5 Things to Know About Whole House Surge Protection

5 Things to Know About Whole House Surge Protection


Let’s talk whole house surge protection. What is it? What do you need to know? And why is it an important investment for the safety of your homebuyers and their devices.

Surge protection? Boring and technical and way too may terms like amps, right?

We recently spoke with Craig Pluemer, marketing director of the Surge Protection Business for Schneider Electric, about whole-house surge protection. And we are determined to make this subject not so boring and technical.

Think of surge protection as a bouncer at a nightclub. He may only let certain people in and quickly tosses the troublemakers. Getting more interesting?

Well, a good whole-house surge protection device does essentially the same thing. It allows in only the electricity your home needs and not the unruly over-voltages from the utility—then it protects your devices from any trouble that can occur from surges inside the house.

Whole-house surge protective devices (SPDs) are typically wired to the electric service box and located nearby to protect all the appliances and electrical systems in a home. They are typically a $200 to $500 add-on.

80 percent of surges in a home we generate ourselves.

whole house surge protection-cascaded surge suppressionLike many of the surge suppression strips we’re used to, whole-house surge protectors use metal oxide varistors (MOVs), to shunt power surges. MOVs get a bad rap because in surge strips one surge can effectively end the usefulness of an MOV.

But unlike those used in most surge strips, the ones in whole-house systems are built to shunt large surges and can last for years.

According to Pluemer, more homebuilders today are offering whole-house surge protection as standard adders to help differentiate themselves and help protect homeowners’ investments in electronic systems—especially when some of those sensitive systems can be sold by the homebuilder.


Surge Protection and the Overlooked Threats

Whole House Surge Protection: A Smart Home’s Best Defense

Backup Power and Surge Protection for High-End Homes

7 Things to Know About Surge Protection and Smart Energy Management

6 Questions About Surge Protection

Here are 5 things you should know about whole-house surge protection:


[tps_title]High Demand [/tps_title]

1. Homes are in more need of whole house surge protection today than ever.

“A lot has changed in the home over last few years,” says Pluemer. “There are many more electronics, and even in lighting with LEDs, if you take an LED apart there’s a little circuit board there. Washers, dryers, appliances also have circuit boards today, so there’s a lot more today to be protected in the home from power surges—even the home’s lighting. “There’s a lot of technology that we’re plugging into our houses.”

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  2. Joe Schwartz, Ph.D.

    I would be interested in any case histories where items with surge protectors were protected and items without them failed.
    If they are really helpful, why are they not in the building code?

    1. Rose Marie Waugh

      July 2016 We experienced a power surge one week ago. Our oven (electronic board burned out). Our surround sound burned out also, as well as our Dish receiver. The transformers on the telephones, modem, and furnace burned out. Our air-conditioner would not come on because the furnace was out. Several florescent lights also burned out.

    2. Gerald eaton

      I am a Journeyman Electrician. Although I have installed them in the past, I never had much of an opinion on surge protection. I just recently had a surge. You could see it. The lights would oscillate between dim and normal. Some breakers would trip. This surge burned up a plug strip type surge protector which in turn, burned up the power supplys on my son’s Xbox one and Xbox 360. It did not affect his tv (his tv was not surge protected), wii-u, or Apple TV. Surge protection elsewhere did its job. I lost a control transformer on my furnace and my wi-if sprinkler timer. My wife’s wine chiller stopped working also. All the circuits affected seemed to be on the same phase power leg. I am going to get a whole house surge protector asap.

      1. George

        Hi Gerald, check your phase and neutral connections. Check both in your panel for proper torque and your service line, protective gear and fiberglass pole to gently rock line.

        Good luck!

    3. Dilip

      Because the large building industry lobby fights any regulation that they see at raising the cost of the home and eating into their profits. Many builders in Texas are putting them in their new homes as a way to separate themselves from other run of the mill builders

  3. Joe Vell

    I wish I took the time and installed one in my own house. I am now! I will be offering my experience to my customers.

    Fort Myers FL.

  4. Ken Pitt

    Totally agree whole house surge protection is needed, and it should become standard with every home in this Internet of Things (IoT) era where homeowners are increasingly reliant upon connected devices. However, most standard residential whole house surge protectors still require homeowners to continually check to see if the surge protect is active by examining the devices LED. The protector could expire between inspections leaving homeowners vulnerable to surge hits. A better approach is to install a Commercial Class Whole House Surge Protector that let’s you know immediately when it is worn out. This alert allows homeowners to quickly arrange for replacement to reduce the amount of time they’re left unprotected. Siemens FirstSurge protector is the first type of protector in this category, and you can learn more by viewing the following Youtube Video.


  5. Tom S. Prentzel

    Just had whole home surge protector system installed in a new investment home we just bought along w/new electric panel to code. Also had a surge protector system in our main home along with my mothers & my manufacturing Plant to protect a $24,400 mixer 3 phase unit & rest of the plant installed. This is a very low cost to protect whole homes & businesses. Work done by Mike & Dee Miller Electric Co in Port Charlotte Florida. Very reasonable rates charge. 941-457-7199
    Thanks, Tom & Sue Prentzel

  6. Jeff

    I still don’t understand how it will protect from something like an A/C surge feeding back into the panel. Do you mean protection on that specific A/C circuit to prevent it from backfeeding?

    1. Greg

      Yes. A back-fed surge can fry things on that circuit, but if you have a whole house surge protector, nothing else should be affected.
      To protect everything else on that circuit, you’d need surge protection at the receptacle where the AC unit is plugged in.
      I’m an electrician in Philadelphia and I’d say protecting individual circuits like that is a bit overkill. I’m still way more concerned about lightning strikes or surges after a power outages – both of which are rare where I live.

      1. Jim

        Funny you should say that about surges in the Philadelphia area. Doylestown just had a wide area suffer from a PECO surge yesterday

  7. Daniel Davis

    This is a great article. I have often thought about adding more protection to the house but I thought it would cost much, much more. Is it better to have the surge protection installed when the home is being built?

  8. Bobby Frank

    Daniel, doesn’t matter, just get a highly rated one.
    Joe, it isn’t required by code because code is mostly about health and safety, and surge protector is about saving motors. Codes do update every few years so could possibly be required in the future.

  9. Anne Medders

    August 4, 2016 a power surge caused by nearby lightening strike resulted in several electronic equipment failures at our home in Orlando, FL. I was home at the time and felt the house shake from the boom. Pool equipment, HVAC motherboard for zoned system, irrigation system controller all failed. Slowly getting back to full functioning modes on a couple of items. Would SPD have prevented such damage/failure to these systems? Do you still recommend unplugging interior items – like TV’s – during nearby electrical storms?

  10. DocSojourner

    I think you make a very important point when you state a majority of surges are generated within the home, such as surges that occur when major appliances cycle on and off. Over time these surges can degrade circuitry in electronic devices and components, shortening the lifespan of the product. Most people are only concerned about surges entering the home from an external source. Great article my friend…

  11. James

    I experienced a power surge recently which knocked out my fridge, stove, hot water tank dryer and furnace.
    I’m in the process of getting a quote for a whole house surge protector.

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  13. Mila

    Will a surge protector prevent a home being energize by a generator. We have lost our power and our generator will not run when a load is put on it.


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