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How to Buy Surge Protectors for Your Home

Buyer's Guide from George Brazil

Want to protect your expensive electronic devices (like that new 3D, 4k LED TV) from costly power surges?

You’re in the right place. In this article we’ll cover:

  • The 2 types of surge protectors you need
  • Where you absolutely need surge protectors (and where you don’t)
  • How to find the best surge protectors

So let’s get started…

The 2 types of surge protectors you must have in your home

For the best surge protection, you need 2 types of surge protectors:

Plug-in surge protectors, like power strips, protect your valuable electronics from smaller, internal fluctuations in power, like when a large appliance turns on or off.

But they’re not designed to absorb a large surge caused by an external force-like nearby lightning strikes or damaged power lines. That’s what a whole-home surge protector is for.

Find out more in our article, Whole-House Surge Protectors vs. Power Strip Surge Protectors.

Where should surge protectors be installed?

A whole-home surge protector is installed on your home’s electrical panel. While, most homes only need one whole-home surge protector, you may need more if you have an additional sub-panel.

But it gets a little trickier with plug-in surge protectors. You certainly don’t need them at every outlet since some electrical devices are inexpensive to replace (like lamps).

The devices more prone to damage from surges are those with microprocessors (small computer chips) in them. So we recommend protecting any device that has a microprocessor, including:

  • Computers
  • Televisions
  • Receivers and other audio equipment
  • High-tech kitchen appliances (like a smart fridge)
  • Air conditioner/heat pump
  • Electric furnaces
  • Electric water heaters

Also, surges can happen on any wire carrying an electrical current. For example, if lightning strikes nearby, an electrical surge can come through your cable TV line into your home and fry your TV.

So besides just plugging your electrical devices’ power cords into surge protectors, you also need to get surge protectors for:

Many large power strip surge protectors include protection for these other types of cables. You can also purchase them separately.

Now that you know the types of surge protectors you need and where they need to go, let’s talk about the features and ratings you should pay attention to.

How to find the best surge protectors

All surge protectors basically do the same thing: protect against different size surges and for different devices.

To get the best surge protectors for your home, pay attention to these 3 features:

Maximum surge current capacity

This is the maximum amount of energy your surge protector can redirect before it needs to be replaced. And the rating is a total, over the life of the surge protector.

Maximum surge capacity is measured in 2 ways:

  • kA (kilo amps) – This is usually for whole-home surge protectors. Get a whole-home surge protector with at least a 30kA rating. We usually recommend one around 80kA since the Phoenix area sees a fair amount of lightning during monsoon season.
  • Joules – Most plug-in surge protectors like power strips are measured in Joules, but the same concept applies. Look for one that’s rated for at least 600 Joules.

So, for example, a whole-home surge protector that’s rated at 30kA maximum surge capacity means that it can take any 1 of the following scenarios:

  • 1, 30kA power surge (highly unlikely)
  • 3, 10kA power surges
  • 10, 3kA surges
  • Any other combination that adds up to 30kA

So the higher this number, the longer your surge protector will last before needing to be replaced.

Voltage Protection Rating (VPR)

The Voltage Protection Rating (VPR) is also known as the clamping voltage. It’s the measure of how high a power surge has to be before the surge protector will kick in. The lower the voltage, the quicker it will kick in during a power surge.

The lower the number, the better.

For most plug-in surge protectors, look for a clamping voltage below 400 volts.

Whole-home surge protectors are more complicated because there are different modes with different VPRs. But, in general, look for one at or below 500 volts. Remember: lower is better.

An indicator light

For any type of surge protector, get a model with a LED light that lets you know when it’s no longer working.

Surge protectors will still allow power to pass through to your devices even after the surge protector has stopped working. So you won’t know if they’re dead unless they have an LED indicator.

Start with whole-home protection

George Brazil’s electricians can help you find the right whole-home surge protector and install it for you.

Contact us to get started. We can help anyone in the Phoenix metro area-from Glendale to Queen Creek!

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