Whole House Surge Protector

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A couple of weeks ago, lighting struck a tree near my house, hit the ground, entered my underground invisible dog fence, ran through the wire to the outlet in the garage where the control unit is plugged in including a lighting protector, scorched the outlet and wall underneath, tripped that circuit breaker, and also fried the cable (cable TV and internet) at the first splitter.
Fortunately the cable repair was free, but I paid over $240 for the invisible fence repair. I asked the invisible fence company if a whole house surge protector would have helped, and they said not in this case, that the circuit was fried from the outside to the outlet, not from the utility power.
So I'm debating whether to invest in a whole house surge protector or not, and if so, to buy or "lease". I have two circuit panels and received an electrician's estimate of over $400 installed since I have two panels. Another company will install a whole house surge protector for free, I just get $8.50 added to my electric bill each month, about $100 per year. It would take four years for the first option to be better. I'm not sure I'll be here much past six years, when my youngest starts college and we want to downsize.
So, should I invest in a whole house surge protector? Does it not protect against lighting? Do I buy the $400 version or "lease" for $8.50 per month?
Inquiring minds want to know.
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On Wed, 16 Sep 2009 21:28:41 -0400, Dimitrios Paskoudniakis

Does your insurance cover acts of dog?
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wrote:

Acts of God ==> Underground dog fence ==> acts of dog. You're a professional comedian, aren't you? Maybe you should change your moniker to AZ Genius.
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A whole house protector wouldn't have protected your invisible fence, for basically the reason the fence people told you - it was fried from the near-direct lightening hit. I think it would have protected the Cable TV and other electronic equipment, assuming the surge was coming via the electric wiring and not a similar issue to the fence - down the cable line. I don't think the whole house protectors care whether the surge is coming in via the wire from the meter, or a wire from so circuit such as an outside pole light, or in your case the one the fence was connected to. The exception might be things on the same circuit with the fence since they would be 'up stream' from the panel where the protection would be.
As for the cost, you are probably best getting a couple estimates - just be sure they are apples-to-apples comparisons. Equipment does very and so will the cost.
Whole house protection could be a sales plus if you sell the house, but for $400 you can buy a lot of plug-strip type protectors for your electronic equipment, which you can take with you if you move. They also make small single outlet models that are used for things like microwave ovens, stove, and other places where you may not need or want a regular plug-strip.

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I agree that a whole house surge suppressor is the best solution though as you pointed out, it would not protect against transients entering via the invisble fence.
However, couldn't the OP either buy (or if not available jury rig) a separate surge suppressor going across the wires to the invisible fence. Basically, you need a couple of MOVS across the two wires to the fence and to a good ground. That should surve to stop inbound transients along the dog wiring.
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blueman wrote:

Where do you get a "good ground"? A surge is relatively high frequency so wire inductance is a major factor. A branch circuit ground wire is not a "good ground" unless it is very short to the service panel. The branch circuit ground wire also introduces the surge into the house wiring downstream from the service entrance of power and phone and cable, where you can place suppressors. If you add a ground rod for a "good ground", the potential at the rod can be far different from the house earthing electrodes (just like the invisible fence was at a far different potential than the house earthing system).
Best protection would be if the invisible fence unit was adjacent to the power service with a short ground wire to the power ground bus or house earthing electrode system. If you added a MOV from the fence wire to the earthing system you might shunt out the signal from the capacitance of the MOV (or maybe it would work). Hams have lightning arrestors for antenna wires entering a building - should work and not kill the signal. But they wouldn't necessarily protect the fence unit. You would have to ask the manufacturer how to protect the invisible fence unit.
--
bud--

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I was hoping/assuming that you could arrange to have the invisible fence wire enter the house near the service entrance (and hence near the ground rods). I know in my house, I like to have all the utility entrances grouped in one place anyway to minimize the clutter everywhere else.
Then you would have a proper service ground.
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blueman wrote:

Yes you can do that, and you can even double up (parallel) on the MOVs to make it stronger. Hook it up to a ground and go the extra mile and drive a 10 foot ground rod where the wires enter the house and also ground to that.
That electric fence is just a big antenna begging to get zapped again.
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Dimitrios Paskoudniakis wrote:

A whole-house surge protector is a good idea, irrespective of whether you have dogs.
A whole-house surge protector costs about $50 (more or less). If your hand fits a screwdriver, you can install it yourself. Instructions come with the unit.
If, after you buy one, it still doesn't make sense, post here and I or someone else will be glad to advise you.
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If you've never had a problem with line lightning, I wouldn't bother. I don't believe that the type of surge protectors you are referring to would do much to protect sensitive electronics anyway. If you want them to protect things like well pumps and motors, fine, but the typical lightning strike that causes a surge, won't be stopped quickly enough or completely, to safeguard sensitive electronics, and won't help at all if your underground dog wire gets hit again

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RBM wrote:

You're spot on - if the lightning hits your house. If, however, the lightning strike is merely near your home, a whole-house surge protector (WHSP) will help.
As for "quickly enough," reputable WHSPs are rated from "instantaneous" to five nanoseconds. Top-line WHSPs (Leviton, Intermatic, Square-D, etc.), can handle surges up to 180,000 amps and provide up to $25,000 damage reimbursement for connected equipment loss.
Some WHSPs come with attachments to protect CATV and telephone lines.
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Do oyu have a recommnedation for a WHSP?
Preferably Square-D (I have used their panels & breakers for the past 30 years with good results)
I had an electrical "event" (not lightening related) last November that ruined a couple TV's, DVD players, AC adpaters, transformers, garage door openers, etc. SoCal Edison wound up paying for all of them but it was a hassle to buy & replace all the stuff......so I would prefer to avoid
My meter is outside along with a main breaker. The service panel is in a down stairs laundry room. Where should the WHSP be installed?
Would I bust open the wall near the panel to install another box and the WHSP would intercept the lines from the main breaker to the service panel? or would the WHSP have to go outside near the meter / service entrance?
thanks Bob
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I;m sure if you check their website you can find what ones they make.

It can go either outside at the main breaker or inside at the panel. There are devices listed for installation at either location, the key difference being whether they are rated for installation before or after the main breaker. The ones for use in a panel are installed by adding a breaker that connects to the surge protector. There are also some that come as a special breaker that have the surge protector built in.
Key thing to keep in mind is that you want a short connection to a good ground that is as straight as possible. That probably means installing it outside would be preferable.
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fftt wrote:

The protection in virtually all suppressors, service panel and plug-in, uses MOVs. They are fast enough for any surge on incoming utilities. Five nanoseconds is faster than the surge rise time (which I believe is what Bub said).

Depending on what the "event" was, "whole house" and plug-in suppressors may not provide protection. In particular "crossed" power lines.

Where is the connection to the earthing electrode(s). It is probably at the outside disconnect. That is where the service panel suppressor should be connected. You need the suppressor connected to the earthing electrode system. That somewhat limits your options. If the service disconnect is outside, the basement is not a service panel (there should be separate neutral and ground busses. If installed at the basement panel (panels?), the suppressor would have to have connections to both hot busses, the neutral bus and the ground bus. The ground bus would have to have a good, short connection to the earthing electrode system (which is unlikely now).
Except for suppressors that are installed on the meter base (by the utility) virtually all suppressors are downstream from the service breaker.
The best information on surges and surge protection I have seen is at: <http://www.mikeholt.com/files/PDF/LightningGuide_FINALpublishedversion_May051.pdf - "How to protect your house and its contents from lightning: IEEE guide for surge protection of equipment connected to AC power and communication circuits" published by the IEEE in 2005 (the IEEE is the major organization of electrical and electronic engineers in the US). And also: <http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/practiceguides/surgesfnl.pdf> - "NIST recommended practice guide: Surges Happen!: how to protect the appliances in your home" published by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2001
The IEEE guide is aimed at those with some technical background. The NIST guide is aimed at the unwashed masses.
The other consideration (in both guides), which is often missed, is that the "ground" wire from the cable and phone entry protectors needs to make a short connection to the earthing electrode system near the power service. The IEEE guide says 10 ft is too long. If there is a strong surge that is earthed in your system, the potential of your house "ground" may be thousands of volts above "absolute" ground potential. Much of the protection is that the power and cable and phone wires rise together. That requires *short* ground wires. Another method is to run the phone and cable through a special service suppressor, as in Bub's post. That may not be practical if the suppressor is outside.
The NIST guide, using US insurance information, suggests most damage is from high voltage between power and cable or phone wires. There is an example of that in the IEEE guide starting pdf page 40.
Because the most common damage is high voltage between power and cable or phone wires, a plug-in suppressor at high value equipment with both power and signal wires may be a good idea. All interconnected equipment must be connected to the same plug-in suppressor, and all external wires to a set of equipment (power, phone, cable) must go through the suppressor. Plug-in suppressors work by limiting the voltage from all wires to the ground at the suppressor (also illustrated in the example above).
What you use depends on the risk and the value of what you are protecting.
I agree with others that your dog fence is not protected by a service panel suppressor. You can have similar problems with a submersible well pump, but many of the motors include surge suppressors.
--
bud--

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fftt wrote:

They are dirt simple to install. They are attached at the service panel and have three wires.
It's a small box (~4x4") that attaches to a knock-out on the side or bottom of the service panel.
One wire, the green one, goes to the earth ground. The other two attach to the screws on adjacent circuit breakers such that both legs are protected.
The WHSP will do its business LONG before a circuit breaker will trip and disconnect it.
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RBM wrote:

You have this backwards. Whole house surge protection will normally protect electronic equipment, as long as the surge comes from the power lines. As much as possible, you want the surge protector *between* the surge and the equipment. Always add surge protection for incoming phone and cable tv wires also.
When a well pump is hit it normally takes a surge from lighting hitting the wire, the well casing, or anything close by. This is between the pump and the surge protector so the well doesn't get much protection.
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Check with your home owners insurance agent. We had 2 computers fail due to a close lightning strike and insurance company replaced them. WW
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I would definitely recommend a whole house surge protector in most cases. I agree with the dog fence people, it would not have saved you from the damage from the surge entering the via the dog fence wire. While you say that had some kind of protection, apparently it was not very robust as obviously a lot of energy got past it. My bet would be that it did not have it's own direct connection to earth ground.
The whole house protectors, properly installed, will limit surges to 400-600V, which should be enough so that equipment in the house can survive. You can get good ones for $75-125. And if you can install a circuit breaker, you can do the job yourself. Before I'd spend the $400, I'd carefully check exactly what device they are installing, check its specs, see how much it costs, etc. For that price you should be getting a real good one.
Also, while I'm sure it can be debated, if the two panels are located right next to each other and the connection point is short, say a few feet, I would probably only install one.
For more complete protection, the whole house unit should be supplemented with plug in protectors on sensitive equipment, particularly eqpt that also connects to phone, cable, etc. You want the type there that pass all those lines through it so that it can clamp all those lines and limit the potential difference between them.
Whether it's worth it for 6 years depends on how frequent surges are in your area, how much expensive eqpt you have, etc.
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Dimitrios Paskoudniakis wrote:

Lightening never strikes twice in the same place so don't worry about it.
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[snip]

If that was actually true, reality would be very different than it actually is. For one thing, nature would need to keep a database of lightning hits, and check it every time.
Of course, nature does no such thing. The statement "Lightening never strikes twice in the same place" is obvious nonsense.
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