Whole house surge suppressors

This is a most informative article, and it echoes what w_tom says: http://www.ecmweb.com/mag/electric_hit_grounding_home /
So when I call an arbitrary electrician to ask for a grounding survey, how do I know he's telling me the truth?
Do I have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to purchase a ground tester?
This is for a single family home that I have lived in for about 7 years, and will probably continue to live in for about 7 more years.
Since I'm having electrical work done, I would also like something like this: http://scientificsonline.com/product.asp_Q_pn_E_3108400 installed at my breaker box; it would be nice if it could break down it's info by each breaker; and it would also be nice if it could tell me how much current is flowing through my ground connection.
Here are random URLs of info: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm p7ov4as6j8rj82pd3nv4fhl27dc2adm0%404ax.com&rnum=1&prev=/groups%3Fhl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26selm%3D0ap7ov4as6j8rj82pd3nv4fhl27dc2adm0%25404ax.com
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=lang_en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&threadm?0A5E47.FF0175D2%40hotmail.com&rnum=2&prev=/groups%3Fnum%3D100%26hl%3Den%26lr%3Dlang_en%26ie%3DUTF-8%26oe%3DUTF-8%26scoring%3Dd%26as_drrb%3Db%26q%3D%2Bfranklin%2Bgroup%253Aalt.certification.a-plus%2Bauthor%253Aw_tom%26btnG%3DGoogle%2BSearch%26as_mind%3D12%26as_minm%3D5%26as_miny%3D2002%26as_maxd%3D25%26as_maxm%3D8%26as_maxy%3D2003
http://amasci.com/amateur/whygnd.html http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm <0bf1a2%241%40news.alcatel.com&rnum=3&prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dground%2Bneutral%2Bhot%26ie%3DUTF-8%26hl%3Den%26btnG%3DGoogle%2BSearch
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm=8gdgt7%24esp%241%40news.efn.org&rnum=1&prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dground%2Bneutral%2Bhot%26ie%3DUTF-8%26hl%3Den%26btnG%3DGoogle%2BSearch
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm=rLpu0fAF53T6EwcJ%40lineone.net&rnum=8&prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dground%2Bneutral%2Bhot%26ie%3DUTF-8%26hl%3Den%26btnG%3DGoogle%2BSearch
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm=w5nsc.34575%24zw.8611%40attbi_s01&rnum &prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dground%2Bneutral%2Bhot%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26start%3D10%26sa%3DN
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm=U%25046.32481%24bw.2026859%40news.flash.net&rnum &&prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dground%2Bneutral%2Bhot%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26start%3D20%26sa%3DN
Here is a summary of models I have found, and some anecdotes from Usenet:
MODEL: Panamax Primax RESELLER: SmartHome.com http://www.smarthome.com/4839.html JOULES: 2700 AMPS: 60,000 CIRCUIT TYPE: 120/240 1 Phase, 50/60 Hz RESPONSE TIME: 8x20 microseconds PRICE: $119.99 WARRANTY: the manufacturer provides a 3-year Connected Major Appliance Protection Policy up to $10,000 for the repair or replacement of major household appliances (refrigerator, freezer, oven, range, washer, dryer, ceiling fan or dishwasher) and a 5-year product warranty. URLS: - Press Release: http://groups.google.com/groups?q=panamax+surge&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us&selm bd5cec%24605a2680%2477003dce%40oemcomputer&rnum=3
- Negative Experiences: http://groups.google.com/groups?q=panamax+surge&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us&selm=7nsc8t%24fo1%241%40nnrp1.deja.com&rnum=4
- More Negative Experiences: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us&threadm bcf42f%24f7de1be0%240100007f%40blyle&rnum=8&prev=/groups%3Fhl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26edition%3Dus%26q%3Dpanamax%2Bsurge%26btnG%3DSearch
MODEL: Leviton 51120-1 RESELLER: SmartHome.com http://www.smarthome.com/4860.html JOULES: 950 AMPS: 50,000 CIRCUIT TYPE: RESPONSE TIME: "Instantaneous" PRICE: $189.99 WARRANTY: URLS: - Positive Comment: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us&threadm=tia8dac62nojbf%40corp.supernews.com&rnum=4&prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dleviton%2Bsurge%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26edition%3Dus%26selm%3Dtia8dac62nojbf%2540corp.supernews.com%26rnum%3D4
- Negative Comment: http://groups.google.com/groups?q=leviton+surge&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us& snipped-for-privacy@26686F.ECD70A%40hotmail.com&rnum=3
- Positive Comment: http://groups.google.com/groups?qQ120+leviton&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&selm7864104.3D18F1FD%40ibm.net&rnum=2
MODEL: Panamax gpp8005 RESELLER: PowerSystemsDIRECT http://www.powersystemsdirect.com/Panamax/Service_Entrance_Protector_Whole_House_Surge_Primax_gpp8005_55.php
JOULES: 2,700 AMPS: 60,000 CIRCUIT TYPE: 120/240 1 Phase 50/60Hz RESPONSE TIME: PRICE: $99.99 WARRANTY: Connected Equipment Policy Length 3 Years; Connected Equipment Policy Amount $10,000; Lightning Protection Yes URLS: Model description:
MODEL: Intermatic IG1240RC RESELLER: SmartHomeUSA.com http://www.smarthomeusa.com/Shop/Lighting/Surge-Suppressors/Item/IG1240RC /
JOULES: 1,200 AMPS: 48,000 CIRCUIT TYPE: 120/240V 60Hz RESPONSE TIME: Less than 5 nanoseconds PRICE: $69.95 WARRANTY: $10,000 warrantee URLS: - Positive: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us&threadm=7ukvpr%24dja%241%40news.mks.com&rnum=2&prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dpanamax%2Bprimax%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26edition%3Dus%26selm%3D7ukvpr%2524dja%25241%2540news.mks.com%26rnum%3D2
- Positive: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us&threadm=dschneid.367.000B7827%40nicmad.nicolet.com&rnum=2&prev=/groups%3Fhl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26edition%3Dus%26q%3Dintermatic%26btnG%3DSearch
- Positive: http://groups.google.com/groups?q=intermatic&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us&selm7FC7F0A.37E63B3A%40nni.com&rnum=3
- Informational: http://groups.google.com/groups?q=intermatic+surge&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us&selm ½agtd%24paf%40acadia.ee.vill.edu&rnum=2
MODEL: Intermatic PanelGuard IG1300-4T-2C, protects (?) phone-lines and cable lines too RESELLER: JOULES: AMPS: 48,000 CIRCUIT TYPE: 120/240 single (split) phase, 4 telephone lines, and 2 coax cable lines; ALL MODE PROTECTION (L1-N, L2-N, L1-G, L2-G, N-G, L1-L2); 150 Volt MOVs (Metal Oxide Varistors) [AC Protection]; 350 Volt Gas Tube [Telephone Protection]; 90 Volt Gas Tube [Coax Cable / Satellite Protection] RESPONSE TIME: PRICE: IG1300-2T is $152.83 at http://www.aplussupply.com/intermatic/pg5000/ig1240.htm WARRANTY: $10,000, 5 year warranty URLS: - Non-negative: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm8e3ov8gs057mmtgpgq3loqfodtq1odneq%404ax.com&rnum=1&prev=/groups%3Fq%3DIG-1300%26ie%3DUTF-8%26hl%3Den%26btnG%3DGoogle%2BSearch
- Positive: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm ½c56s%24q5q%40acadia.ee.vill.edu&rnum=2&prev=/groups%3Fq%3DIG-1300%26ie%3DUTF-8%26hl%3Den%26btnG%3DGoogle%2BSearch
MODEL: Ditek DTK-WH8 Whole House Kit RESELLER: StayOnline http://www.stayonline.com/panel_surge_protectors/3233.asp JOULES: 1050 AMPS: 125,000 CIRCUIT TYPE: 120 / 240 Split Phase ; Suppressed Voltage Rating: 700V (L-L), 400V (L-G, L-N, N-G) RESPONSE TIME: Less than 5 nanosecond PRICE: $149 WARRANTY: URLS:
MODEL: PolyPhaser IS-PM120-SP RESELLER: PolyPhaser.com JOULES: AMPS: 40,000 CIRCUIT TYPE: 120Vac, 1 Phase, 2 Wires & GND RESPONSE TIME: ?? Turn-On Time: 25ns ?? PRICE: WARRANTY: URLS: - Positive: http://groups.google.com/groups?q=leviton+surge&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us& snipped-for-privacy@26686F.ECD70A%40hotmail.com&rnum=3
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Reality check here....I don't care what surge protection you use, if lightning hits your stuff its fried.
--
Mark
MCSA, CNA, A+, Net+, iNet+, Server+
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It depends on what it hits. I am in Florida where thunderstorms are a regular thing and I have had lightning hit all around me (including the powerline and exploding the transformer outside my house) with no ill effects ... but I have a good grounding system and several layers of surge protection.
Bear in mind these things give up a little of their life everytime they suppress a surge and they don't last forever.
The only place I part from W_Tom is I think point of entry protection and the grounding system is only part of an integrated protection scheme. You also need point of use protection, that clamp all inputs to a piece of equipment, for those close hits that induce surges into your interior wiring. My company was very successful designing systems for Florida companies who can't "turn off and unplug" every afternoon that we have a storm. The biggest thing is still good grounding and bonding practices. You must give that surge a more attractive path than through your equipment and you must have some componants that can absorb the energy that you can't shunt off. A good point of use protector will usually be heavy. (you will be heating up some iron).
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Incorrect. The building I work at (TV station) has equipment connected to an antenna on the top of a tower that has an actual structure height of 1,976 feet tall, height above average terrain is even more than that. This is taller than the tallest building in the world. This tower is struck many times a year, and has in fact been struck several times today (I can see it from where I live out the front window, even though it is 12 miles away). Our equipment is running just fine, thanks. The transmitter is directly connected to the antenna, no 'lightning arrestor' of any kind in between. How the hell does it survive this? EARTH GROUNDING. We do have some AC surge protection on the building in case the power lines are struck, but the biggest problem would seem to be the tower itself being struck, yet in over 30 years of operation there has been almost no lightning damage at this facility. The last equipment 'failure' attributed to lightning was about five years ago when an AC surge popped a couple of filter caps in a power supply causing some hum in the audio.
True lightning protection is possible, and should be able to prevent most strike damage. There will always be that possibility of "The big one", especially in a residential protection system where spending thousands of dollars on grounding may not be feasible, economically, or otherwise.
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On 12 Jul 2004 09:03:07 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net (Chet Hayes) wrote:

I've seen something very similar to this, although I don't have a way to prove thats the path it took. A telephone company provided 'smart jack' on a T-1 data line was blown off the wall in a lightning strike. I assume the path to be OUT the phone line since the site were this happened was a 500' communications tower and the phone lines were underground. The telco circuit was NOT grounded to the same point as the rest of the equipment in the building (in fact, it was not grounded at all). I cannot be 100% certain that the surge did not enter on the phone line, but reports from witnesses that saw the tower get struck by lightning at about the same time the circuit dropped lead me to believe I am correct in this case.
In another instance, an apartment building I live in was struck by lightning, in an area right above a large electrical junction box in the attic. The surge fried everything I owned that was electronic, and blew a telephone cord right in half on a fax machine. An electrical outlet in my kitchen had signs of arcing between to legs of the 208V circuit (this was a "split" 120V receptical, with each half fed by two different circuits which happened to be on different legs of the 208V feed). It is possible that the surge got into the phone line at the location the building was struck, but it is also possible that the surge was going OUT the phone lines, via my fax machine, modem, and answering machine, seeking the earth ground that the telco provided at the demarc. Again, no way to prove this theory, but it does seem to make some sense.
This is a case where the whole house surge protector wouldn't have done jack, since the lighting struck between the main service entrance and the apartment I was in. A protector at the panel in the apartment might have helped, but it was a long way from earth ground, and the phone line would have provided a second path in this case.
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I can't keep it out.

Most wood frame houses don't have said steel skeleton. Personally I'm not a huge fan of lightning rods on structures. According to Polyphaser the EM field from the downleads (or a nearby strike) could cause problems to equipment indoors.
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Tom has a good point, most strike current is going to seek the path of least resistance, which would be through a protector that is turned 'on'. It really doesn't care where the overvoltage is, it will shunt it. The whole house protector I have is not series mode, so there isn't really a 'protected' side of the system. I still think it would work best if the strike was closer to the protector than the equipment being protected.
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Same thing at many tower sites I've worked on. Lightning loves tall steel towers... Grounded or not, it will find them. But the ones with a GOOD grounding system don't seem to care about being struck, while the poorly grounded ones always seem to be losing expensive equipment.
Here's an example, a $1 Million+ dollar TV transmitter with an antenna mounted at the very top of a tower that is 1,976' tall. Lightning loves to strike this tower as it is the tallest object for miles around. Know what they use as a protector on the RF output port of this transmitter? Nothing. It is one big copper 'pipe' of transmission line from the antenna right to the transmitter. The tower is grounded like you wouldn't believe though.. So are the guy wire anchors. How many problems with this transmitter has the station had from lighting? Zero (in fact NO problems with it since it was installed 4 years ago). How many lightning problems with the previous transmitter installed in 1968 and in service until four years ago? Zero. Another transmitter on the same tower (side mount antenna), ZERO lighting problems (except for some tripped breakers sometimes, but that's when the AC power bumps off and on during storms).
There were some problems with modems being fried in the past (underground phone cable all the way from the central office). Those went away four years ago when I fixed the telephone system grounding after going to work at that site. Connected the phone ground to the tower system ground. Not a problem since. I've been online using modems there in the middle of storms when I know that tower was struck, not so much as a glitch on the modem. Problem solved. Total cost - Zero dollars. Just moved a wire a few feet and reconnected it to the proper ground.
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1) 'Point of use' protector will provide normal mode protection - a voltage difference between the two incoming wire. That is what their specs even claim. But will not be effective if the voltage difference is common mode - voltage difference between any or most every wire, and earth ground. Common mode transients are the typically destructive type.
If the 'point of use' protectors could shunt every and all incoming / outgoing paths together, then it could provide protection. Indeed, that is what a plug-in protector 50 feet from the breaker box should do when a 100 amp transient leaves protectors and adjacent computer at 13,000 volts.
But just a serial port wire draped behind the computer onto concrete, a baseboard heater, some wall paint, or linoleum tile is enough to compromise the protection. Once a transient enters a building, then the number of potentially conductive paths becomes immense - unless the building is specially constructed for electronic protection. Ironically, we still don't build new homes as if the transistor exists.
2) 'Whole house' protectors provide protection from all types of surges, earths the transient before it can enter a building, AND before transient can find all those other conductive (and therefore destructive) paths. Furthermore, the 'whole house' protector is sufficiently sized. It costs tens of times less money per protected appliance.
3) That wire between a 'point of use' protector and a mains breaker box further compromises protector effectiveness. Not only does wire place significant impedance between the protector and earth ground (again the 100 amp transient leaving protector at 13,000 volts). Wire also creates induced transients on adjacent wires if 'point of use' protector is earthing via wall receptacle's safety ground wire.
If instead using a 'whole house' protector, then that same wall receptacle wire contributes further to electronic protection. Not only is no induced transient created, but that wire impedance further encourages the transient to find earth ground at the service entrance rather than via computer.
Telephone switching stations have up to 50 meter separation between the 'whole house' protector and electronics. That 50 meter separation contributes to electronic switch protection.
A good protection system puts the protectors close to earth ground and distant from the protected electronics.
4) 'Point of use' protectors are supplementary protection. They provide ineffective protection without the "'whole house' protector and single point earth ground" system. If the 'whole house' system is installed, then internal appliance protection is more than sufficient protection at the appliance.
Furthermore, 'point of use' protectors do not even protect other important electronics such as RCD (GFCI) circuits, electronic timer switches, and smoke detectors.
Even worse is the excessive cost for a 'point of use' protector. So much money for so little protection. Protection considered so ineffective that appliance manufacturers no longer routinely put those protector components inside the appliance.
Any protection that is effective at the appliance is already inside the appliance. What does the plug-in protector do that a combination of internal appliance protection and 'whole house' protectors system does not already accomplish? Those many 'point of use' protectors raises the cost of a protection system significantly while adding no significant improvement to that system. Any money spent on a 'point of use' protectors would be better spent enhancing a building's single point earth ground.
Chris Lewis wrote:

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