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Do Whole-House Surge Protectors Really Work?

Tips & Definitions from George Brazil

Yes and no.

You see, when it comes to protecting your home from dangerous high-voltage surges, yes, whole-home surge protectors work.

But here’s the problem: Whole-house surge protectors claim to be the “first line of defense” against electrical surges. But the reality is that they don’t stop all surges.

You see, whole-home surge protectors are designed to let through surges that don’t reach a specified voltage. And when this happens, the first line of protection for sensitive electronics becomes the point-of-use surge protector.

We’ll explain why this is a problem and what you can do to provide better protection for your home’s wiring and appliances.

The problem with whole-house surge protectors: High VPRs

Because whole-home surge protectors are often designed with very high VPRs, they often let through smaller (but still dangerous) surges that can harm sensitive electronics.

You see, whole-home surge protectors are like bouncers. They monitor the amount of electricity entering your home and turn away any “overflow” voltage that might cause harm.

But most whole-home surge protectors won’t snap into bouncer-mode until it encounters a very high-voltage surge. The “let-through voltage” of a whole-home surge protector, also called the VPR (voltage protection rating), is the maximum voltage the surge protector will let through to your home’s electrical system.

And when the VPR is too high, your home is still left vulnerable to powerful surges.

Let’s look at an example of how a high VPR can harm electronics:

If your whole-home surge protector has a high VPR of, say, 700V that means it will let 700-volt surges into your home’s wiring. But 700V is plenty high enough to destroy certain electronic appliances and can potentially cause electrical fires.

So, if the whole-home surge protector isn’t protecting your home against smaller surges, what is? Let’s take a look…

Point-of-use surge protectors: Often the real “first line of defense”

When your whole-home surge protector lets through smaller surges, that voltage courses through your home’s wiring trying to reach (and kill) sensitive electronics. But if you’ve installed a point-of-use surge protector, these devices will absorb that extra voltage before it ever reaches your electronics.

You see, point-of-use surge protectors plug directly into the electrical outlet, creating a safety barrier between any overflow voltage and your appliances. They are often designed with lower VPRs of 330 or 400.

But the bad news is that point-of-use surge protectors simply aren’t designed to absorb high-voltage surges. They often overheat and catch fire when they have to absorb voltages higher than their VPR.

In fact, some point-of-use surge protectors will overheat if they get just 127V more than what they’re designed to handle.

Solution: Go with a lower VPR and “layer up”

The bottom line? Don’t give up on whole-home surge protection. It’s still an incredible effective way to protect your home from surges caused by:

  • Nearby lightning strikes
  • Downed power lines
  • Large appliances inside your home cycling on/off

But our professional suggestion is to:

1. Buy a whole-home surge protector with a lower VPR

Whole-home surge protectors typically have VPRs as high as 1,000V. But, remember, high VPRs aren’t necessarily a good thing. In fact, when it comes to stronger protection, the lower the VPR, the better.

We suggest looking for a whole-home surge protector with a VPR no higher than 600V.

2. Install point-of-use surge protectors for an additional layer of protection

Protect your sensitive electronics by connecting them to point-of-use surge protectors. These “lower level” surge protectors will instantly absorb any excess voltage that gets past your whole-home surge protector.

A point-of-use surge protector should be used to protect:

  • Computers
  • Televisions
  • Stereo systems
  • Media centers
  • Any other electronic with intricate microprocessors

Note: When it comes to point-of-use surge protection, surge strips aren’t the only option. You can also have a built-in surge protector outlet installed that will block dangerous electrical surges from reaching your electronics.

Need more tips on protecting your home from surges? Read our blog “How to Buy Surge Protectors For Your Home“.

Need whole-home surge protection? Get a quote from an AZ electrician

If you’re interested in installing a whole-home surge protector, contact us.

We’ll send a reliable electrician over for a home inspection and a fair quote. While we’re there, we can also install built-in surge protector outlets to give your home the comprehensive protection you need.

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