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Old 08-02-2012, 11:28 AM   #1
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


My home is roughly 70 years old, and there are no ground wires in the home, however the main service panel is grounded. Will a whole home surge protector still work to protect items such as computers, electronics, appliances, etc.? Also, with the lack of ground wires in the home, will normal plug in surge protectors on items such as computers, tvs, etc. still do their job?

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Last edited by diyer111; 08-02-2012 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 08-03-2012, 08:29 AM   #2
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


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Originally Posted by diyer111 View Post
My home is roughly 70 years old, and there are no ground wires in the home, however the main service panel is grounded. Will a whole home surge protector still work to protect items such as computers, electronics, appliances, etc.?
A home's safety ground is for human safety. Does nothing for transistor safety. Your concern is an electrical current that seeks distant earthborne charges via earth. Either that current is earthed BEFORE entering the building. Or that current will hunt for earth destructively via appliances. Only you make that choice.

Earth ground is essential for earthing that current. Safety ground does virtually nothing for electrical reasons discussed below.

Anything inside the building must somehow block or absorb that current. Protection is always about where energy dissipates. Will that interior protector stop what three miles of sky could not? Of course not. Will its near zero hundreds joules absorb a surge that is hundreds of thousands of joules? Of course not. Or just read its specifications. Where is the spec number that claims to protect from typically destructive surges? Does not exist when a protector is too far from earth; virtually has no earth connection.

Ignore safety ground. It does not do anything to block or absorb that energy. Worry most about the building earth ground.

Now, does that breaker box ground go up over the foundation and down to earth? If yes, then protection is compromised. Surge protection is about the quality of earthing AND how it gets connected. That bare copper quarter inch wire is too long, has sharp bends, and is not separated from other non-grounding wires. Best is to route a new ground wire that goes through the foundation and down to ground.

Not any earth ground. Single point earth ground. If the telco 'installed for free' protector also does not make a low impedance (ie 'less than 10 foot') connection to single point earth ground, then protection is still compromised. If cable TV does not connect low impedance (ie 'less than 10 feet') and directly, again, protection is compromised.

Safety ground is irrelevant for many reasons. Including reasons that say how an earth ground must be connected (no sharp bends, separated from other non-grounding wires, etc). Plug-in protector have virtually no earth ground AND only claim to protect from a type of surge made irrelevant by protection already inside every appliance. Power strips need a safety ground because all power strips (protector and non-protector) must have that safety ground for human safety.

Install a 'whole house' protector rated at least 50,000 amps (because it must earth direct lightning strikes without damage). And upgrade earthing, as necessary, to both meet and exceed code requirements. Then all interior circuits - two wire or three - have the best possible protection.

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Old 08-03-2012, 10:31 AM   #3
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


What he's saying is that no a surge suppressor won't work without a ground. The rest of the mumbo jumbo is in regards to the fact that even if you have a panel surge protector you can still get surges from cable and phone lines. (ie phone or cable modem). Also cable and phone surge protectors need a ground. You'll never fully be protected without a grounding conductor running through your house.

I'm not entirely sure what some of that meant but a surge suppressor works by means of a dialectric that only conducts on high enough voltage. When you get a surge the dialectric becomes a conductor and shunts the extra juice to your grounding conductor.
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Old 08-03-2012, 11:12 AM   #4
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


I had the electric supply company install a whole house surge protector which they installed inside the meter center itself. There was no charge for the electric supply company to do this all I had to do was call and ask.

Maybe your company does that as well. Call to check.
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Old 08-03-2012, 12:17 PM   #5
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


Quote:
Also, with the lack of ground wires in the home, will normal [COLOR=blue !important][COLOR=blue !important]plug [COLOR=blue !important]in[/COLOR][/COLOR][/COLOR] surge protectors on items such as computers, tvs, etc. still do their job?
No ground reference = nowhere for the surge to go. So no, point of use protectors will not work for you.

Your only option for surge protection is a surge protector at your electrical service entrance where N & G are bonded. Yes, the surge protector at your service will protect you against surges entering through the utility connection but it will not completely protect you against internally generated surge activity.

NEMA has a website about devoted to surge and IEEE and NIST have recommendation resources for residential surge protection. Learn more there.

IEEE:
http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_lhm/IEEE_Guide.pdf
NIST:
http://www.eeel.nist.gov/817/pubs/sp...%20happen!.pdf
NEMA:
http://nemasurge.com/?page_id=15
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Old 08-03-2012, 03:26 PM   #6
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


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Originally Posted by andrew79 View Post
You'll never fully be protected without a grounding conductor running through your house.
A ground wire inside a house (called safety ground or equipment ground) is not earth ground. Has too many sharp bends. Has splices. Is bundled with other non-grounding wires. Is too long. Each sentence alone says it is not an earth ground and does not provide protection. Wall receptacle safety ground is not earth ground for those four reasons and more.

If a surge is being earthed by a interior ground wire, then that surge is hunting for earth destructively via appliances. Protection means that current is not inside. Protection means the electrically shortest connection to earth is an earthing electrode where wires enter the building.

The telco and cable wires already (should) have the best possible protector. In part, because a connection from utility wire to earth is low impedance (ie 'less than 10 feet'). Not low resistance; low impedance. Even sharp wire bends subvert an earthing connection.

A utility installed (behind the meter) protector is also a 'whole house' protector. It also must make the same short connection to earth. Only a homeowner (not the electric company) is responsible for that earthng. Then everything inside a building is protected.

IEEE even puts numbers to it. Earth a 'whole house' protector for "99.5% to 99.9% protection". Nothing is 100%. Then maybe spend significantly more money for another 0.2% protection using protectors inside the house. The latter (as defined by numeric specs) is mostly for surges that typically do not cause damage.

An IEEE Standard then says:
Quote:
Still, a 99.5% protection level will reduce the incidence of direct strokes from one stroke per 30 years ... to one stroke per 6000 years ...
That is one 'whole house' protector that costs maybe $1 per protected appliance.

The NIST citation also notes what is most important:
Quote:
You cannot really suppress a surge altogether, nor "arrest" it. What these protective devices do is neither suppress nor arrest a surge, but simply divert it to ground, where it can do no harm.
How important is that earthing?
Quote:
A very important point to keep in mind is that your surge protector will work by diverting the surges to ground. The best surge protection in the world can be useless if grounding is not done properly.
A protector adjacent to appliance has no earth ground - is called "useless". Does not even claim protection from destructive surges. And will not discuss what does the protection - earthing.

Why is a 'whole house' protector the only solution found in every facility that cannot have damage? It earths destructive surges so that nobody knew a surge existed. Even direct lightning strikes do not harm that protector.

If current is inside, then the only remaining protection is that inside every appliance. Effective protection is always about a surge earthed outside; and not inside on any wire. Especially not inside on safety ground wires. What is always done in any facility that cannot have damage? Connect that current low impedance (ie 'less than 10 feet') to earth. Not safety ground. Earth ground.

Last edited by westom; 08-03-2012 at 03:33 PM.
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Old 08-03-2012, 04:22 PM   #7
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


I recommend the IEEE and NIST surge guides that surgeknowitall provided links to. Excellent information on surges and surge protection. The IEEE guide is aimed at people with some technical background.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
Anything inside the building must somehow block or absorb that current.
Nonsense.

Neither plug-in or service panel protectors work by "blocking" or "absorbing".

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
Will that interior protector stop what three miles of sky could not? Of course not.
Of course not.

Protectors do not work by "stopping" either.

As is clearly explained in the IEEE surge guide starting page 30, plug-in protectors work primarily by limiting the voltage from each wire to the ground at the protector. The voltage between the wires to the protected equipment is safe for the protected equipment.

All of this will still happen if there is no branch circuit ground wire. But the 'ground' at the protector can float, which is very undesirable. It is safer if the branch circuit is protected by a GFCI. In some cases you can add a ground wire (rather restricted how it is done).

If using a plug-in protector all interconnected equipment needs to be connected to the same protector. External connections, like coax also must go through the protector.

This is at least the 4th time westom has posted his misinformation in this forum in the last year.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
Will its near zero hundreds joules absorb a surge that is hundreds of thousands of joules? Of course not.
Of course not.

The author of the NIST surge guide investigated how much energy might be absorbed in a MOV in a plug-in protector. Branch circuits were 10M and longer, and the surge on incoming power wires was up to 10,000A . (That is the maximum that has any reasonable probability of occurring, as below.) The maximum energy at the MOV was a surprisingly small 35 joules. In 13 of 15 cases it was 1 joule or less.

Plug-in protectors with much higher ratings are readily available. High ratings mean long life. A plug-in protector, wired correctly, is very likely to protect from a very near very strong lightning strike.

(Neither service panel or plug-in protectors work by absorbing the surge. But they both absorb some energy in the process of protecting.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
Or just read its specifications. Where is the spec number that claims to protect from typically destructive surges?
More nonsense.

Some plug-in protectors even have protected equipment warranties.

Both the IEEE and NIST surge guides say plug-in protectors are effective.

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Originally Posted by westom View Post
Now, does that breaker box ground go up over the foundation and down to earth? If yes, then protection is compromised.
Another nutty idea.

Through the foundation would be to a ground rod. Imagine the rod(s) have a miraculous 10 ohms resistance to earth, and that there is a 2,000A surge to earth. The building ground system will rise 20,000V above 'absolute' earth potential. As a rule of thumb, 70% of the voltage drop away from a ground rod is in the first 3 feet. The voltage from the building 'ground' to earth over 3 feet from the rod will be 14,000V or more. That is with rather ideal conditions.

Much of the protection is actually that all the wiring rises along with the power wiring. That requires short ground wires from the cable, phone, ... entry protectors to a common connection on the earthing system. Since the OP's service (N-G) is earthed, the cable, phone, ... can also be protected. The results of a wire that is too long is illustrated in the IEEE surge guide starting page 30.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
Plug-in protector have virtually no earth ground
How fortunate that they do not protect primarily by earthing surges. Read the IEEE surge guide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
AND only claim to protect from a type of surge made irrelevant by protection already inside every appliance.
Continued nonsense.

Some equipment has some protection. Some has none. Not likely any has as good protection as a plug-in protector.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
Install a 'whole house' protector rated at least 50,000 amps (because it must earth direct lightning strikes without damage).
Service panel protectors are a real good idea.
But from the NIST guide:
"Q - Will a surge protector installed at the service entrance be sufficient for the whole house?
A - There are two answers to than question: Yes for one-link appliances [electronic equipment], No for two-link appliances [equipment connected to power AND phone or cable or....]. Since most homes today have some kind of two-link appliances, the prudent answer to the question would be NO - but that does not mean that a surge protector installed at the service entrance is useless."

Service panel protectors do not by themselves prevent high voltages from developing between power and phone/cable wires. The NIST surge guide suggests most equipment damage is from high voltage between power and signal wires. An example of where a service panel protector would provide no protection is the IEEE surge guide example above.

The author of the NIST surge guide looked at the surge current that could come in on residential power wires. The maximum with any reasonable probability of occurring was 10,000A per wire. That is based on a 100,000A lighting strike to a utility pole adjacent to the house in typical urban overhead distribution. Recommended ratings for service panel protectors is in the IEEE surge guide on page 18. Ratings far higher than 10,000A per wire mean the protector will have a long life.

Service panel protectors are very likely to protect anything connected only to power wires from a very near very strong lightning strike. They may or may not protect equipment connected to both power and signal wires.

A utility may, as in TGMcCallie's post, install a surge protector the plug-in between the meter and socket. I have never heard of them doing it for free, all the ones I have heard about are leased. For real science read the IEEE and NIST surge guides. Excellent information on surge protection.
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Old 08-03-2012, 08:13 PM   #8
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


Quote:
Originally Posted by westom
A ground wire inside a house (called safety ground or equipment ground) is not earth ground. Has too many sharp bends. Has splices. Is bundled with other non-grounding wires. Is too long. Each sentence alone says it is not an earth ground and does not provide protection. Wall receptacle safety ground is not earth ground for those four reasons and more.

If a surge is being earthed by a interior ground wire, then that surge is hunting for earth destructively via appliances. Protection means that current is not inside. Protection means the electrically shortest connection to earth is an earthing electrode where wires enter the building.

The telco and cable wires already (should) have the best possible protector. In part, because a connection from utility wire to earth is low impedance (ie 'less than 10 feet'). Not low resistance; low impedance. Even sharp wire bends subvert an earthing connection.

A utility installed (behind the meter) protector is also a 'whole house' protector. It also must make the same short connection to earth. Only a homeowner (not the electric company) is responsible for that earthng. Then everything inside a building is protected.

IEEE even puts numbers to it. Earth a 'whole house' protector for "99.5% to 99.9% protection". Nothing is 100%. Then maybe spend significantly more money for another 0.2% protection using protectors inside the house. The latter (as defined by numeric specs) is mostly for surges that typically do not cause damage.

An IEEE Standard then says: That is one 'whole house' protector that costs maybe $1 per protected appliance.

The NIST citation also notes what is most important: How important is that earthing? A protector adjacent to appliance has no earth ground - is called "useless". Does not even claim protection from destructive surges. And will not discuss what does the protection - earthing.

Why is a 'whole house' protector the only solution found in every facility that cannot have damage? It earths destructive surges so that nobody knew a surge existed. Even direct lightning strikes do not harm that protector.

If current is inside, then the only remaining protection is that inside every appliance. Effective protection is always about a surge earthed outside; and not inside on any wire. Especially not inside on safety ground wires. What is always done in any facility that cannot have damage? Connect that current low impedance (ie 'less than 10 feet') to earth. Not safety ground. Earth ground.
Do you have any idea how many times you contradict yourself through that long complicated mess. Thanks to the poster just above me who actually knows what he's talking about and explained it far better than I ever could.
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Old 08-03-2012, 08:31 PM   #9
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


Why is it when someone brings this subject up, it all of a sudden becomes a EE discussion, that is deeper than it needs to be.
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Old 08-03-2012, 08:33 PM   #10
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


To the other person. If you want one, go for it. I have one and it has saved my butt a time or two.

If you are unsure about main panel grounding, have a electrian looke everything over.
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Old 08-03-2012, 09:23 PM   #11
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


Saved mine too. These things work.

Every switch in my house supports the UPB powerline control protocol due to the high level of automation I run. This menas that each one contains lots of sensitive electronic circuitry. I lost 5 once on a surge and at $50 wholesale each it added up to surge protector (TVSS) = no-brainer. Subsequent to the installation, our house took yet another lightning related surge from the power line that burned out the TVSS but not one switch died. In fact, I haven't lost a switch since.

Make sure that you install yours as close to the panel main breaker as possible, keeping all wiring as short as possible.
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Old 08-03-2012, 09:46 PM   #12
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


I am still batting around the idea to get the L-Com lightning protector, for the incoming DSL circuit. Something on my list of things to do shortly.
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Old 08-04-2012, 07:45 AM   #13
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


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I am still batting around the idea to get the L-Com lightning protector, for the incoming DSL circuit.
Any recommendation for protection is always about where energy dissipates. If not understood, then one may be is easily scammed by products that cost much money, claim no protection, have no earthing, and are sold at obscene prices from irresponsible manufacturers such aa Monster.

Also written at a laymans level, is an AT&T discussion about how to best protect DSL:
Quote:
Surge protection for DSL and dialup service.
Surge protection takes on many forms, but always involves the following components: Grounding bonding and surge protectors. ...
Grounding is required to provide the surge protector with a path to dump the excess energy to earth. A proper ground system is a mandatory requirement of surge protection. Without a proper ground, a surge protector has no way to disburse the excess energy and will fail to protect downstream equipment.
Bonding is required to electrically connect together the various grounds of the services entering the premises. Without bonding, a surge may still enter a premise after firing over a surge protector, which will attempt to pass the excess energy to its ground with any additional energy that the services surge protector ground cannot instantly handle, traveling into and through protected equipment, damaging that equipment in the process. ...
Now, if all the various service entrance grounds are bonded together there are no additional paths to ground through the premise. Even if all of the grounds cannot instantly absorb the energy, the lack of additional paths to ground through the premise prevents the excess energy from seeking out any additional grounds through that premise and the electronic equipment within. As such, the excess energy remains in the ground system until dissipated, sparing the protected equipment from damage. ...
By far, the whole house hardwired surge protectors provide the best protection. When a whole house primary surge protector is installed at the service entrance, it will provide a solid first line of defense against surges which enter from the power company's service entrance feed. These types of protectors can absorb/pass considerably more energy than any other type of protector, and if one does catastrophically fail, it will not typically be in a living space. ...
Plug in strip protectors are, at best, a compromise. At worst, they may cause more damage than they prevent. While they may do an acceptable job of handling hot to neutral surges, they do a poor job of handling any surge that must be passed to ground. ...
Then, to add insult to injury, some strip protectors add Telco and/or LAN surge protection within the same device, trying to be an all-in-one sale. Remember bonding? When Telco or LAN protection is added to a strip protector, if the premise ground, which is not designed to handle surges, cannot handle all of the energy, guess where that excess energy seeks out the additional grounds? You got it! The Telco and LAN connections now becomes the path, with disastrous results to those devices. ...
Every professional orangization says this same thing. IOW protection is always this simple. A protector is only as effective as its earth ground. Portection is always about where surge energy dissipates.
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Old 08-04-2012, 08:17 AM   #14
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


Westom, why is it that you have to turn everything into a diatribe that does not need to be. Also, the L-Com DSL protector is not a surge protector, it is a Lightning protector. Two totally different things.
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Old 08-04-2012, 09:28 AM   #15
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Is a whole home surge protector worth it?


Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
Also written at a laymans level, is an AT&T discussion about how to best protect DSL
Cite the source. Who wrote it and where.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westom View Post
A protector is only as effective as its earth ground.
It appears to be a religious belief for westom (immune from challenge). He is evangelical in his belief and googles for "surge" in his crusade to save the universe from the scourge of plug-in protectors.

Unfortunately for westom the IEEE surge guide explains (starting page 30) that plug-in protectors do not work primarily by earthing surges. They work by limiting the voltage from each wire to the ground at the protector. The voltage between the wires to the protected equipment is safe for the protected equipment.

Both the IEEE and NIST surge guides say plug-in protectors are effective.

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