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Electronic Insurance

It’s probably not at the top of the list of splashy gifts that you most covet—not nearly as much fun as a big new TV or some sweet electronic toy. But having a whole-house surge suppressor can protect your investment both in everyday workhorses, such as refrigerators and washing machines, as well as in pricey electronics, such as televisions, stereos, and computers.

Some folks rely on the surge protectors in power strips to protect their computers or other electronics. But for a major lightning strike or power surge, that may not be enough. And in most homes, not every device using electricity is plugged into one—think of the appliances that could be left vulnerable should a major power surge strike. Sudden changes in voltage streaming through the lines can be caused by a number of factors—by lightning; by a downed power line or a blown transformer; or by electric utility “recloser” operations, which are designed to improve reliability and protect the utility power system. Over time, those small fluctuations can damage sensitive electronics.

A little up-front action can give after-the-fact peace of mind, protecting all those devices that run off electricity from damage, and shielding your home from fire.

Careful Consumer

Double backup for extra protection

For more protection, consider supplementing the whole-house suppressor with point-of-use surge protectors plugged into outlets and used for individual devices or appliances. Some come with battery backups to avoid outages. These point-of-use devices give an added layer of defense should some voltage during spikes seep through, as can happen.

Another safety tip: during lightning storms or when you’re going out of town, unplug electronics that aren’t being used. It costs nothing—and a surge will never hurt a device that’s not plugged in.


Smart shopper

Whole-house surge protection

The placement of a whole-house surge suppressor can vary—with some mounted onto the main electrical panel, others near the electric meter. Check with your local electric co-op—some provide suppressors for a fee. A whole-house suppressor acts essentially like a pressure-release valve—allowing the electric circuit to flow through it during normal circumstances, but kicking into action when the voltage spikes, redirecting the excess unwanted voltage to a ground wire.

When selecting a whole-house suppressor, pay attention to the surge current capacity and the joules rating (higher is better), and to clamping voltage (lower is better). Make sure it has a warning light to indicate if it’s become damaged or stopped functioning (repeated surges can damage the suppressor). Consider also adding separate units for phone and cable lines. Check for warranties that may cover surge damage to devices connected to a suppressor.


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