Surge Protection and the Overlooked Threats

Surge Protection and the Overlooked Threats

Electronics need to be protected from surges coming from within the home, as much as from lightning strikes.

Surge protection is more than just a plug-in outlet strip for your computer and 4k TV. Surge suppressors and filters are becoming a necessity to keep appliances, energy-efficient lighting and smart devices working efficiently and to decrease replacement and maintenance costs for homeowners—costs that can really stack up in multi-dwelling units.

When Tim Boyd, owner of SAVE Electronics, first heard about surge filtration three years ago, he dismissed the technology without researching it.

“Bob Levit, owner of TPS, and I hooked up about three years ago, but I didn’t understand it or implement it then,” he says.

Last year, however, Boyd took another look at surge filters and decided to add them to his company’s offerings. The suppressors can add years to electronic devices in offices and multifamily developments, saving companies thousands of dollars in maintenance.

Boyd says the proof is in the pudding and offered several examples from TPS, Total Protection Solutions: an electrical contractor installed surge suppressors on site lighting in 10 locations of a large retail box store. All 10 stores had small surge protection devices installed at each parking lot light pole and more robust surge protectors installed on the lighting and control panels inside. After a year, monthly maintenance costs had decreased by 70 percent in each of the stores.

Transient Voltage Surges

A diagram shows the protected and unprotected electricity in a home and where surge filters should be located.
A diagram shows the protected and unprotected electricity in a home and where surge filters should be located.

Surges from lightning strikes don’t happen often, but surges from appliances and equipment within the home happen all the time. Each time the air-conditioner shifts in its cycle, it can cause a surge throughout the home’s electrical system. Coaxial cables and structured wiring are also prone to these transient voltage surges.

Related: 7 Things to Know about Surge Protection

While surge suppressors are designed to protect equipment from impulse transients, which are medium to large energy (6,000-plus volt) impulses created by lightning, power company surges, or transformer failure, surge filters handle low magnitude spokes between 50 and 500 volts.

These transients can cause reprogramming issues in electronics and also degrade devices over time, resulting in premature failure.

“Only 15 percent of issues come from lighting or transformers; the rest is created internally,” Boyd says. “On a fluorescent bulb, the ends that turn black is caused by surges that are hitting those and blasting the filament off the end and it sticks to the glass.”

Energy-Efficient Lighting May Mean Increased Maintenance Costs

Lighting with electronic ballasts such as CFLs and LEDs are marketed as highly efficient and able last for years, even decades. The tradeoff of installing energy-efficient lighting technologies is the increased maintenance costs due to premature equipment failure mainly from transient surges. While replacing a dead LED might be an annoyance for a homeowner, it can be costly for MDU owners who have to replace lighting in common areas more often.

TSP surge filters protect the home and all equipment against the harmful effects of lightning strikes and internally generated electrical transients.
TSP surge filters protect devices against the effects of internally generated electrical transients.

Installing suppression filtering, like TPS’s TK-TTLP-1S240-FL, on structured wiring can reduce the likelihood of damage occurring.  It is critical to protect any communication wire with long runs or that travels between buildings.  Damage may occur because the ground reference between buildings can become separated during a lightning strike. This will produce damaging transients and is the most common type of port failure.

Boyd says he’s marketing TPS surge suppressors to MDU builders in Florida where air-conditioning and lightning strikes are part of everyday life. The install costs about $1,000 per house, Boyd says, but the protection is worth it.

TPS, Leviton, and Eaton all offer surge protection devices ranging from devices installed at the meter and electrical panel to devices at each LED fixture, and of course, to protect any smart technology.


A diagram shows the protected and unprotected electricity in a home and where surge filters should be located.
A diagram shows the protected and unprotected electricity in a home and where surge filters should be located.


About The Author

Casey Meserve is a TecHome Builder Staff Writer, creating investigative and timely articles for its eMagazine and Special Reports. She graduated from Bridgewater State University with a master’s degree in English in 2011. She began her writing career in 2005 as a reporter for Community Newspaper Company and later GateHouse Media. From 2010 to 2013, she worked as an editor at AOL Patch.

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