Today’s homes are filled with electronic gadgetry, and microprocessors can be found in nearly every room of the house: microwaves in the kitchen, game systems in the family room, TVs and DVRs in the den, and computers just about anywhere. Home offices often contain even more electronics, including multiple workstations, servers, hubs, switches, wireless routers, fax machines, and much more. Even basic appliances like refrigerators and stoves often contain microchips in modern homes. While most people are aware of the need to guard this sensitive electronic equipment from damage, few are sure exactly how to attain full protection.
While nearly every homeowner is insured against catastrophic losses, such as floods, fires, or other natural disasters, few take precautions against smaller, more persistent threats. Though less dramatic, this small deterioration can go unnoticed for years, and yet cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars in accumulated damages to expensive electronic gear. It may even be difficult to detect that a device is being harmed until it fails completely.
Power surges and spikes are some of the most common causes of damage to modern electronic equipment. Contrary to common understanding, the electricity that flows to homes and businesses is not a steady stream, but has periodic varying peaks of current. These fluctuations in power can cause significant wear and tear on any electronic equipment, particularly those with microchip processors or other small components.
Additionally, lightning strikes that hit transformers or other equipment up to a half-mile away can send a power spike down the electrical line and right into a home. These intense, destructive surges can destroy a whole house full of equipment instantly, and most insurance policies only protect again direct strikes, not damage caused by power spikes.
Even if the damage is not immediately obvious, over time even small spikes can significantly shorten the life-span of many devices, especially sensitive electronics like LCD or plasma TVs and computers. In homes with old wiring, power spikes can even cause electrical fires to break out.
Home electronics are often plugged into small point-of-service protectors, the “power-strip” that most people are familiar with. These typically allow multiple devices to be powered by a single outlet, and frequently advertise surge protection among their features. Unfortunately, these point-of-service surge protectors usually have the lowest minimum rating for protection. Quite simply, while they may be able to handle the every-day fluctuations in line voltage adequately, they may not be enough to protect against more powerful surges.
However, equipment known as whole house surge protectors can provide security for the entire home electrical line from these damaging peaks, without requiring individual protection for each electronic device. These larger units are designed to protect against large spikes, including lightning strikes. They typically are mounted right next to a central fuse box, and guard every electrical line in the house from a single entry point. They normally come equipped with easy-to-read displays to show the status of the protector, and an audio alarm in case of a substantial surge.
Like any electronic device, a whole house surge protector wears out over time. It is important to inspect them at regular intervals to make sure they are still functioning properly. Most will have indicator lights that show the status of the protector, and if it is time to have it replaced. The best choice is usually to have a professional electrician replace or install the unit, as they are typically somewhat bulky and can be difficult for the home handyman to service.
Whatever the size of your home, it is important to protect all of you electronic equipment. While sometimes more expensive that smaller point-of-service protectors, surge protectors for the whole house provide the most complete protection against fluctuating current levels and powerful spikes. The savings and peace of mind that a single protector can provide is well worth the investment.