Tampa electricians: Whole-house surge protectors prevent damage
Katherine High recently retired and moved to Florida after 20 years living in a wooded area of Maryland, and one of her first renovations included adding a whole-house surge protector to her home’s electrical system. “I wanted to protect myself and give myself some peace of mind,” the Angie’s List member says.
She hired highly rated electrician Lee Electric of Tampa to install a 2-inch-by-2-inch surge protector box on her electrical panel that detects and automatically diverts electrical surges, such as lightning strikes, away from the home.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, American homes contain more electronics than ever, and Tampa electricians suggest installing surge protectors as the first line of defense against excessive bursts of electricity. Heavy Florida storms drove High’s interest in protecting the multiple TVs, computers and other electrical equipment in her Tampa home. “The lightning here is a lot more intense,” she says. “Every time I see a bolt strike nearby, I know it was worth the money.”
Florida receives more lightning strikes per square mile than any other state, making the electronics and electrical equipment of Sunshine State residents particularly vulnerable. Lee Electric owner Luis Espel says more surges occur due to lightning than any other cause, followed by technicians working on utility lines. He says the most frequent damage comes not from lightning hitting the home directly, but striking nearby and traveling into the house via electric, cable or phone lines. “When lightning strikes in the vicinity of your home, there’s a rush of electricity coming in,” he says. “Surge protection redirects that rush into the ground.”
Contractors offer various types of whole-house surge protectors, also called point-of-service protectors or lightning suppressors, says Carey Mossop, chairman of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association’s Low Voltage Surge Protective Devices Section. Electricity flows through the device before entering the home. If it detects electrical spikes above the normal 120 volts, it diverts the excess energy into a grounding wire.
How much extra energy each surge suppression system absorbs varies by type, so Mossop suggests using both whole-home surge protectors and plug-in strips for added protection, if possible. High augmented her whole-house surge protector with power strips to further protect electronics that could be coupled with plug-in protectors. Consult a licensed electrician for advice about exactly what kind of protection your home needs.
Expert electricians caution against taking on the project of installing whole-house surge protection yourself since the device must be correctly grounded. Corey Gomis, owner of highly rated Brandon Electric in Dover, says a professional job should take a few hours and cost between $250 and $900, depending on the extent of the protection, including whether the system protects your phone and cable lines, which can also conduct electricity. “The good manufacturers back their systems with a warranty if it’s installed properly,” he says. “Pay attention to the fine print.”