Big-Spike Protection

Surge suppressors are made to protect equipment that's particularly sensitive to moderate surges. But there are systems that will protect your other devices from bigger jolts. System Protection. If you live in an area that experiences frequent surges, consider a surge arrestor. Installed at the service panel, an arrestor uses the same technology as a suppressor does, but it's designed to handle higher loads and prevent damage in a broader way. "Arrestors are designed to protect light switches, appliance motors, the circuit breaker box, and all the wiring in a home," says Gary Shireman, section leader for application engineering support at the Lexington, Kentucky-based Square D Company. "These devices can generally withstand higher voltage spikes." That's why surge arrestors take up where surge suppressors leave off. Good suppressors can cut down surges to 330V; most arrestors don't reduce surges much below 600V. "An arrestor is important because it can reduce a much higher-level surge than most suppressors can handle," says Shireman. "But it's doesn't replace a surge suppressor-they work hand in hand." Arrestors should conform to the ANSI/IEEE C62.11 or C62.1 standard. (Obtain a list of Underwriters Laboratories-listed arrestors from UL Data Service) Expect to spend $50 to $250. Unless you have advanced electrical skills, figure on hiring a licensed electrician for the installation — about another $100. Thunderbolt Insurance. There's an even higher level of protection if you live in a lightning-prone area: lightning protection. These systems work with a surge arrestor and surge suppressors, and consist of lightning rods placed at intervals around your home. The rods are connected by cables that allow the current to travel to ground. "Prices vary according the size of the home, but a $1,000-to-$2,000 system is adequate for most," says Norm Violette, an electrical engineer at the Fall Church, Virginia-based Violette Engineering Corp. Lightning protection is specialized work that involves a lot of roof climbing; most folks turn it over to a pro. However, check with UL before hiring a lightning-protection company. UL keeps a list of installers certified under its Lightning Protection Installation Program. Certified installers are also required to connect a surge arrestor.
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