Why You Need To Have Whole-Home Surge Protection

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Don’t be shocked when the 2020 NEC code catches up with your home’s electrical system

If you bought your home before 2020 and you’re thinking about doing any electrical repairs or upgrades—take three minutes to read this.

Why? Because a new national code change enacted that year could be impacting you now.

As of 2020, the National Electric Code requires that surge protection to be installed in all residential and commercial buildings. New builds after 2020 have surge protection automatically incorporated in the electrical system. Older homes and business may not. If you think you’ve skirted that required feature because you live in an older home and may be “off radar” to code enforcement, we’re here to tell you, you’ll be required to install it the next time you do any sort of electrical repair or upgrade that requires inspection. If your home is found to be out of compliance, you could be hit with fines or paying for any property damage that results in electrical surges.

Trust us, it will be one of the first questions your home insurance provider asks if you make a claim related to surge damage or an electrical fire caused by unprotected wiring.

We need to clarify here: we support electrical codes.

They are written to keep you and your property safe from electrical fires and other hazards. When the NEC updates their code, it’s important, and it needs to be done. It means there have been some terrible tragedies, including loss of life, related to residential electrical fires (and a lot of property damage related to power surges) to the point a national change in electrical code needed to be adopted. At One Time Electrical, we stay up to date on all important city, state, and federal code changes. This means, one call to us and you don’t have to worry about being safe, or code compliant.

If this is the first time you’ve really heard about or focused on surge protection for your home, you may have more questions. Please feel free to contact us at On Time Electrical and we’ll answer them for free, anytime, but here are the ones we get most often:

What Causes Power Surges?

Extreme weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, and high winds are some of the most common causes, mainly because they damage nearby power lines, transformers, and stations.

Other common, non-weather related reasons:

  • Faulty wiring
  • Electrical overload from devices inside of your home
  • Bad appliance
  • Tripped circuit breakers

Transformers and generating equipment are also susceptible to fires which can impact the power supply and cause surges. Sometimes, power companies will intentionally adjust voltage in an area for a variety of reasons, this is called a “brownout” and a surge can occur when full power is eventually restored.

How Do Surge Protectors Work?

There are hard-wired and plug-in models:

Hard-wired whole-house surge protection is hard-wired into your home’s service panel. At a minimum, these devices should be rated to stop a 40,000-amp surge and be able to handle between 200 to 400 joules.

Wait, what is a joule?

  • A joule is “a unit of work or energy equal to the work done by a force of one newton acting through a distance of one meter (a meter being about .0006 of a mile, the average width of a standard doorway.)
    • On a surge protector, the rating in joules indicates how much energy the unit can withstand before it fails. The higher the number, the greater the protection. The average mid-range, strong protection surge suppressor is around 600 joules.
  • Lights, alarms, and LED displays that indicate when a device is working properly, or when it has taken a hit, are also recommended additional features to consider.
  • Thermal fuses (or thermal cutoff) is an added safety measure against overheating. When a thermal fuse is hit with high voltage it does just what the name implies; it fuses together, shutting down the circuit so the spiking electricity cannot travel past that circuit and damage others. However, like a bee that dies after just one sting, a thermal fuse cannot be reused or reset after it’s shocked into action, it must be replaced.
  • Cost? For an average home with 200-amp power supply, it’s usually around $500, which includes an estimated two hours of labor.
  • DIY? No, this is a job for professionals like the highly-trained, certified, insured, and experienced electricians at On Time Electrical. Attempting to hard wire a surge suppressor into your electrical panel, if done improperly, can lead to shock and fire risk, property damage, and voided warranties.
  • Failure Rate? Hard-wired surge protectors are known to allow about 15% of excess current through during a spike. While this is certainly isn’t a huge amount, it is full disclosure to point out that hard-wiring does not mean “fool proof” surge protection. This is where plug-in models offer added protection and value.

Plug-in whole-house surge suppressors are essentially a “firewall” between individual appliances (and electronics) and wall outlets. Once you start researching your local market for one, you will see they come in a wide array of styles and price points.

There are three basic types:

  1. The multi-outlet power strip (think “everyday power strip”, with surge protection features).
  2. The multi-tasking surge station with inputs for phone, cable, and power cords.
  3. The uninterruptable power supply (UPS) style that contain short-term battery backup in the event a power dip or blackout shuts down the outlet.
  • Recommended minimum performance standards for plug-in models:
    • Absorb at least 600 joules.
    • Meets UL Standard 1449 (second edition).
    • Designed to protect hot, neutral, and ground lines.
    • How to tell; look for “L-N, L-G, N-G” (line to neutral, line to ground, neutral to ground) on the product’s specifications.
    • Clamping voltage is 400 volts or less (this is the level of current that will trigger the device to direct electricity to the ground wire).
  • Lights, alarms, and LED displays to indicate a power surge was detected and diverted are also available on plug-in models.
  • Cost? It really is quite a range; some are as small as a plug-in air freshener, starting around $50-$70, while larger units can be the size of a throw pillow and cost around $350-$400.
  • DIY? Yes. However, even though they plug-in, they (along with hard-wired models) cannot offer the full protection you need if the home’s wiring isn’t properly grounded. There has to be a way for diverted current to leave the circuit(s). This is where a home electrical inspection by On Time Electrical experts can get you started on the right and safe path to surge protection.

What are the benefits of whole-house surge protection?

Right out the gate, you may get a lower premium on your homeowner’s insurance. Additionally, you’ll have peace of mind that you have reduced your risk of fire and damaged electronics.

  • Improved energy efficiency
  • Protection for devices and appliances inside of the house
  • Peace of mind knowing that you’re keeping your family safe
  • Reduction of weather-related power surges (e.g., lightning strikes)

And, of course, you will be in compliance with the NEC 2020 change to residential home surge protection.

At On Time Electrical, our experienced technicians can provide a free consultation whole-home surge protection and getting into 2020 NEC compliance. We’ll also help you safely install and test your components to ensure they’re in line with local, state, and federal regulations.

On Time Electrical customer service is available 24/7 at (704) 820-4803. You can also visit us online anytime at www.itselectriccharlotte.com. Check out our weekly and monthly specials, plus we waive the service call fee on ANY repair! Locally owned and operated, we’re On Time Electrical. It’s electric!