If you’ve ever experienced a power surge, you know how important it is to protect yourself against them. A power surge is a sudden spike in voltage and/or current running through your electrical lines that can cause truly tremendous damage to your electrical system and anything attached to it. Appliances, electronics, and even electrical safety equipment could all be completely ruined in a matter of moments in the event of an electrical surge, and this makes protecting against these sudden and unforeseen problems so crucially important for homeowners.
However, surge protection is something that we find that the overwhelming majority of homeowners simply don’t take seriously enough. We’re extremely fortunate to live in a country where electrical infrastructure, despite showing signs of age, is still remarkably stable, consistent, and reliable. For well over 99% of the average month, New Yorkers enjoy electricity that’s at the right voltage with minimal fluctuations and is largely extremely clean in quality. That means power surges are rare, and in turn, few people realize the necessity of purchasing, installing, and maintaining protection from them. However, that doesn’t mean a surge can’t or won’t happen, and you need to be prepared for the event one happens to you.
What Is Surge Protection?
Surge protection is a sort of fuse-like device that you can utilize to keep your home protected from power surges. A surge protection system monitors the current and voltage flowing through your electrical system, and if either exceeds a maximum threshold, the protection trips and severs your electrical circuit, halting the flow of electricity immediately. Whereas a circuit breaker can be reset or a fuse can be replaced, however, surge protection typically needs to be completely replaced and reinstalled or outright bypassed in order to turn the power back on again.
Generally, there are two types of surge protection you can find today, and we’ll discuss both of them here.
Surge Strip Protection
By far the most common type of surge protection is a surge strip. Surge strips are essentially multi-outlet power strips you plug into any socket in your home. The strip then provides power and surge protection for all other devices plugged into it. In the event of a surge, the surge protection in the strip cuts off the power to everything plugged in and keeps it all protected.
This type of surge protection has some obvious benefits. Notably, surge-protected power strips are extremely affordable and can be purchased everywhere from big-box stores to home improvement warehouses. It’s also quite literally “plug-and-play,” meaning you don’t have to have the surge protection professionally installed. All you have to do is plug in the strip, plug in what you want to be protected to that strip, and you’re good to go. On the downside, however, these strips don’t protect anything that isn’t plugged into them. Likewise, if you overload a strip, you could trip the surge protection simply by running too much current through the line. Finally, this simply isn’t feasible for all applications, as not everything can be plugged into a surge strip easily and feasibly.
Something else we need to bring up: not all power strips are surge protected. Some people mistakenly believe that power strips are all surge protected and keep anything plugged in sheltered from a surge. This is not the case, and in fact, the influx of cheap power strips has actually made some of these devices more vulnerable to surges due to their budget-conscious construction with lower-quality materials.
Whole-Home Surge Protection
Whole-home surge protection really couldn’t be more different from surge strips. You don’t plug individual devices into whole-home surge protection, but instead, you install a whole-home surge protector on your main electrical entry line. These surge protectors are more robust to handle the increased electrical demands of your entire homer as opposed to one outlet, but the same general principle still applies: when too much current or voltage enters, the surge protector trips and shuts off your power to stop all electrical flow.
The benefit to whole-home surge protection is an obvious one: without buying any extra surge strips or strategically placing protection, your whole home simply remains covered in the event of a power surge. This could save you thousands in the event of a surge and the amount of damage they can cause. However, the downside is also pretty obvious: whole-home surge protection should never be installed without the help of a professional who is familiar with these types of setups. If you want your home to remain truly covered, you’ll need an experienced technician to complete the job and provide you with full peace of mind.