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Surge Protection

Surges: What are they?

Electronic components are a key element in many of today's appliances and devices. From complex computers and entertainment audio/video systems, to telephones and answering machines, electronics and micro-processors are the brains that drive many of our valuable possessions. Due to the electrically fragile nature of electronics, it is important to protect them from surges of unacceptably high voltages.

A power surge or 'spike' can occur virtually instantaneously, changing 120 volts to several hundred volts. It may last only a fraction of a second, but it can cause permanent damage to electronics around the home and office. Surges can occur from a nearby lightning strike, from power lines in the neighborhood, or even from someone turning a light switch on or off in the house. About 80% of surges come from within the building.
Important note:  Surges can also enter the home through telephone, cable and satellite lines.  The damage can affect not only these devices but others around the house also.  You should have surge protection for these communication lines as well as the power lines.  Look for surge suppressors which also have fittings for telephone and TV cables.

Surge suppressors are like car shock absorbers, absorbing the brunt of the surge coming down an electrical line.  The IEEE (Institute of Electrical Engineers) recommends 2 layers of protection.  You may want to consider the UPS we mention below.  No surge suppressor can withstand a direct lightning strike, which is highly unlikely.  However, it can help to minimize the effects of a lightning strike in the area.

  1. Primary protection at the main electrical panel.  This surge protector installs on or in the panel.  Indicator lights tell you whether the unit is providing protection or whether it has been damaged/worn out while protected your home.  Better quality surge units also connect to and protect telephone and cable/satellite lines.

  2. A plug-in surge suppressor or a surge suppressor power strip at your computer, stereo, etc. These can also filter out line noise that can affect TV pictures and audio in speakers.

  3. A dedicated circuit for your most valuable equipment can help isolate it from other circuits that may cause a problem.  For computers, a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) is an even better idea.

Helpful Hints:

    • Many surge suppressor strips come with connections for TV cable and/or telephone. Surges in those areas can be just as damaging as power line surges. A combination unit is a good idea: power and telephone for the computer with modem, or power and cable for TV equipment.

    • To add a surge suppressor at the panel:  $400 - $800.  It depends on what type, whether it's for power alone or also telephone and cable, and whether additional work is needed to connect telephone and cable wires to the devices.


-- Check this list of items that can be affected by a surge and/or lightning strike.
-- If you end up submitting an insurance claim, you don't want to find out 6 months later there are more things you could have had covered.

Alarm system

Garage door openers

Sprinkler system controls

Audio equipment (all components)

GFI outlets (inside and outside)

Surge suppressors

Computers, modems, scanners, printers, fax machine




Low voltage transformers for thermostats, doorbells, intercoms, alarms

Video equipment (TVs, VCRs, DVDs)

Exercise equipment 

Smoke detectors (120 volt type)

Water softener control