Power surges can destroy your phone, computer system, digital big-screen television, stereo system, home theater, security systems, microwave oven, clock radio, most electronic battery chargers and anything else with micro processer circuits. Powers surges can be caused from a near by lightning strike, the power company main switching feeder lines or from within your home. Over 80% of the power surges and voltage spikes in your home are the direct result of the appliance motors turning on and off in your house. Lightning arrester, whole house voltage suppresser and other power suppression units must be layered to provide maximum electrical surge protection. None of these units are effective without a good solid building grounding system. Your grounding system might be bonded to the structural steel, concrete-encased electrodes, plates, ground rings, and rod or pipe electrodes depending on local codes and soil conditions. Bond (ground) all the electrical equipment grounds together including the main electrical wires, phone and TV cable boxes together to reduce the chance of a spark surge from the different of grounding potential.
Possible power surge scenario: Nearby lightning strike sends a 100,000 amp and 100,000 voltage surge towards your home. The first line of defense arrester reduces it to10,000 amps and 20,000 volts, the second surge unit reduces it down to 5,000 volts and the last small point of use TVSS device clamps the surge down to 330 volts saving most of your valuable electronics.
Lightning rods and lightning arrester can help prevent damage to house by redirecting and reducing the major ampere and voltage surge in the house (nothing will protect your stuff from a direct lightning strike). But there're not so much help for the tiny little digital display on the double oven. Class 1,2 and 3 arresters all have different ampere and voltage limitations.
The whole house surge arrester provides a starting point in protecting your expensive electronic equipment in your home. The whole house surge units are designed in all different sizes and rating to help discharge larger voltage spikes and surges. Whole house unit are normally installed at the main electrical panel. Some arresters are specially rated surge circuit breakers that plug into the panel much like a standard breaker and others mount to the outside of the panel box. The whole house surge device maybe designed to protect your main electrical wiring, circuit breaker, appliance motors and other large electrical items. There are a few surge units that offer insurance backed protection for your electrical and electronic gear if it's damage by a power surge.
After the whole unit is installed the smaller point of use protection is required. Surge outlet, single plug-in units and common plug strip surge arrester work on smaller high speed surge within the home. Small surges damage your electronic equipment over a period time like water dripping a rock slowly wearing it down. Make sure that the surge unit you purchase is UL tested and listed 1449 as a surge arrester as many on the market are not really tested or rated as a surge suppressor.
Main Types of Residential Surge Protection
MOV (metal oxide varistor) surge suppressors. The MOV shunt unit is very common but it has a limited life span. A few large surge or a bunch of small spikes will weaken or dist the over time.
Zener, suppression or avalanche diodes are all the same thing. They have a long life expectancy and very fast response time if their lower surge rating limits are not exceeded.
Combining MOV, avalanche diodes and capacitors together results in a hybrid suppression unit with better overall protection.
Series Mode (SM) surge suppressors operate completely differently than the above suppressors. The use of special frequency filters and capacitors simply block the many components of power surges and absorbs the most other pieces of the spike. SM units have superior suppression abilities and life spans. SM do cost more and they offer a higher level of protect. Some unit are rate A-1-1 power conditioner that are designed and certified to handle multiple 6000V, 3000A surges as specified in IEEE/ANSI C62.41.