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Are Whole House Surge Protection Devices Worthy of Your Investment? 5 Best Models Reviewed for 2021

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Last Updated on September 8, 2021 by Marc Edwards

One of my clients, Tom, moved into his new apartment in Oklahoma City, Florida last month.

As Florida is a lightning-prone state, Tom decided to install a whole house surge protector at the electrical panel.

To his dismay, a storm came by a few days later, and his old trusty home entertainment system was fried.

He gave me a call and asked me what could have happened.

I told him the excess voltage from the lightning could have “escape” through his whole house surge suppressor and damaged his home entertainment system.

These days, it takes more than setting up whole house surge protection to fully (100%) protect your prized home electronics and appliances from super-charged lightning strikes and irregular power voltages and transients.

Having a Type 2 surge protector installed at the circuit breaker panel may no longer be sufficient if you are staying near a lightning-prone area.

Two-tiered surge protection is required and recommended for homeowners.

whole house surge protectionMost homeowners are unaware that installing a whole house surge protection device (at the service panel) alone could only suppress up to 80% of all voltage surges.

There are still some 20% of voltage currents that will ‘bypass‘ the whole house surge protection device hardwired at the service panel.

These damaging voltage currents will potentially seek out and cause damage to connected home electronics and appliances in the house.

This is where the second layer of surge protection comes into play.

To have 90% protection against most power surges, point-of-use surge protection devices are also required as the last line of defense for home appliances and electronic devices that are connected to them.

If you really want near 100% foolproof surge protection, we highly recommend hiring a licensed electrician and have him replace all standard electrical AC outlets in the house with surge suppressor receptacles.

What is Whole House Surge Protection and is it Worth the Investment?

Most people tend to overthink what surge protection really is. It is really not as complex as most people would think. Think of it as a water filtering device where only purified water can flow through and all impurities are blocked by the filter.

A typical whole house surge protection device performs the exact same thing. It only allows in safe electrical currents and filters out those irregular voltages from the power utility which protect your home appliances from getting hit by those powerful external electrical surges.

In layman terms, a whole house surge protection device is essentially the first line of defense against voltage spikes which can cause untold damage to the electrical devices inside your house. It will suppress and prevents any spike in electrical currents that could hit your electrical appliances all at once causing electrical damage.

In case you have never set up a whole house surge protector before, be prepared to fork a bit of cash to hire an electrician to hardwired it into your service panel if you are technically challenged.

Whole house surge protectors are definitely worth the investment when it comes to having peace of mind knowing that all your costly electrical possessions at home at safe and sound when you are out at work or overseas vacation.

Spending a couple of hundreds of dollars is a worthy investment to safeguard electrical possessions that may be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

It is definitely worth every dollar if you ask me.

Whole House Surge Protector Installation – Things to Know

Although the whole house surge protection device is capable of blocking up to 80% of all surges, it is unlike point-of-use surge protectors which are plug-and-play simple. Panel-mounted surge protection will require you to open your breaker panel and make changes to the main power feed and circuitry.

Below are some of the things you should know before attempting the installation.

If you do not know what you are doing, attempting to work on these power circuits can be dangerous and detrimental to your electrical appliances at home if not done properly.

  • Get ready tools like wire cutters/strippers, flat head screwdrivers, duct tapes, and so on…
  • Standby a LED lamp since the power will be disconnected for the whole house during installation.
  • Get a voltage detector and ensure that your entire breaker panel is not energized before any installation works.
  • Always refer to the written instructions or manual that comes with the SPD. No one breaker panel is the same and different brands of SPDs will have different instructions to follow.
  • If possible, try to mount the surge device outside the panel instead of having it installed inside. These devices have a certain lifespan hence having it outside will make it easier for replacement.
  • Panel-mounted SPDs usually come with 4 wires. 1 green (ground), 1 white (neutral), and 2 blacks.
  • After installation, be sure to check the operating manual to make sure everything is fully operational. Do not flip back the main breaker until everything has been verified and checked.
  • All SPDs have a limited fixed amount of capacity (joules rating) to suppress power surges. This capacity will be reduced every time a power surge is successfully suppressed. Hence be sure to do a once-a-month check on your power suppressor device to make sure they are still in protection mode.

Please note that the above is NOT a step-by-step guide to installing the surge suppressor for the whole house. If you are not sure what to do, always engage a licensed electrician to do the job. Follow the safety procedures strictly and you will have a higher chance of success.

Review of 5 Whole House Surge Protection Devices

Which Brand of Whole House Surge Protection Device Should You Get?

There are many brands and models available both online and offline at the malls but there are only 5 leading brands that we recommended. Take a few minutes to read through the reviews of each brand below and decide for yourself which brand is the most suitable fit for your home. 🙂

Intermatic Panel Guard IG1240RC3

Intermatic IG1240RC3 Whole Home Type-1 or 2 Surge Protection Device This panel guard comes with a Type 3R rainproof enclosure for indoor/outdoor applications in plastic. What truly impressed us the most is that this Intermatic Panel Guard comes with an awesome state-of-the-art TPMOV (Thermally Protected Metal Oxide Varistor) technology to protect your entire home and home office from electrical disturbances, voltage spikes, bypassing the potentially dangerous failure modes that come with other standard MOV technology. There is also a green LED to indicate surge protection status.

Read Intermatic IG1240RC3 Full Review

There are not many SPDs out there that have the capability to support a huge variety of Type 1 and Type 2 applications.

Type 1 applications include outdoor installations before service entrances and utility meter cabinets.

Type 2 applications include installations after service entrances.

Even if you have difficulty in installation, there is free-of-cost Amazon tech support that comes with the purchase.

The easy-to-use monitoring feature of this surge suppressor device also offers six modes of surge protection giving you deep peace of mind knowing that it is constantly protecting all your prized electronics and appliances at home.

Despite its high price point, it is definitely a worthy investment to protect your home against any UN-welcomed high-voltage spikes.

Technical Specifications:

Product Dimensions : 6.5 x 8.3 x 8 inches

Item Weight: 2 pounds

Item Model Number: IG1240RC3

Warranty: Connected equipment coverage $10,000 for 5 years

Siemens FS140

Siemens FS140 Whole House Surge Protection Device Rated for 140,000 Amps This FirstSurge whole house surge protection device (Type-2 ) is definitely NOT for homeowners on a budget. Despite its hefty price, it does come packed with lots of useful features which we thought is well worth its asking price.

FirstSurge has a less than 1 nanosecond response time when it comes to providing a 3 stage commercial grade notification to all commercial and residential applications.

Like most SPDs, it is also compatible with any brand of load center and breakers.

What we are most impressed with is that it comes with both audio and visual notification.

There is an audible alarm built-in which will eliminate any guesswork, letting us know when it is time to have it replaced when its protective juice runs out.

It also comes with both green and red flashing LED indication lights.

Read Siemens FS140 Full Review

In addition, it comes with a Type-4 outdoor enclosure rating and it can be installed inside the load center itself.

It comes with a 10-year product and connected equipment warranty which is an obvious must-have given its asking price point.

All in all, this FirstSurge device from Siemens will definitely give you peace of mind that your home is in safe-hand against any type of unexpected voltage surges.

Technical Specifications:

Product Dimensions : 10 x 6 x 4 inches

Item Weight: 2.7 pounds

Certification: UL / cUL 1449 listed

Part Number: FS140

Color: 4

Leviton 51120-1 Panel Protector

Leviton 51120-1 Panel Protector, 120/240-Volt Although this 4-Mode panel protector does come with a higher price point, we cannot ignore the fact that it has quite a bit of feature packed into it.

First off, this whole house surge protection device with its J-Box metal enclosures can also be deployed to commercial buildings where protection against high voltage transients is required.

This Leviton surge suppressor has been engineered to defend against high voltage spikes, most ideal for electrical devices like PDAs, laptops, PC and televisions.

What we really like is that it comes with a real-time visual indicator that provides the status of the power and suppression during the protection phase.

It also has the capability to help protect against internally generated transients which are usually between the circuit panel and the point of use where homeowners can make use of surge protection outlets, power strips, etc.

Read Leviton 51120-1 Full Review

Leviton 51120-1 Panel Protector comes with a 10 years limited lifetime warranty which is great for products in its range.

Do bear in mind though that this device is strictly for indoor usage ONLY. This is probably the only downside we can think of.

Technical Specifications:

Product Dimensions : 8.3 x 8.2 x 5 inches

Item Weight: 4.2 pounds

Compliance: 3rd edition of the UL 1449 standard

Part Number: 51120-1

Warranty period: 10 years limited warranty

EATON CHSPT2ULTRA

EATON CHSPT2ULTRA Ultimate Surge Protection 3rd Edition, 2.38

This 3rd Gen Type 2 whole house surge protection device can be connected to the main panelboard easily with its welded mounting bracket.

Although the footprint of this EATON device is not big, it has the capability to block a maximum surge per phase of up to 108kA is pretty awesome in our opinion when used both outdoor and indoor.

This widely popular transient voltage surge suppressor (TVSS) comes with a few modes of protection.

Read Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA Full Review

Although this is not much of a concern to us, we thought we would mention that the cable that comes with it is a little short.

But since most homeowners will be getting licensed electricians to do the work, this is usually of no concern to them.

This EATON surge suppressor will obviously give you a good run for your money if you take into consideration of its ability to universally connect to any manufacturer’s load center (breaker box).

Technical Specifications:

Product Dimensions : 2.4 x 5.2 x 7.5 inches

Item Weight: 1 pound

Certification: NEMA/UL 1449

Part Number: CHSPT2ULTRA

Square D by Schneider Electric HEPD80

Square D by Schneider Electric HEPD80 Home Electronics Protective Device Square D by Schneider Electric may have the smallest footprint among the 5 we recommend but it does pack a punch (80,000 amp Surge current rating) when it comes to protecting the entire house against internal and external catastrophic voltage spikes.

And if you are on a budget constraint, do know that this surge suppressor is also the most affordable compared to the rest.

It comes with green LED indicator lights to ensure the surge protection mode is in operation.

HEPD80 is NEMA 4X rated for both outdoor and indoor usage and it comes with a good 5 years product warranty and a $50k residential down-line warranty.

Read Square D HEPD80 Full Review

What we like most about this Square D surge protector device is that it provide well-balanced protection for all your electrical components throughout the entire household, including those NOT plugged into surge protection devices.

Moreover, it comes with an individual Metal Oxide Varistor (MOV) that is separately fused.

The only complaint we have is that the LED light seemed to be a little dim but it actually looks okay when you look at it from the circuit breaker panel.

Technical Specifications:

Product Dimensions : 2.7 x 3.8 x 3.6 inches

Item Weight: 2.1 pounds

Certification: CSA/NEMA/UL

Part Number: HEPD80

Choosing a whole house surge protector is essentially the same as that of choosing a standalone surge protection strip like that of TLP1008TEL from Tripp Lite.

The only differences are that some surge suppressor for the whole house does come with features like Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Protection which may potentially help prevent a fire hazard should there be a short circuit situation.

Beyond that, you may also want to look for features like (FailSafe) power shutdown protection as well as the ability to help reset the circuit breakers.

Whole House Surge Protection – Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Does a Whole House Surge Protection Device Look Like?

Most of us are probably more familiar with surge protection strips sold at retail stores than whole house surge protection devices which are usually purchased online or through renovation contractors. There are many brands of whole house surge protection devices in the market but essentially there are only 5 brands that stood head and shoulder above the rest.

Read the product review of the 5 products above if you are looking to get a quality one for your home. We have included some images of those surge protection devices so take a look and see what they look like before you make your purchase.

2. Why do I Need a Whole House Surge Protection Unit?

A whole-house surge protection device is capable of protecting your electrical devices from up to 80% of power surges. Unless you do not mind replacing all your prized electronics and appliances at home whenever there are power spikes, a whole house surge protection unit is a must-have. Especially if you stay near lightning-prone areas.

3. Is Whole House Surge Protection Device Worth it?

This surge suppression device is definitely a worthy investment when it comes to protecting your expensive home appliances like home-theater systems, A/C units, fridges, dryers, ovens, and so on at home against power spikes that could render them useless in a matter of seconds.

4. How Much Does It Cost to Install a Whole House Surge Protection Device?

The cost varies depending on a few factors:

Do You Have Sub Panel that Leads to the Main Panel?

Some home has sub-panel due to the fact that the distance between the appliances and the main panel is too far away and a sub-panel has to be put in place to bridge the distance. Hence instead of receiving power from the power utility, the sub-panel receives power from the main panel.

Type and Brand of Surge Protector

Different brands and models of whole house SPDs will obviously have different joules ratings (maximum surge current capacity) and different features and with that, they will naturally come with different price points.

The Type of Warranty Provided

Needless to say, the more comprehensive and extensive the warranty, the more it will cost your wallet.

Who do You Hire to do the Job

This is again a variable cost depending on your budget. The more experienced and qualified electrician you hired to do the job, the more it will cost you.

Be sure to check the credentials of the company before you engage one. Some companies have such bad reputations and you would not want their technicians to install the whole house surge protection device for you.

5. Where Do Power Surges Come From?

There are basically 2 types of power surges – External and Internal surges.

External surges which forms 20% to 25% of all surges, are surges that generate from outside our house or building.

For example, over-voltages from lightning strikes will tend to hit the nearby power lines causing a huge tidal wave of electrical current running into our household electrical panel and subsequently into our electrical appliances assuming no power suppressing devices are installed.

Other common external surges include power current interruptions like power wires getting hit by strong winds, repair works, maintenance work at power utility which will all cause electrical disturbance on the power lines into our home.

Internal surges which form more than 80% of all surges are usually generated continuously from electrical appliance’s power cycles on and off on a frequent basis.

For example, a hot water dispenser will typically heat up the water a few times an hour causing very frequently electrical disturbances and surges.

6. How Many Types of Surge Protectors Are There?

There are 3 types of surge protection devices out there. Below is a brief breakdown of each type.

Type 1:

Type-1 surge protectors are the one that protects up to 80% of all external voltage surges.

These surges could be from lightning strikes, power grid maintenance, power line incidents, etc.

They are usually set up between the utility pole and your power meter (breaker panel).

They are your 1st line of defense against catastrophic power spikes that would come rushing into the house whenever there are voltage fluctuations from external sources.

Type 2:

Type-2 are the whole house surge protection devices that are typically set up at the breaker panel in the house. These SPDs are usually wired directly to a dual-pole breaker in your main breaker main which may also be connected to sub panel which are further down-streamed. A Type-2 SPD protects against internal surges that originated from within the house.

Type 3:

Type-3 surge protectors are the commonly found surge protection devices that most of us probably have a few at home or in the office.

They are the surge protection strip that we plug all our electrical devices into.

These are the standalone SPDs that will only protect whatever devices are plugged into it at the point of huge voltage spikes. This type of SPD will not protect everything at home except for those connected to its power outlets.

7. How much is whole house surge protection units?

There are many brands of whole house surge protection devices available and we have reviewed 5 of the better brands in the market.

Depending on your personal budget and preferences, be prepared to fork out between $95 to $250 for a decent quality SPD for your whole house.

Be sure to read the product reviews of these 5 brands in this article for a better understanding of which one is the best fit for your home.

8. What is the size of a whole house surge protection device?

The size of the whole house surge protection device varies depending on which brand you get it from. If you are looking to get one with a small footprint, the one by Square D and EATON would probably fit your need.

Intermatic Smart Guard: 10.8 x 3.8 x 10 inches

Siemens FS140: 10 x 6 x 4 inches

Leviton 51120-1 Panel Protector: 8.3 x 8.2 x 5 inches

EATON CHSPT2ULTRA: 2.4 x 5.2 x 7.5 inches

Square D by Schneider Electric HEPD80: 2.7 x 3.8 x 3.6 inches

Bottom Line – Should You Get One?

Since our home is usually the single most expensive asset we own, it makes perfect sense to ensure everything inside the house including all our beloved home appliances are fully protected from power surges that could cause potential damages to them.

Some ultra-powerful voltage spikes (e.g. lightning strikes) could cause lots of electricity to pass through to our electrical devices all at once, causing them to either overheat or catch fire.

Marc Edwards is the co-founder of GagtheSurge and is actively involved in writing review and information articles for the site. He loves traveling and has been to most of the countries across the four major continents. Besides working and traveling, he also enjoys jungle explorations and deep sea diving.

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