When comparing whole-house surge protectors to traditional surge protectors, many people think of massive lightning strikes. However, this is an extreme example, and our homes, particularly with a volatile grid, experience many smaller surges throughout the year.
The problem is that over time, these mini-surges can damage or destroy expensive electronics and appliances. For example, one day, your two-year-old refrigerator may just stop working. A costly replacement exercise and maybe the first of many appliances teetering on the brink of failure due to surge damage.
Fortunately, there are two time-tested options that provide a safe solution:
1. Power strip surge protector: This device resembles a power strip and protects all the electronics plugged into it. You often find surge protectors in home offices or rooms with critical electronics. Individually, they’re cheaper than the alternative and easier to install – but the economics change if you end up buying a handful of them.
2. Whole-house surge protector: This device is installed in a home’s electrical panel by an electrician and offers downstream protection of all electronics in a home. It costs more and requires professional labour, but over time, may offer more resilient, cost-effective protection.
What is whole-house protection?
Visually, it’s not that exciting; it looks like a grey box on the wall next to your home’s electrical panel. However, its features definitely make up for its lack of aesthetic value.
When it senses a voltage irregularity – anything from a lightning strike to a minor flutter of extra voltage – this device kicks into action. It diverts the excess voltage into the ground before it reaches your home’s electronics, keeping it safe from damaging spikes. Unlike power strip surge protectors, it works straight out of the box.
It is estimated that up to 80 percent of all surges originate from inside a building. These are generally quite small and happen as a result of loose wires, malfunctioning appliances, static electricity, load switching, or even when turning on a hair dryer or AC unit. Over time, these seemingly minor surges can damage and thereby shorten the life of electronics.
Although relatively rare, high-surge events like lightning strikes or power surges from the utility also occur, and cause immediate, large-scale damage to electronics and your home. A high-surge event can also spark a fire, putting everyone inside a home at risk.
It is worth it?
Most power strip surge protectors only offer low-level surge protection, meaning they can help during frequent, small surges but aren’t effective during a high-surge situation. Whole-house surge protectors, on the other hand, effectively reduce both kinds of surges.
When you consider that the potential for equipment damage can run well into the hundreds of thousands of rands, it justifies the average cost ranging from $200 to $700 for the whole-house surge product and installation.
In a time when our homes are equipped with increasingly smart, yet sensitive electronics that cannot be protected by simple power strip surge protectors, the case for whole-house surge protectors becomes more compelling.
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