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Ask Slashdot: Best Option For Heavy-Duty, Full-Home Surge Protection?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the protect-your-stuff dept.

Power 341

First time accepted submitter kmoser writes "Like most people, I have a couple of surge protectors for sensitive/important electronics, and even a UPS for a couple of items like computers. But I don't have surge protector on all outlets, and these consumer-grade devices don't cover things like 220 volt appliances. Add to that the fact that I live in a lightning-prone area and it's only a matter of time before one of my expensive devices has a major meltdown. I've looked into full-home surge protectors that install next to the fuse box but the prices vary widely and I have no idea how reliable they are or what brands are good. An electrician friend tells me they can still blow out, and when they do they're difficult to replace if they were installed behind a wall. Can anybody shed some light on the best options for protecting all the electronics in my house with a single surge protector?"

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341 comments

first (-1, Offtopic)

WanQiaoYi (2459934) | more than 2 years ago | (#39944751)

funny insightful woo!

The real question here... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944769)

How can we get heavy-duty, full-rectal protection from CmdrTaco's attempts to "surge" his c0kk up your @$$!?

Niggers LOL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944795)

Niggers. They are cheap and no one will miss them

wait .. (5, Funny)

WanQiaoYi (2459934) | more than 2 years ago | (#39944819)

" protecting all the electronics in my house with a single surge protector?" That's going to be a lot of extension cords

Re:wait .. (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39944955)

They get installed inline with the main house circuit breaker panel. Expensive.

Most people budget for the $$$ for the device. Then they forget the labor to do it right, and always forget to spend the $$$ for a good ground connection.

cuz $350 is going to bankrupt YUO ! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945217)

OMG! i cant even afford $200 for the surge protector from home depot which wires into the main panel and pay a $150 install charge LOLZ.
are you always this stupid or is it a one time thing ?

Re:wait .. (3, Insightful)

SpockLogic (1256972) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945575)

They get installed inline with the main house circuit breaker panel. Expensive.

Most people budget for the $$$ for the device. Then they forget the labor to do it right, and always forget to spend the $$$ for a good ground connection.

As he lives in a lightning-prone area he'll need to protect every line into the house, TV antenna, cable, telephone etc. Only protecting the power line is not enough. Up the $$$ budget some more.

The Fuse (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944827)

Replace it with a nail.

Not Advice (4, Insightful)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39944835)

So here is a non answer to your question: Just replace stuff when they break Put your surge protectors next to the expensive stuff and gets some insurance. Replace things when they break. Unless your dealing with medical equipment or servers don't bother with some expensive custom solution.

Re:Not Advice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944987)

Around here (California) the power company will replace anything that breaks due to power fluctuations in their system. I've had friends get reimbursed for blown-out kitchen appliances with no trouble. It would be worth the submitter's while to see if his power company offers the same guarantees, and then do as you say: protect the expensive equipment and don't worry about the rest.

Re:Not Advice (1)

uncqual (836337) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945641)

Is that true even for lightning strikes - esp., for example, on the pole-top transformer that provides power to your (and a few neighbors') house(s)? Such power fluctuations are not the result of any malfunction in the local utility infrastructure -- there's nothing in the infrastructure to prevent damage in this case nor was there designed to be. It seems strange that the utility would be responsible beyond repairing their transformer/pole/wires.

Mod down (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945187)

Now that was a stereotypical, un-thinking, useless slashdot answer, designed to appeal to the like-minded, rather than actually help the guy with his issue. The guy asks a specific question, expecting a specific answer, and all you can come up with is "why bother".

Repeat after me, un-thinking slashdot masses: "why bother" is not a valid answer on Ask Slashdot.

Re:Mod down (5, Insightful)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945317)

Not at all. Parent post suggested a second option: Insurance. One option is to try to make sure nothing ever fails. The second option is to assume that things will fail, and have a recovery plan. This is a vaild suggestion.

Re:Mod down (4, Insightful)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945607)

Exactly. In fact, in some courses (sigh...flame suit on...MBA classes, specifically), you are taught to always consider not only a few viable and different options, but also the "do-nothing" option. Evaluate what happens if questioner does nothing, i.e. stays with the status quo.

Sometimes people come up with all kinds of extravagant and ridiculous schemes and never stop to consider "well, I know my boss said 'do something', but what would be the consequences if we left things as they are?". The answer may not be palatable to the person with the bucks, but then again the do-nothing approach could turn out to be the best option.

I know MBA courses are not the sole preserve of such wisdom, but that's where I had it drummed into me (possibly in an effort to try and avoid the kinds of expensive mistakes that make people sneer at MBAs). First option in your list - do nothing, stay with what you have now. Expenses, risks, benefits.

Re:Mod down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945571)

Now that was a stereotypical, un-thinking, useless slashdot answer, designed to appeal to the like-minded, rather than actually help the guy with his issue. The guy asks a specific question, expecting a specific answer, and all you can come up with is "why bother".

Repeat after me, un-thinking slashdot masses: "why bother" is not a valid answer on Ask Slashdot.

The un-thinking masses are the kind who blindly answer questions without putting thought into alternatives.

Just because someone asks a specific question does not mean that it is possible to give a useful specific answer.

Re:Not Advice (5, Informative)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945191)

Unless your dealing with medical equipment or servers don't bother with some expensive custom solution.

This isn't an expensive custom solution. It's becoming more common in new construction. Home Depot has several models to choose from, [homedepot.com] some as low as $30. [homedepot.com]

The question is, how good is it?

guide from dehn (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944837)

http://www.dehn.de/pdf/blitzplaner/BBP_2007_E_complete.pdf

Buy home insurance (3, Insightful)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 2 years ago | (#39944845)

The cost of a whole home UPS/surge protectors is going to be rather more than the equipment it protects. Protect sensitive electronics. If you are rural consider burying the electrical lines from property line to the house.

Re:Buy home insurance (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944941)

More expensive? I spend less that $100 on a whole house surge protector.

Re:Buy home insurance (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945061)

The cost of a whole home UPS/surge protectors is going to be rather more than the equipment it protects.

Whole house UPS, yes, thats some dough. Whole house surge protector, absolutely not. You're looking at about $200 for the device, maybe 2-3 times that for installation (to do it RIGHT). Even retail home depot it would be hard to blow more than $400 total for the device plus all parts.

I suppose if you go by the /.er stereotype where mom's basement has a 5 gallon drum as a chair, a $89 special monitor with a bare incandescent bulb over the monitor hanging by the wires for illumination and a $899 graphics card that is probably not going to get blown out by lightning, then whole house is probably not worth it.

One huge problem is its not "buy it and forget it" you will have to replace it eventually, where eventually depends on how much lighting you get.

Re:Buy home insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945463)

I live in a area with frequents down in the power line, and I wanted a full house UPS... but it was to expensive then I went with a cheaper solution similar to hospitals, a general source protection around 250$ + silent petrol power generator with auto-start for wen power line is down around 4000$ + various ups, each for specific devices around 800$ for all.

It was not really cheap, but if it's compared to the UPS needed to the same power rating and 10 hours of power reserve it was at least an order of magnitude cheaper.

Re:Buy home insurance (1, Offtopic)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945467)

So you'll buy expensive electronics yet whine about a $400 surge protector? Miss the foresr for the trees much?

Re:Buy home insurance (2)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945491)

Of course a $600-900 home surge protector is still going to be less to replace than a couple of appliances in the house. And should still be covered by insurance.

Why engineer in a 'single point of failure'? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944859)

I would encourage use of surge suppressors and UPS systems local to each unit that needs them. These are mass produced, cheap to replace and often even come with offers of an 'insurance policy/guarantee' built in for the value of your home electronics if they do get fried (e.g. the device fails). UPS where continuous power is required, or controlled shutdowns prefered.

Many small, cheap, easy to replace by YOU devices are FAR FAR superior to a single unit you pay too much for and then have to have a professional install.

My 2 cents.
A computer geek since 1980.

Re:Why engineer in a 'single point of failure'? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945075)

often even come with offers of an 'insurance policy/guarantee' built in for the value of your home electronics if they do get fried

Those are carefully written to be absolutely unclaimable. You'd have better luck just using the best buy replacement program (sarc tag)

Re:Why engineer in a 'single point of failure'? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945373)

I wouldn't say unclaimable, but definitely stacked in their favor. Their usual verbiage says that their (usually $25-30k) guarantee kicks in after any other insurance such as home-owners have paid out. (and that kicks in after their deductible) So in reality, very few of those claims are actually useful. If you have say a $150 deductible with $10k limit on your home-owners for that sort of thing, you'd have to blow out more than $10,150 of your home's hardware to scratch their coverage.

But it's nice if your home insurance doesn't cover that sort of damage at all. But that's pretty rare.

Transient Surge Protection (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944867)

That's the 'key phrase' to use when talking to folks, "Transient Surge Protection". Covers everything from the neighbors 220v welder switching on to an induced over voltage from a near hit 1/4 mile away or so.

There isn't a simple "plug 'n play" solution. For example, Motorola's R-56 communications site standard is some 500 pages of how to do this. It takes intentional planning and a bit of engineering as there are at least 2, if not more goals to consider. NEC and local codes come into play as well.

It's not a trivial task. It won't tolerate a trivial solution. Expect to spend some time and money to do it right or risk not only a false sense of security but the chance of making things worse.

links:
http://www.radioandtrunking.com/downloads/motorola/R56_2005_manual.pdf

Already there (-1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39944869)

It's called either your fuse box or your breaker box.

The whole point is that the fuse blows or the breaker flips on an overload.

Re:Already there (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944937)

The keyword you used is overload. Breakers prevent against high LOAD. A surge is not load, it is a momentary, sometimes only milliseconds, spike in line voltage that cruises right on through a circuit breaker like it's not even there.

Re:Already there (5, Informative)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39944951)

You're confusing current and voltage. Fuses and breakers are over-current devices, Transient Surge Suppressors are over-voltage devices. A high voltage at low amps can destroy all the electronics in the house without tripping a breaker or burning a fuse. The only thing that over-current devices protect against are short circuits in devices or in wiring, or excessive load that might overheat wiring.

Re:Already there (2)

GerryGilmore (663905) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945011)

Errrr - no. Lightning strikes nearby are nothing at all like the normal, slow over-current events that fuses and/or breakers are designed to handle. I've seen panels completely melted. Of course, at that point, every electronic device and quite a few appliances had already absorbed some much energy that they were equally fried. Like STDs and AIDS, there is good protection available, just not perfect.

Re:Already there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945079)

This doesn't happen on a voltage surge until the current exceeds the breaker, and actually it takes generally double the amperage as the rating to actually trip it (in a short spike, sustained will trip it). So by the time the breaker trips, your computer has already been hit by 20 amps at 400+ volts (not physics accurate just example)

Re:Already there (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945537)

hi, my name is sconeu, and i'm an idiot. woot!

Raycap (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944873)

I highly recommend you check out Raycap products (http://www.raycapsurgeprotection.com/), they're widely used in the Telecom industry and I use then in all my DataCenters.

apc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944877)

www.apc.com although after you see the price and the cost of an electrician you may just deal with it.
Hell that's what house insurance is for. The odds of your 220 appliance getting taking out is mighty slim.
Definitely possible though.

Probalby need to spend alot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944881)

I recently had an electrician in to add ground lugs to my main service panel. I had purchased a $50 panel surge suppressor and asked him about installing it. He said he has replaced quite a few of them while repairing wiring where the lightning strike also took out appliances. So the usefulness of the $50 variety is questionable. It just adds $50 plus labor to the insurance claim.

Some do come with their own insurance, but I've never met anyone that filed a claim and received payment

Re:Probalby need to spend alot (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945117)

The standard /. car analogy is 50K people die in car accidents annually, its illegal to drive without seatbelts, therefore seatbelts are a waste of money.

Surge protector strips also draw power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944889)

I put a killawatt on empty power strips with surge protection, they ranged from 1-2W with nothing plugged into them, as long as they were switched on.

Yes, some of you with your 2KW gaming rigs will think, so what? But, if you add up 3 power strips per house * millions of households, you could probably take down a power plant or two.

Curious if whole house creates less of a phantom load than discreet power strips.

Re:Surge protector strips also draw power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945129)

That little light has to get its power some place.

Re:Surge protector strips also draw power (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945223)

A LED drawing 1-2W would blind you.

Home Warrenty (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | more than 2 years ago | (#39944909)

If you are that concerned about blowing out one of your appliance, I would suggest looking into a home warrenty. They will cover replacement/repairs costs for random appliances along with a number of other things home owners doesn't cover. When I bought my house it came with one and when my dishwasher failed they replaced it, no questions asked. You will still have the inconvience of being without the appliance for however long it takes you to replace it, but you won't be out the money.

Re:Home Warrenty (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945339)

As always, read the small print on it. Also, many contain deductibles per year. When a tree fell on my parents house, they still had to pay $300 on the repairs. Of course, considering it was a 45 foot or so pine onto the roof, that's not bad.

homeowners or renters insurance (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944917)

I live in a lightning-prone area, but never taken a hit. it's a gamble, but that's what insurance is for to begin with. sounds like you already have all you need, why spend more money to protect appliances unless they can't be replaced? whatever your deductible is has got to be cheaper than the type of solution you're looking for.

Does *not* replace local surge protection! (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944921)

Any electrician will tell you that whole house surge protection does not replace local surge protection. It stops most of the spike but not all of it. You still have to have surge protection strips locally for sensitive equipment.

Move to Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944923)

There, "consumer grade surge protectors" do cover 220V appliances.

Re:Move to Europe (1)

mrbester (200927) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945417)

Or just get some shipped over from UK. All surge protection devices (strips, pass-through sockets, etc.) are rated at least 250VAC / 13A with response times for some in the nanoseconds. You'll need plug adapters by the crate though...

Around $200 + $150 installation cost -- siemen SPD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944925)

I have a whole home surge protector. Fits above the mains panel.
30 minute installation by an electrician and works nicely.
http://www.purgethesurge.ca/docs/SPD4home.pdf
has two nice lights to show its functioning normally and works great.

Only a matter of time? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 2 years ago | (#39944931)

Honestly, how important are surge protectors? Don't most have a disclaimer that they don't protect vs lightning anyway?

I'm sure for large businesses or extreme cost equipment they are a good investment, but for home users are they really needed?

(Honest question since I don't really know)

Re:Only a matter of time? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945283)

Honestly, how important are surge protectors? Don't most have a disclaimer that they don't protect vs lightning anyway?

I'm sure for large businesses or extreme cost equipment they are a good investment, but for home users are they really needed?

(Honest question since I don't really know)

A strike anywhere close to your house can cause a lot of havoc. And any one item you have to replace may not seem so bad, but you could also lose several at once.

I lost an ethernet port, the controller for my home alarm system, the controller for my garage door opener and a 35" TV set in one strike. Altogether this cost over $800 bucks to recover from and I didn't even replace the TV!. All of this was also in a new, well-grounded house.

I'm in Iowa - not really a legendary place for lightning - and have had personal run-ins with lightning damage 3 times in the last 7 years. (I lost an entire house to one!)

Everything in your home with digital electronics in it - and that leave little out these days - is especially vulnerable.

Oy. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944935)

If you're a business primary asking for free advice - good luck with that here on Slashdot.

If you're a home owner with a lot of electronic gadgets that you're worried about this - jesus F'n christ. Get a grip. YOu have too much electronic shit. Go to the industrial suppliers, bend over, and take it!

Go damn it all. I can solve this problem with 10 minutes of googling and emails. And you're asking this question.

I know - pay ME $50,0000 and I'll take care of it for you! And let me fuck your wife and any daugheters. And your grandmother. I kindda like your aunt too.

That's how all of IT marketing works, after all. Pay me and I'll solve your problem.

I knew Marketing folks were bad, but... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945415)

And let me fuck your wife and any daugheters. And your grandmother. I kindda like your aunt too.

That's how all of IT marketing works, after all

Hmm...learn something new every day.

SPD's are expensive. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39944979)

EE Here

Seriously, finding a single phase SPD to protect your house is expensive. And if they take a direct strike, they'll blow out and need to be replaced (also expensive). Your best bet would be to install some lightning protection air terminals on the roof of your house, and run some down conductors to ground rods. This'll be expensive too, but there's less of a chance of needing a replacement. If you really want to go the SPD route, Siemens has some good products.

Honestly, I wouldn't do either. I'd put some surge protectors on my most expensive electronics and just go through the process of unplugging things when a big storm comes up. If that isn't an option, then be prepared to spend money.

Go with the fuze box before the breaker panel (0)

oldspicepuresport (1551767) | more than 2 years ago | (#39944991)

Your best bet is a fuse box installed before the main breaker panel. These things have to be replaced if/when they blow up, but will save your electronics in case of a massive surge.

A lightning strike can literally destroy everything that's plugged in; your fridge, stove, a/c, etc. are all vulnerable, so investing in a reasonable fuse box is a pretty cheap insurance policy. Your electrician should mount the box near the breaker panel, so easy access shouldn't be a problem if you need to replace it.

P.S. Why would this possibly be installed behind a wall? Please use a licensed electrician, its not worth dying over trying to install, or burning your house down if you do it wrong.

Re:Go with the fuze box before the breaker panel (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945561)

Fuse box = old style of overcurrent protection
Breaker panel = newer style of overcurrent protection

Neither will suppress a power surge, not to mention the fact that having both would be a violation of electrical code.

Speaking of licensed electricians, leave the advice to us, because you don't have a single clue what you're talking about.

Some power companies sell it, I have it at home (5, Informative)

ComSon0 (473373) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945007)

I have a surge protector connected to my power meter and the power company even guarantees your appliances against surges. Here is a link to FPL's "SurgeShield" [fplenergyservices.com]

You're still on fuses? (3, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945019)

I've looked into full-home surge protectors that install next to the fuse box ...

When I had my house converted to circuit breakers, it was less than $100 for them to add the whole-house surge, but the electrician was already there for the panel replacement. The whole job was only $700, but that was a good decade or so ago.

It just slots into two of the circuit breaker spaces, so I'm assuming it's just open the panel cover and swap 'em out should something go wrong. (mind you, he also drove in a couple of new grounding rods outside, and connected it all up, so the installation was a little more than just slotting them in)

Whole house brownouts on the other hand ... that's something I've still got issues with, but I'm not willing to put up the money for a giant flywheel.

Can't be done centrally (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945023)

Effective lightning protection is layered. The socket surge protectors are actually meant to be used in combination with the other layers, not standalone. A close enough lightning strike will induce strong currents in the wiring between the fuse box and your appliances. The surge protectors are designed to protect against the resulting voltage and not much more, and obviously a central surge protector can not protect your appliances if it's not between the surge and the appliance. Stronger surges from lightning strikes into the power lines outside your house on the other hand will not be stopped by the small surge protectors alone. You need both. And then you'll also want a lightning rod to prevent direct strikes into your wiring, because no surge protector would be able to handle a direct strike.

LMGTFY (-1, Troll)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945037)

Try this [google.com]

Re:LMGTFY (2)

Pirate_Pettit (1531797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945505)

I think he wanted experienced, hobbyist advice. Or even a bit of professional advice, considering the large number of electricians around here.
Your reply suggests that the only thing preventing him knowing how to perfectly secure his electrical possessions is that he can't spell "surge", or doesn't know of this google thing.
Buzz off. Anyone can google for a product. The question wasn't "are there surge protectors designed to protect a home", but "what are my options? what works well? can I trust a single device to do all I need it to?"
You gave us a comparative shopping list. Brilliant.

On the breaker Panel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945039)

You can install a whole house surge protection device on your circuit breaker panel. You'll still want to have individual surge/ups for sensitive electronics. Make sure that the device meets the current UL code for these devices as the code was changed a year or two ago and the new ones are much better. Contact your local electrician or better yet your local lightning protection installer for more info.

Three-level protection (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945059)

We've got an observatory on a hill with air cabling and plenty of lightning. Our three-stage
protection has never failed through the power line. DSL connections have died many times through the
telephone lines.

First line of defence are large MOV devices with separate grounding installed at the nearest pole. Cost about 600USD.
Second line is at the breaked boxes, cost 400 USD.
Third line is done with 'normal' plug-level protectors for the most sensitive equipment.

Google for Phoenix Contact surge protection..

Re:Three-level protection (3, Funny)

pipatron (966506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945433)

Hey people with modpoints, look what I found! An informative comment at 0!

They do exist (4, Informative)

ftp coward (245726) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945081)

Here is an excellent panel mounted surge suppressor. http://ep2000.com/index.php?page=industrial [ep2000.com]

It isn't cheap (several hundred dollars IIRC) but excellent quality.

Call your electric utility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945083)

They can install a surge protector at the service entrance for a small monthly fee (mine is $5/month and includes a $10k insurance policy). I've had mine blow twice due to lightning without harming anything inside.

Take a similar approach to phone and cable, but I'm not aware of any phone or cable companies running a similar program.

Lightning rods (2)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945085)

Do you have lightning rod(s) installed nearby? If not, they can obviously help a lot.

Seems to work (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945093)

Since all of the appliances in my house are electric (including stove and dryer), I chose this route. It can be wired into any brand of panel not just the manufacturers.

http://www.eaton.com/Electrical/USA/ProductsandServices/Residential/SurgeProtection/WholeHome/index.htm

Along with device specific surge protectors (read: power strips) at more sensitive devices.

One more solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945097)

Move to the first world country where electricity is not interrupted by lightnings.
Even in the Soviet Russia electricity was pretty stable. One outage in 15 year is pretty good.

Re:One more solution (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945513)

Have they finally demoted the USA out of the first world? About damn time...

Signed,
A Disgruntled Florida Resident.

Go off the grid with your own reactor (1)

concealment (2447304) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945101)

Portable nuclear reactors [treehugger.com] are cost efficient and you never have to argue with your power company again!

My house was hit (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945105)

My house was hit by lightning. Direct strike to the roof started a fire, was out for 5 months during repair. Here's a rundown of my electronics:
ThinkPad with charger plugged in one room away - charger fried, TP ok.
Audio rack one floor below hit - all plugged in to one surge protector (consumer grade). Five pieces of electronics: top, middle and bottom fried; other two work fine.
Desktop on same level - PS and motherboard fried, drives OK.
Electric oven and stove - fried
ThinkPad with charger plugged in two floors down (in the basement) - charger fine, TP fried.
Tower PC in basement - PS and motherboard fried, drives OK.
Desktop PC in basement - PS and motherboard fried, drives OK
AV gear in basement - projector fried, receiver fried, DVD player OK.
Network gear in the basement (cable modem, router, wifi) all OK

All PCs were connected to UPS systems.

Bottom line, lightning is nasty and fickle. I lost all of my PCs and none of my drives. Surge protectors didn't seem to do much good.
The good news is my insurance waived the deductible since the claim was over $50K, and they replaced all electronics with equivalent brand new equipment.
Make sure you have good insurance and good luck.

ferrorresonant power conditioners? (1)

DragonDru (984185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945113)

Reminds me of an old Dan's Data http://www.dansdata.com/gz039.htm [dansdata.com] . At some point he discusses ferroresonant power conditioners. Presumably one can get a whole house version. Warning: I am operating from memory, I didn't actually read the article again.

Re:ferrorresonant power conditioners? (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945299)

Ferroresonant transformers are a good solution for voltage regulation (where the incoming line voltage varies outside the acceptable range), but they can produce unacceptable waveform distortion (and excessive losses) when underloaded. They work best with relatively constant loads, which a whole-house residential application IS NOT.

heavy duty is expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945119)

Forge fuses, they are too slow (they need time to overheat and break)
Put your whole installation behind an isolation transformer.
Add in front of the transformer fast spike protection devices. Those device are used to protect the power network. If you look at a power station, the 2 small balls at the end of a power line are such a device. Other types exists more suited for your use.

But all of those are meant for professional use and so are expensive and difficult to buy.

By the way, for that to be effective, you may not connect your protected power network to ground directly anymore because your spikes can also come from the ground. And no grounding can cause other problems and be dangerous.

An active UPS is probably the easiest and cheapest solution for you. But be careful, use an UPS wiythout direct connexion between the input and output (no passive UPS who are cheap and never use the bypass option on a UPS.

I have some here (Europe) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945123)

It is actually compulsory where I live
They look just like fuses, install in the panel, they are 2 of them, each connected between the ground and one phase.
they are 2 part each, 1 'slot' and one 'fuse'... the fuse has a green/red indicator: green is: good, red is: blew up and needs replacement.
They cost around €70, but I do not know how much the replacement 'fuses' cost...

they are designed to take up to 100KV and I assume that they are high impedance when they have 220V input and drop to 0 when a high voltage comes in..

cyrille

How about a lightning rod? (1)

tilante (2547392) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945131)

If lightning is your worry, have you thought about installing a lightning rod?

Re:How about a lightning rod? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945591)

A lightning rod won't help you if the power pole leading to your house is struck.

Re:How about a lightning rod? (1)

Githaron (2462596) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945621)

Does that help if the power lines are hit?

Easier way to do it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945171)

Find out if the company that manufactures your breaker panel sells one that fits right inside the box. I have one that simply snaps into spot where 2 breakers would normally go and has a wire from there that connects to the grounding system. It was easy to install and I have not noticed any issues sence, that said I do also keep surge strips/UPS's on my important electronics for extra safety.

Won't always help (1)

TooMad (967091) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945183)

A strike on your house itself will have an unpredictable path and could easily bypass the single point of protection. Goodbye refrigerator.

Surges vs. Lightning (4, Informative)

LeoDeSol (1323269) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945207)

Protecting against surges (Transients) and Lightning strikes are 2 very different things. I have worked in some of the nicest tier IV data centers with state of the art redundant power systems and protection. Most Tier IV data centers will have a "Lightning Detection" system. They will count on their power systems and grounding to help, but still track area lightning strikes and be on alert to check things should lightning hit them or close to them. The reason is because there is not gaurantee's when it comes to lightning. That much energy can jump gaps in blown breakers, fuses, and circuits and cause all sorts of havoc, even if the Generator and UPS is still up. Now, transient surge suppression is a different issue and not too expensive for whole home systems IMO. It is not a guarantee, but it is better than nothing at all. http://www.apc.com/products/family/index.cfm?id=174 [apc.com] (this is link to APC residential hard wire panel mount surge suppression options at list cost). Couple a home solution like the APC units above that protects all the random outlets in your house, with strategically placed UPS systems (behind entertainment center, in the office, etc.) and you are getting a decent ammount of protection from the normal surges and near strikes. In closing, lightning is a odd thing. I have been in a house and care that where "stuck". In the car, almost everything was fine, radio lost its pre-sets and time, etc. but that was about it. I don't remember even having any fuses go out. In the house, some things where fried, others where fine. For example, my roommates TV was toast, but the main one in the living room was OK, neither where on UPS. The cordless phone was fine, but the speakers in the corded handset where toast and would only squeal when you turned on the phone.

battery buffer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945213)

Get yourself a bunch of batteries and build your own. Hard to say what your particular needs are, but if you could segment your power needs vs. appliance protection (do you really care about the toaster?) you may be able to find a low cost solution.

There have been a few start-ups in this market. One in particular:
[http://zerofossil.com] [zerofossil.com]

offers a somewhat low-cost ($5K range) product that (over time) actually starts to pay for itself.

Any experience with Panamax Whole-Home protectors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945241)

I had a friend recommend the Panamax SEP200 Whole-Home Service Entrance Surge Protector - but I've had no personal experience with it - but I figured I'd toss it out there as something along the lines of what you are looking for...

I use an isolating UPS (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945263)

...the variety that supplies power not from the line (which is random and sporadic at the best of times, *often* spiking over 1200v here), but from the battery via a complex circuit which ends up supplying a very clean 50Hz signal at 220v while being continuously charged from the main. So what we have basically is:

dirty line 220-1200vac->isolator step-down to 13.5vac->regulator to 12vdc->battery stack->isolator step-up to 240v->regulator to 220vac->terminal

Works very well, I have a 15-minute grace in the event of a power loss and there's a small computer attached via the RS232 port to signal the workhorses to perform a clean shutdown if the power goes. The same monitor system (a laptop with an internal battery good for nearly two hours) also has the capability to power up the workhorses when power is restored.

Electronic protection and SOHO system automation rolled into one!

Anti-Lightning (2)

Mr_Blank (172031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945267)

Protecting an entire building from lightning is a solved problem. You need a lightning rod [wikipedia.org] .

My aunt and uncle live in a hundred year old farm house. It has a lightning rod. Their butter churn [wikipedia.org] has never had to be replaced due to a blown circuit.

Whole house surge supression (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945297)

After losing ceiling fans, many light bulbs, cordless phones (base station) and numerous other small electronics to line surges and lightning strikes I decided to put one of these guys in my house:

http://www.eaton.com/Electrical/USA/ProductsandServices/PowerQualityandMonitoring/InnovativeTechnologyTVSS/index.htm

You will need to find and consult with a rep, but they are very knowledgeable and helpful.

I believe it was worth every penny. $30 throw away surge suppressors are really not much more than a power strip with a switch and a MOV that might clamp your surge to ground for a couple of nano seconds before it fails completely. Sometimes they are better than nothing, but I wouldn't trust one for anything I really cared about.

The last Innovative Technology (before Eaton bought them) surge suppressor I installed had a 10 year warranty - if either LED on the box went out for any reason, you got a new one. It was mounted at the panel and had a dedicated breakers for each leg feeding it.

Easy DIY Options (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945303)

There are lots of wire-into-box options like this:

http://www.smarthome.com/48390/Whole-Home-Service-Entrance-Surge-Protector/p.aspx

I have one of these:

http://www.smarthome.com/4872/Phone-Coax-Surge-Protector-IG1300-4T-2C/p.aspx

It was easy to install and my roof-top antenna, cable modem and home power all run through it

Check with your electrical provider. (2)

DaysSinceTheDoor (805570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945319)

The power company where I live charges an extra five dollars per month to install one directly on your meter. This is a great option for me as I am a renter and did not feel like investing money in my landlords property. It took them all of five minutes to install it, so I assume replacing it would be just as fast if it blew. To install it, they basically took the meter off, put a plate that fit into the same space as the meter in, and then connected the meter to that plate. The plate had the surge protector in it.

Electric Utility Protection (1)

ewieling (90662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945359)

When I lived in Pensacola, FL the local power company offered a whole house surge protection service/product.

Internal surges (1)

Kludge (13653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945361)

Another thing to consider: will your "whole house" surge protector protect you from internal surges?
The only surge that I have ever had blow out electronic equipment in my home was caused internally by an electrician who was supposedly fixing my wiring, not by an external lightning strike.

other paths inti the house.... (1)

adrianhensler (454654) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945391)

Also, don't forget other sources into the house - cable, POTS, others.

Best solution (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945445)

A whole house surge protector is not expensive, and easy to install. They simply mount to the main box and connect to the mains, either through a circuit breaker or where the main line connects to the panel. Trivial through the (double/240V) breaker. It can be connected in parallel with your heaviest 240V appliance if no empty breaker location are available, but this means that on those rare times that breaker is turned off it will not be functioning. Better to use a moderately high amp dedicated breaker. Most such will not trip in the time frame of a surge.

After this install, still apply decent quality dedicated protectors to expensive electronics. Don't worry so much about fridges & the like

Whole Home Surge Suppression (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945461)

I have a Meter Base Surge Protector provided for a small fee from my electric utility. It is similar to these here: http://www.metertreater.com/Utility_Products.html I haven't evaluated the effectiveness, but I use it in conjunction with traditional surge suppression at the expensive devices. The utility is responsible for it's replacement if it is ever non-functional.

Buy three 220 volt varistors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945493)

Just buy 3 varistors and put them across all three connections.
I remember when 110v surge protectors were just too expensive decades ago.
I just bought a power bar and put three varistors in and I got an inexpensive surge protector.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varistor

Purpose? (1)

calgar99 (856142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945531)

Rather than Google "whole house surge protection" and read through many advertisements masquerading as facts, can someone just tell me the true purpose of whole house surge protection? If you still need local surge protectors, what is the whole house unit doing? Taking more of the blow from large spikes like lightning? Do they help keep a house from exploding? (I'm asking because I don't know. While my post won't help subby, I'm hoping good responses to this question may help lots of people.)

Ahh, so you live in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945543)

Florida

Voltage surges and spikes (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945573)

Unfortunately, "less than 0.05% of power related events that damage electronics are caused by voltage surges and spikes"

Source:

http://www.edn.com/article/520399-Circuit_protection_basics_Part_1_Issues_and_design_solutions.php [edn.com]

The entire article is worth reading. Can't say the same thing for part 2 of the article, which is basically just marketing hype for the supposed "solution" to these problems.

$100 protection too much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945579)

Full protection can be installed in breaker panel for $100. If you can install a circuit breaker in panel and read directions, this should not be difficult. Leviton, SquareD, others sell units that connect inside breaker panel & can be laid in panel or mounted outside panel. Most houses lack properly installed ground rods & proper heavy wire connecting ground rod to breaker panel. Again, this is not difficult. The electric code is written so electricians can understand it, you can too. If you are not sure or are mechanically declined, get it installed by competent technician.

For safety, I would only buy protectors made by an old line electric equipment company. "As seen on TV" is fair warning not to buy.

lightning is not a surge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945615)

You mention you're worried about lightning - nothing can really protect against.

If lightning is your largest concern, you need a method to keep it from striking - a lightning rod.
These can be very expensive and don't always divert the lightning away.

You best approach against lightning is buy replacement insurance for the sensitive electronics.

But to be honest with you, surges are far more likely and as everyone has mentioned, are
pretty easily managed with simple over the counter hardware.

reasonably priced, useful units exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39945629)

Several years ago I installed a unit incorporating very heavy duty varistors (MOVs) and gas tubes. It was about $200. Since that time I've taken lightning strikes as close as the next power pole down from mine and I've never had a surge induced failure. So, I believe that they do work, and that they are a good investment.

As others have said, a very good ground is key to the operation of any device of this sort.

In addition to developing industrial automation software, I'm also a licensed electrician, so I installed the unit myself. Given the work involved, it would not surprise me to learn that it would cost a person $300 to have a $200 surge protector installed.

Leviton 57000 TVSS (1)

cswiger (63672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39945645)

You're looking for something like the Leviton 57xxx series TVSS, which provides 3-phase WYE protection for all phases to ground, all phases to common/neutral, and common to ground. It's designed to handle extreme events like a close lightning strike or loss of phase. It's got field-replaceable modules so you can replace them if they blow their fuses or MOVs without needing an electrician.

It gets installed between your house power feed and your primary distribution breaker panel. (If you have a primary disconnect switch, it would go there, otherwise you can get a variant of this with an integral disconnection switch.)

http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/ibcGetAttachment.jsp?cItemId=RznMfhyJTAUscMgiwmzsgA&label=IBE&appName=IBE&minisite=10251 [leviton.com]

You'd be looking at a cost of about $4000 including installation.
I used one in a small datacenter in front of a 20kVA Powerware 9330 UPS.

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