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Summer Reminder: Surge Protection

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

With the approach of summer storms, today we're talking about what a surge protector is and how it helps protect your home, electrical system, and everything plugged into it.

Here in the Lowcountry, we are all familiar with summer lightning storms and their frequency. Unfortunately, I have seen electrical surges from lightning wreak havoc on some very pricy items, the damage of which could have been prevented with the use of a surge protector.

Before we get into surge protection, let's talk about what a surge is.

Electrical surges, sometimes called “transient voltage," are voltage spikes that enter our electrical system. There is not one single issue that causes these voltage spikes. They can enter your home through lightning that strikes power lines, power companies performing maintenance on power lines, fallen tree limbs that cause downed power lines, or internal surges from within your home (like from a motor such as an AC unit starting--although internal surges are not typically the most damage-inflicting).

Why do electrical surges damage appliances and electrical systems?

Most of the items in our home run off electronics. These range from 5-32 volts. A surge can deliver anywhere from 170 volts, all the way into the thousands of volts. Our electronics simply are not engineered to withstand such power.

Outdoor outlet completely destroyed by an electrical surge.

When an electrical surge courses through your system and appliances, these systems' inability to handle the influx of electricity can cause burning, melting, and potential combustion.

This is where the surge protector plays its part. A surge protector works as a bridge between your panel and your electronics. It diverts or “shunts” the excess voltage to your ground rod outside, preventing that power surge from running through your system.

Anecdotally, A properly installed surge protector is installed as close to the main breaker in your electrical panel as possible. This is to ensure that as soon as the surge enters your panel, it is diverted to the ground rod outside before it runs through any circuits. If you already have a surge protector installed, it's important to check that it is in the proper position in your panel.

Panel wiring heavily damaged from an electrical storm
Panel wiring heavily damaged from an electrical storm

Having a surge protector installed in each of your electrical panels is something that we wholeheartedly recommend. This preventative measure has the potential to save you a lot of money and a lot of headaches. Although there are plug-in surge protectors that can be used directly at the site of plug-in for your electronics, they don't offer the same level of

protection that an in-panel mounted and installed protector does. Additionally, good surge protectors installed in-panel come with a warranty from the protector's manufacturer in case a surge were to get through, something that a plug-in protector will not come with.

In-panel surge protectors should be installed by a licensed electrician.

At Gloudeman Electric, we offer both surge protection and ground rod testing, as your ground rod is an important piece of your home's electrical system and in diverting surges; our ground rod test ensures your ground resistance is low enough to dissipate that voltage in order to maximize the chance of protecting your house against strikes.

Thank you for reading and we hope you feel more empowered about protecting your home against the monster storms we get in the Charleston area.


Lead Electrician

Gloudeman Electric, LLC

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