With all the recent lighting storms we have been experiencing in the Nashville area, we wanted to share some tips for mitigating their effects on your electrical system. The best way to protect your home from storm damage is to invest in whole-house surge protection. Lightning isn't the only thing that can damage your expensive electrical equipment.
Power surges sometimes appear to be inconsequential. That quick outage in the kitchen happened so quickly, you almost missed it. The average home experiences many small power surges throughout the day (80% of power surges are internally generated). But even small surges through your wiring can mean big consequences to your home’s electronics.
Where Do Power Surges Come From?
There are several sources of power surges. They can originate from outside the home, during power grid switching and overvoltages on utility lines, or from inside your home, such as when turning on and off large appliances.
Although large power surges from sources such as lightning and downed power lines are fairly uncommon, small power surges occur every single day the electrical system is used. These small, but frequent power surges can deteriorate electronic items and shorten their lifespans.
According to Wikipedia:
Power transitions in other large equipment on the same power line
Malfunctions caused by the power company
A rare, but destructive cause of power surges is lightning, but when it strikes, you'll wish you had surge protection.
How to Protect Your Home and Electronics
Whole-house surge protection devices (SPDs) are the best defense against power surges of any magnitude. They are typically connected to a home’s electrical service box, but located in a more convenient location for easy accessibility. Modern surge protectors use metal oxide varistors (MOVs) to shunt power surges.
While point-of-use surge protectors are better than nothing, they probably can't shunt large surges from external sources, such as lighting and other high-energy surges. For damage from direct lightning strikes, you will need professional installation of whole-home surge protection.
Though MOVs in common surge strips can be destroyed after a powerful surge, the ones used in whole-house systems are made to shunt large surges and last for years. Modern homes with expensive electrical systems often come standard with whole-home surge protectors as an added safety feature.
How to Protect Your Home Against Lighting Storm Damage
If you don't have whole-home surge protection, here are some tips for preventing lightning storm damage to your Tennessee-area home:
- Switch the power off to your water well pump at the breaker box. If there is damage to your pump, you could be left without water. In the event of severe storm, switch off power to your well pump for temporary inconvenience, but longterm peace of mind.
- If you have electronics in your home, make sure they are plugged into surge protectors. The best way to protect all of your equipment, including HVAC systems and refrigerators, is to install surge protection for the entire home.
- If you need to buy or replace your point-of-use surge protectors, look for the UL label, or similar independent testing laboratory seal. If it is under $10, it probably doesn't offer the protection you need.
- Consider investing in a backup generator in case the power gets knocked out. This is especially important for homes with the young or elderly, but is also important to consider for convenience, safety, and security reasons as well.
5 Reasons Why You Should Have Whole-House Surge Protection
If your home doesn’t have whole-house surge protection, there are several compelling reasons to invest in one:
Modern households have more electronic gadgets and electrical equipment than ever before. Home appliances now have circuit boards, which need to be protected from surges. New LED bulbs also contain micro circuit boards that are sensitive and can easily be compromised by an electrical surge.
The amount of personal gadgets a household owns has increased considerably within the last decade. Computers, pads and smart phones all carry essential information and need to be protected. Your data should be safeguarded by professional surge protection.
2. 80% OF SURGES ARE GENERATED INTERNALLY
Most power surges are very short (referred to as transient) and come from a home’s appliances (including motors in air conditioners). These small surges won’t cause any major damage, but over time they can degrade the performance (and shorten the lifespan) of your appliances and electronics.
It is a good idea to speak to your electrical professional about layering the whole-house surge protection, especially if there’s an elaborate home entertainment system or other expensive electronic set-up.
If an appliance in your home sends a surge through a shared circuit (one that’s not dedicated), then the other outlets could be compromised. This is one of the reasons you don’t just want a surge protector at the circuit panel. A layered system will be connected directly to the electrical panel and at the point of use. A power conditioner with surge suppression in the best option to handle these shared circuits.
4. COMPLETE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM PROTECTION
Though a whole-house surge protector’s main function is to prevent your home’s appliances and electronics from harm, it is also protecting the entire electrical system. When a transient surge comes from a home appliance on a dedicated circuit, it will send the surge back through the breaker panel where it is then shunted – protecting all of the other electrical equipment in the home. A whole-house surge protector safeguards every outlet.
To make sure you are protected from your electrical system, remember to test your GFCIs and AFCIs every 30 days.
There are several whole-house systems available for various voltage needs. Homes with 120-volt service (the typical size) can use an 80kA-rated surge protector as surges over 50kA are unusual. A typical home should never receive a surge of more than 10kA. A home with subpanels should seek protection of around half the kA rating of the main unit. However, if you live in an area that endures several electrical storms a year, a surge protector with an 80kA rating would be a smart investment. Be mindful of the different brands (some are better than others) and their warranties (always opt for an extended one). A professional electrician can help you find the ideal systems (and ratings) for your home.
For more information on whole-home surge protection, read these two articles:
As we enter more lightning and thunderstorms this summer, your home will experience hundreds of small power surges and potentially larger ones from lightning strikes. If you have electronics plugged into power strips, make sure they have surge protection as well (not all power strips do!). If you don't have surge protection, unplug your expensive electronics during the storm.
The best way to avoid damage and protect all of your electrical devices is with whole-house surge protection.