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Whole-House Surge Protection??


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12 replies to this topic

#1 of 13 Chris White

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Posted August 29 2001 - 01:25 AM

After a recent experience with the effects of lightning , I've been thinking about a whole-house surge protector. Do any of you have one? What did it cost? Where did you get it? What is involved in the installation? Any advice?

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[Edited last by Chris White on August 29, 2001 at 08:29 AM]

#2 of 13 Todd Hochard

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Posted August 29 2001 - 03:03 AM

I've been thinking of one also, since Florida Power's line quality seems to have degraded in the past few months.

Who do you have for power? Florida Power Corp offers a whole house setup for $35 install, then $6 thereafter. It's installed right at the meter. I haven't tried it, so I can't speak of results.

There really aren't any devices out there that will protect your home from a direct lightning strike. If that's what happened, then I'd focus on why your house is attracting lightning. Perhaps various grounding issues with antennas/dishes?

Todd
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#3 of 13 Chris White

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Posted August 29 2001 - 03:13 AM

I did check out Florida Power's offering and I don't think I'm interested. They basically install a whole-house surge protector and you rent it. I'd rather just buy one.

There really aren't any devices out there that will protect your home from a direct lightning strike.

You're absolutely correct. A really good surge protector will suppress a surge up to say 2000 joules. A direct strike will generate millions of joules. The problem I had was lightning entering through the phone lines. Both the cable and phone lines are grounded via twin 8' copper rods, but that just wasn't enough.

I'd focus on why your house is attracting lightning.

And do what? Cut down the trees? Posted Image

#4 of 13 Craig Robertson

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Posted August 29 2001 - 04:05 AM

Chris,
check out the Apex series at http://www.transtector.com/ae.html
i work for a cell company and we use them to protect our cell sites. we had a surge at one site that was bad enough to trip the 200A main breaker but no equipment was damaged.
install diagrams are available at the website. unfortunately, i don't have any info on pricing.
the Apex is for AC power entry protection, Transtector also makes devices for telco protection.

this is the Standard "I don't work for the above company or have any relationship with them except using their products" statement.

#5 of 13 Mark Austin

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Posted August 29 2001 - 04:57 AM

I had the same thing happen Sunday night. It fried my air conditioning board, phone line, cable modem, and nic card, but my HT was fine, even with a moderately priced surge protector. Whole house protection is something I'd like to learn more about.

#6 of 13 Jay_E

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Posted August 29 2001 - 05:50 AM

Try http://www.smarthome.com/4870.html . I installed one of these in a auxillary 100 amp panel and so far so good. It was part of a surge protection system for my Aqua-Link swimming pool control system. This will only protect your AC power. You will still need protection for phone, cable, or anything else running into your house. If you have any specfic questions let me know.

Also I'm curiuos about this statement
quote:
The problem I had was lightning entering through the phone lines. Both the cable and phone lines are grounded via twin 8' copper rods, but that just wasn't enough. [/quote] Did you have your phone lines protected with a surge protector and if so which one? Thanks.


Jay


[Edited last by Jay_E on August 29, 2001 at 12:55 PM]

#7 of 13 Todd Hochard

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Posted August 29 2001 - 06:01 AM

Phone lines are a tricky deal, because even though they may be grounded, you still have virtually no protection for the devices connected to them.
Most surge suppressors work by shunting the surge onto the house neutral and/or ground lines. Here's the problem: if you have so-called phone line surge protection, that typically uses the house ground, too. If you get a hit anywhere in the system, everything connected to the ground line feels it momentarily. Since whatever is connected to the phone line is typically NOT of a robust design (e.g. your typical modem), this can be destroyed by a surge that shouldn't have caused any damage to anything.

I've lost too many modems to power surges, and yet, never lost a phone or answering machine. Curious, no?

Anyway, you should be able to find some sort of TVSS type device to install in your main breaker panel. This will protect everything on the AC lines, but still doesn't address the phone or cable. When you hear the term "whole house" surge suppression, this is what they speak of. Cable/DSS and phone are considered separate.

Search Google.com for TVSS, and see what you come up with.

Todd
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#8 of 13 Chris White

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Posted August 29 2001 - 06:17 AM

Thanks for the links guys. Keep 'em coming!

Jay: The phone company connects a ground wire from their box to the ground rods I mentioned. Similarly, I have run a ground wire from the Monster splitter I'm using outside to these same rods. Unfortunately, as Todd has noted, I'm not sure if this grounding system helps much or not.

The lightning apparently entered our home through the phone lines. Here is what happened:

The first object in the path was the alarm system. The main circuit board fried and a motion detector in the living room literally exploded off the wall. Next in the path was the phone line to the study. There, an inexpensive surge protector gave its life to successfully protect the computer and fax machine connected to it. From there, the lightening travelled through the phone lines to the Monster surge protector connected to my audio rack. By now, the surge must have dissipated because the Monster took the surge without so much as a hiccup.

Final tally: one fried alarm system (to be replaced by the alarm company free of charge since they forgot to install a surge protector) and one fried surge protector. All in all, I consider myself quite lucky.

#9 of 13 ChrisB

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Posted August 29 2001 - 07:55 AM

I would like to add a few things too-

Leviton makes a good surge protector that runs about 150 bucks, has a good waranty amount(I cant remember what amount)and can be easily installed by a electrican. You would want to make sure you have 2 spare breakers in your panel. We used the leviton surge protectors on cell sites here in Michigan, and they were very picky on how those sites were grounded.

One good thing to remember, lightning never travels up, never, it may jump, leap, or whatever, but it wont travel up. When running ground rings on buildings, we(electricans) never go up with the ground or terminations, we always go downward to a lower level to give the volts a better path of least resistance. Now a direct strike you cant really prepare for, there is nothing that I know of that will hold all of the juice from that, it will find other paths to go down.
It was like that when I got here,
Chris B
SOCOM handle "HTF-Black6"

#10 of 13 Chris White

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Posted August 29 2001 - 09:05 AM

Chris - thanks for your comments. Since you are an electrician, I'd like to ask you about a service offered by a couple of local companies. Basically, what they propose to do is to install interconnected mini-lightning rods on your roof so that your house can withstand an actual direct strike. This roof-top system is then tied into a ground rod system. This system is very expensive and, frankly, I'm dubious about its effectiveness. As you said, I've always been led to believe that you simply can't shunt a direct strike. That's why you have insurance!

Have you seen such a system and what's your opinion of its likely effectiveness?

#11 of 13 DaveF

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Posted August 29 2001 - 09:13 AM

Quote:
One good thing to remember, lightning never travels up, never
ChrisB -- can you clarify by what you mean by "up"? If you meant vertically up, I don't understand how that's so. If by "up" you mean contrary to voltage potential (where 'down' is usually towards 'ground'), then I see what you mean.

Just perplexed.


#12 of 13 ChrisB

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Posted August 29 2001 - 10:22 AM

Dave- By "up" I mean it wont travel towards the sky, it will always go towards the ground(a lightning strike that is) in theory if you have a wire that runs downward to the ground, then it runs up(maybe to go over something) the lightning wont take that path, which in turn negates the reason for running the ground wire. I thought for a long time how is that possible, but the enginers swear that it wont travel up a wire. We had to redo a bunch of grounding we did for them because we had a few spots on the roof where we brought the ground ring "up" into a junction box, and that was when they explained to me on the whole "up" thing.
I have seen aftermaths of huge electrical explosins, where the ground ring couldn't hold all of the current from the fault, so some of the fault took water pipes, gas pipes, blew holes on pipes so it could get directly to ground. I know those huge explosions can't compair to a lightning strike, but in those explosions the fault was so massive that the 500kcm(a really big wire) was not enough to take the short, one could only wonder what a direct hit from lightning could do.

Chris, I am not familier with that on houses, I have installed something like that on roofs of highrises and it worked well for the purpose it was installed for(to protect the radios on the roof) I am in the process of building my own house, and am using the leviton hole house surge protector, along with decient surge protectors at my theater and computer. I am using the leviton to mainly protect my PCS switches I am putting in for the "whole" house lighting automation. You are correct in "that is what insurance is for" I was also thinking of putting in battery back up units in for my theater for brown outs(where you loose a leg, or low voltage) when you use a battery back up unit, the equipment is always running off the battery so a brown out wouldn't affect it at all. Anybody do this? Oh, Chris if you go with a whole house protector, I wouldn't rent it from the power company, I would just have it installed, the unit should only be 150-200 bucks, and no more than a hour labor to install(70-100 bucks).
It was like that when I got here,
Chris B
SOCOM handle "HTF-Black6"

#13 of 13 Todd Hochard

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Posted August 29 2001 - 01:16 PM

Technically speaking, there are three types of lightning strikes:
1. Cloud to ground (earth)
2. Cloud to cloud
3. Ground to cloud
It all depends on whether there is an excess of, or lack of electrons, and where that exists.
So, with #3, the bolt does travel up from the ground.

HOWEVER, think about the purpose of a grounding wire. The idea is to carry any difference in potential to the earth. Given that, in the vast majority of cases, the earth is below the wire- it only makes sense to route the wire downward. Consider the speed at which the bolt travels? Do you really think it's going to follow that 180 loop back toward the sky, when it's inches from dissipating itself in the earth? Posted Image
Did you know that lightning doesn't travel more than 150 feet without changing direction?

In any case, I would be very dubious of installing a lightning rod system on a house? Is it really worth the expense? When I was a kid, my uncle's house took a direct hit (it was freakish- all the corners of the drywall lit up purple), and even then, there was only minimal structure and eletrical damage. Consider the odds that it will pay off.
Also consider that a lightning rod system is supposed to PREVENT lightning strikes, not attract and redirect them. The spacing of the rods does this.

I would (actually will, as soon as I recover financially from a landscaping project) install a good whole house unit, of at least 2000 joules. For the phone thing, I'm thinking that a surge suppressor that directs to neutral would reduce the likelihood of damage from hits in other areas.

Every phone line surge suppressor that I can think of uses MOVs that shunt to ground. A reactive type surge suppressor (a la Brickwall ) probably wouldn't work correctly on a phone line, due to the filtering/wave shaping effects.

Hmm, now you've got me thinking...

Todd

P.S. I'm holding out for a bit more reliability from cell, so I can ditch the land line all together. Problem solved. Posted Image
I love to singa, about the moon-a, and the june-a, and the springa...
-Owl Jolson