see damage. Effective protection means no damage. Even the protector must remain functional. So many have no idea what an effective solutioin is. Most critical part of that protection system (is not a protector) is single point earth ground.

    Retail propaganda does not create profits selling earth ground. So a majority who read this are only hearing this a first time. But this is how protection is always done wherever damage must never happen.
  10. KLF

    KLF Frame waxer

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    Geez, I didn't intend for this to be such a hotly debated issue.

    I'm still not clear. Westom, are you in favor of them or not?

    I have a Siemens main panel, with 1" breakers. These things look easy to install, I'm comfortable doing the install, but I don't want to waste my money if they don't really work.
  11. rockcrawler

    rockcrawler SILVER Star

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    Lightning damage is not as rare as you are trying to make out with this. Google "Lightning Damage". Regardless, what I have been trying to say is that these surge small protectors are not going to protect your home given the right circumstances when much bigger protectors as used by power companies can fail to protect the networks. Whole House surge protectors are not Lightning Arrestors, they are surge protectors. Even with lightning arrestors there is no guarantee that they will always work and they don't always work. When it comes to protection from lightning, whole house protectors are nothing more than a gimmick.

  12. westom

    westom

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    How to identify an ineffective protector. 1) It has no dedicated wire for that always required and short (ie 'less than 10 foot') connection to earth. 2) Manufacturer will not discuss earthing. You literally look at wires to see my answer.

    Discussed are two types of protectors. First, ineffective plug-in type that have no earth ground. Does not claim protection from destructive type of surges. Are sold under names such as APC, Tripplite, Belkin, and Monster Cable.

    Second, 'whole house' protectors that are designed to earth even direct lightning strikes (ie about 50,000 or more amps). Sold under names such as Siemens, General Electric, Intermatic, Polyphaser, Leviton, Square D, Ditek, and Cutler-Hammer (Eaton). The last one sells in Lowes and Home Depot for less than $50.

    As posted repeatedly, to be effective, it must make that short connection to the same earth ground that every incoming utility wire connects to. Otherwise it is not effective. The AC protector must be about 50,000 amps (or higher) to harmlessly earth direct lightning. And protectors do not provide the protection. That protector is only as effective as its earth ground. Do not worry much about the protector. Worry first, foremost, and mostly about the quality of single point earth ground. For any and every protector, it is only as effective as its earth ground. Therefore an earthed 'whole house' protector may be effective. And plug-in protectors without earthing are so ineffective as to not even list protection in their numeric specs.

  13. LAMBCRUSHER

    LAMBCRUSHER

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    Dude...who are you?:lol: Where are you? wow
  14. haystax

    haystax

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    Whoa! We install a lightning cap and surge suppressors on our irrigation panels and sometimes they work sometimes not. They literally explode and make a helluva mess. I believe these are available for single phase protection and are installed in outside in your meter panel. There are also units made by Panamax? that wire into your main breaker panel as well.

    In my experience, the further upstream you can install these things the better.

    But I am obviously not as qualified to offer opinions as others on here may be...
  15. westom

    westom

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    If your protector explodes, then it was grossly undersized. Ineffective protection. Exploding protectors are, for example, power strip protectors that do not even claim to provide that protection. Are often intentionally undersized to explode (because that promotes sales) and to increase profits.

    Where is the earth ground? No protector provides protection. Repeated because this is the part where every reader must unlearn advertising myths. Doing that is not easy. No protector does protection. Not even the effective ones. Either a protector connects surges harmlessly into earth. Or that protector does nothing. Protection is the earthing.

    Protector may explode when its hundreds of joules is trying to absorb surges that are hundreds of thousands of joules. Retail propaganda hopes you ignore those numbers. Hundreds of joules verses hundreds of thousands of joules.

    A protector that fails during a surge 1) violates parameters defined by the MOV manufacturer, 2) is a human safety threat, 3) is more often sold for profits; not protection, and 4) abandons an appliance as fast as possible to protect itself; to leave the appliance connected to that surge. What kind of protection is that? Ineffective.

    Protection is always about where energy dissipates. A protector must connect very short (ie 'less than 3 meter') to earth. No earth ground means it does no protection. A protector is only as effective as what does the protection: single point earth ground. Protection is always about where energy dissipates. Retail propaganda hopes you never learn this. A protector is only as effective as its earth ground.
  16. Weedhopper

    Weedhopper

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    LOL! Heavy, man.

    My.02 says lightning is wildly unpredictable. Our elec, cable AND phone lines have all been hit. The last time was a semi direct hit when I was blowing out my birthday candles. Phhht! BAM.

    Plumbing vent pipes are a good target too. Ask me how I know. :crybaby:
  17. LAMBCRUSHER

    LAMBCRUSHER

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    This is my understanding as well. Westom, I think you could help me fill in some blanks. Haven't had anyone who REALLY gets it around me for the last few years....
  18. westom

    westom

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    Most of us are only educated by retail propaganda. Most believe only what they are ordered to believe, do not always demand numbers, and never ask for the always required "reasons why". It is why my father so enjoyed advertising. Lying and manipulating such people was fun.

    Either one logically knows why it works. Or the brainwashed "feel" is must work. Two completely different ways of thinking.

    Nobody can make money selling earth ground. Retail propaganda does not sell earthing. Then a majority of us will not learn what was well understood even 100 years ago. Most of us assume it does protection because "surge protector" and "surge protection" sound alike. So easy for retail propaganda to promote myths and lies.

    The damning question that a majority never ask, "Where does energy dissipate?"
  19. haystax

    haystax

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    Well here's what I use, and all installed according to spec and whenever one gets a bad strike, there is sometimes not much left of the arrestor and in worse cases not much left of any of the panel components. They are also made for 240V and would be an easy addition to a meter panel for any residence. This is the first line of defense that I know of, if these are not sufficient is there something else you suggest?

    And yes, there is a direct #4 wire to earth ground rod(s) and even a UFER ground on newer installs -

    Here's a link and a cut/paste attempt:

    [​IMG]
    * Protect your sensitive solar or wind energy systems
    * Weatherproof Enclosure
    * DIMENSIONS: 4-1/2" High, 2-1-4" Diameter
    * Current: 100,000 A Surge
    * Joules: 3,000 per Pole
    * Operations: No Limit
    * Leak Current at double the rated voltage: None
    * Leads: 36 " #12 THHN
    * Type of Design: Silicon Oxide VaristorTM
    * Response time one milliamp test: 5 nanoseconds
    * Response time to clamp 10,000 amps: 10 nanoseconds
    * Response time to clamp 50,000 amps: 25 nanoseconds
    * Leak current at double the rated voltage: none
    * Case materia:l PVC
    * Locknut and Washer Furnished
    * For 440-600 Volt Single Phase:
    o 2 Wire Service - LA601
    o 3 Wire Service - LA602
    o Three-phase 3 or 4 Wire Service - LA603
  20. I agree with this one. We took an indirect hit from a lightening bolt, zapped a big tree, blew a big whole in the ground and then hit my house. Blew six breakers and fried all sensitive electronics despite surge protectors. Hdmi ports are very sensitive to surges.

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