Safe power to a ceiling mount FP?

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by Drew Wallner, Feb 3, 2004.

  1. Drew Wallner

    Drew Wallner Extra

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    First time homeowner, just breaking the chains of apartment noise levels and getting into HT. Please bear with me if this is a terribly noob question but some searches didn't seem to turn anything up...

    I will be mounting an LCD projector on the ceiling of an addition to the back of my house. The addition was done recently and all the wiring is in excellent shape. There is presently a ceiling fan I'll be removing near where I want my projector to go - so my first thought was "great, easy access to power, a great way to keep my AC line away from the video cables, how convenient!" however now I am having second thoughts.

    Every other piece of nice electronic equipment I have, several computers, my receiver, our videogames, everything is plugged into a high quality surge protector or a surge protected UPS.

    Shouldn't I be just as concerned about my projector?

    Given the cost of lamps, I have this sinking fear about watching a film, a sudden rainstorm spooling up and either ZAP a groundstrike nearby causing a spike or perhaps worse the sometimes imperceptible brownouts caused by extreme weather or high load which UPS's seem to "sniff" but few lights even dim during - I'm guessing these could shorten lamp life as well.

    How do other folks with ceiling mounted FP's handle power?

    Thanks in advance! [​IMG]
     
  2. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Those point-of-use surge protectors do fine with modest electrical disturbances but for something more devastating like a lightning strike or a line transformer going down or a substation going pop and fizzle, they're pretty useless. Doesn't matter whose you buy, they're useless.
    Let's divide your concerns into two areas: serious surge protection and voltage stability.
    Serious Surge Protection
    Installing plug in surge protectors is costly especially when you determine the cost per 'protected' appliance. They're also fairly ineffective against a deadly surge primarily because they're located too far from earth ground. Not the ground on your outlet but earth ground. A surge is a powerful electrical event and the way a surge protector works is by shunting or diverting the surge to ground. Due to the nature of the surge and the high frequencies it contains, ground is not a simple matter of resistance, but rather it's a question of impedance. Even a low resistance ground wire on your outlet represents a high impedance to a surge. The closer a surge protector is to earth ground, the more effective it becomes. Installing point of use devices, is like putting little derringers throughout your house to protect your family from an intruder. Now if you can prevent the intruder from entering your home, then you don't need all those derringers. The way to prevent the deadly surge from entering your home is by looking at the means that it can enter. That would be your cable, your AC lines, and your phone.

    OK, so you might well ask, what are some good brands? My reply is so long as you buy from a reputable source or company it really doesn't matter much. Notable brands include Siemens, Intermatic, Hammer-Cuttler,etc. What is important is that this whole-house surge protector have all lines routed through it and that it be connected either at the breakers or your meter. The reason is because that's the shortest path to earth ground. Generally 10 feet or less.

    Ok, so you might say what size should I get? Since you don't live in an area with a large amount of cloud to ground lightning strikes, you'll be adequately served by something that's in the vicinity of 1000 joules. If you're paranoid, spend more and get 2000 joules.

    Ok, so you'll say, hey, my plug in device is 3000 joules, what gives? Why are you recommending something less effective? I'm not, I'm recommending something more effective. Here's why. What is not said in a 3000 joule plug in unit is that it's protecting against three possible points of ingress: Hot-Neutral, Hot-Ground, Neutral-Ground. So we need to divide that number up. Now we get 1000 joules maximum protection against each line. But there's more. Since that device is so far from earth ground, we need to derate that number by something like 40%. Now we're down to 600 joules. Consider though that even if it works, and that surge makes it back down the wire, there's no guarantee it's going to earth ground. It's going to find the path of least resistance. That might be your phone, your fridge, your garage door opener, the microwave...right?

    So if you install a whole house unit one might ask is there a reason for plug in devices. Sure, but they can be very very modest and quite inexpensive. Now all you're going to be dealing with is little baby transients.

    How do you find a whole house unit and what does it cost? Well you can begin by contacting a few electrical supply houses and ask that question. See what they carry and what it protects. OTOH, you can contact a few electricians and get recommendations and installation prices. Since you're going to have that installed by an electrician, you might as well ask what it'd cost to install a couple of extra dedicated lines for your HT. There's a person on this forum who had a whole house unit installed and a couple of extra outlets. Cost him a little over $200. Not bad. Now every electrical appliance in his home is protected. So divide that cost by every little thing you've got plugged in. Cheap! You can also contact your local utility company to see if they do installs. Generally, if they do, it's a surcharge to your monthly bill. Again, you want all incoming lines protected. All of them.

    Brownouts
    Lamps are indeed expensive. You can look into voltage stabilizers like a those from APC. I'd give them, or whomever you're also considering a call. Discuss with them what you want to do, where you want to mount it, and let them suggest some appropriate models. You can then buy them off the web or locally so prices can vary quite a bit.

    After all this, give your insurance agent a call. Ask him something like, "Hey Joe, if an electrical surge fries my $10,000 HT system, how am I protected? What do you guys pay? Do I need receipts or will pictures and serial numbers do? Am I going to get full reimbursement or is it prorated? What if they don't sell the model anymore, how do you figure what my payout is?" Ask, ask, ask. If you don't like the responses, see how it can be upgraded.
     
  3. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Great info, Chu! I’ve never seen the benefits of whole-house surge protection explained so well.

    I do have a question, though:

    Does one whole-house unit do this, or does it take three?

    Drew,

    IMO a deciding factor for all this would be whether or not you have or have historically had good power where you live. For instance, I’ve never used protection, and I’ve never had a piece of equipment die due to a surge. However - most of my adult life (the past 25 years) I’ve lived in subdivisions with underground power leads.

    Now, a friend of mine, in the place he used to live he had all kinds of electronics dying strange and unnatural deaths – cordless phones, a CD player, I can’t remember what all, but it seemed like every couple of years it was something. I think if I lived where he did I’d get surge protection in a heartbeat.

    Another friend of mine had a satellite receiver fry during a thunderstorm.

    If I lived in a place where power is supplied on poles and/or where there are lots of storms, I think I’d get protection.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  4. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    High praise coming from you Wayne who does a rather spectacular job of explaining things. Thank you.
    Even if it's one unit, the way I look at it, is that it's essentially 3 components. For example, look at these devices from Intermatic (http://www.intermatic.com/?action=subcat&sid=137) which are used for residential applications.
    Most of my comments regarding this topic are general guides and nudges in the right direction. If an individual is considering a particular unit or company, they can get the toll free number to say Intermatic, ask to be connected to an applications engineer, and discuss what their needs, concerns, etc. are and ask for recommendations.
    The point of use devices really should be looked at as secondary devices intended to augment the primary one. They're not sexy looking, nor do they have a lot of the mumbo-jumbo stupid explanations that masquerade as information from some of the audiophile products, but the fact of the matter is they work.
    Further, I believe they add to the value of your home. Often people say something like, I don't want to buy it and then have to leave it because I'll never get my money back when I sell. Hell, if it cost $200, just bump your asking price up $200. Like someone's not going to buy your house because you're standing firm on an extra $200?
     
  5. Drew Wallner

    Drew Wallner Extra

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    Thanks so much guys! This information is great. I guess I always presumed there were "whole house" solutions but never really looked into it before (this is my first home purchase so I'm learning all the time).

    I will definately talk about this with my inspector when we walk through again on Monday and see what he thinks. I don't know anything about my new neighborhood yet as far as storms and brownouts but I will be talking with the seller about it (I expect he'll be straighforward, after all I'm already under contract).

    In general, what is the cost of a good "whole house" unit?

    As to the second concern, apart from surges, there's the dreaded brownout / power fluctuation issue. For example the A/C kicks on during a really hot summer day when the neighborhood is drawing really high, and all the lights dim for a second - that sort of thing. For such an application, would a "line conditioner" really do anything or would a UPS be needed?

    I generally find that a UPS is easier to find and cheaper to buy, is that true? If so, why does anyone get a power conditioner instead?

    Thanks for being so descriptive and patient!

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    A UPS might not do anything at all. It kicks in only under certain undervoltage conditions which may be enough to dim your lights a bit, but not trigger it into battery mode. Since this is a concern of yours, products like these from APC might be more up your line. Other manufacturers also make such units so don't limit yourself.
     
  7. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Many thanks for the kind words, Chu. [​IMG]

    One more question, if I may: Do these units deteriorate and become less effective over time like the secondary devices do?

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  8. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    For the prices, Drew, you'll have to make some inquiries to see what's available in your local area. Let's say though, that you're going to look at the Intermatics or Cutler-Hammer CHSP and you've found it online or locally for some price. It's really a pretty easy install, but an electrician is going to have a minimum charge and I don't know what that is in your area. If it's $100, well the way I figure it is you might as well get a couple of dedicated lines run to your HT while he's still there. I believe your local Home Depot will also have whole house protectors so next time you're out there, just check it out. I realize this house thing is new and damn if houses don't suck up money. I really hate spending people's money but I can tell you if you go whole-house then that's what you'll be protecting. As I mentioned earlier someone on this forum had a unit + 2 lines installed for a little over $200. Also just make a phone call to the utility company and listen to what they have to say.
    Do they degrade over time? Well sure but like anything else, that's dependent upon whether they've been struck, how often, what strength, etc. I'd say you could get 5 years out of a 1000 joule unit in Florida's lightning alley. Some have replaceable modules...some have surge counters...more bells more dollars. These and other questions are best answered by whomever you're considering buying a unit from. Thankfully, the web provides phone #'s and they're usually toll-free.
     

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