Whole house Surge Protector?

A little off topic, but we do seem to have a lot of electricians here. We had a loss of neutral problem a few years ago (it was on the service pole, CMP paid for all the damage). Recently we installed a whole house surge protector to prevent loss in the event of losing the neutral again, to protect against surges as the power flickers; happens a lot here in the woods and to not have to buy surge protectors for all the electronic stuff we seem to be collecting. Question is are these things any good? We had an Intermatic installed by a licensed electrician; it came with a replace equipment damaged warranty but only for five years. All thoughts are welcome. Dave
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I doubt that it'll do much good for an open neutral problem. It will just burn up and then let the over voltages into the house to burn up everything else. The best protection you can have for that is a very good connection to ground (one or more ground rods 8' long) at the main electric panel. Surge protectors are intended more to remove over voltage spikes caused by lightning, and heavy industrial machinery turning on and off. A continuous or long term over voltage like is produced by a neutral problem will be a longer duration than it can handle. It'll help, but not for long. Power flickers are under voltage spikes and it won't do anything to protect for that condition either. With your neutral problem, do you remember that some of the lights in your house got dimmer, but some got much brighter? The much brighter condition is an over voltage and this is what a surge protector tries to eliminate, but it isn't designed to survive a long duration (more than a few seconds) condition. A good ground rod system with the TV cable and the telephone cables also grounded to it, plus a whole house surge protector are your best protection from lightning. Under voltage spikes can only be reduced if the power company provides a transformer to supply your house only and not shared with the neighbors plus a good primary (high voltage) line feeding it. Being way out in the woods, you are likely one of the last getting power from a long feeder line. Any sudden loads created by your family or others between your home and the power source can cause power dips at your house. If all else fails, moving closer to town may be the only way to solve it.
--
Charley


"Dave W" < snipped-for-privacy@suscom-maine.net> wrote in message
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This is a deep, deep subject. Most surge protectors that are light enough to carry in one hand degrade with time. Our power company supplies surge protectors that go on to the meter socket, but, come to think of it, it is probably time to bug them about replacing it (for free). I have my own surge protectors right up close to the computers anyway.
We have a single phase lead and a common (ground) coming down our mile. It is interesting to note that that ground wire is connected to a driven ground rod on every other power pole in our mile, but on the poles not so connected, lightning has arced through the wooden pole itself, causing burns to the pole!
Electronic devices are much better protected these days from line problems. The worst situation, short of a direct hit on your house is when you get a low voltage problem down the line someplace. And that problem manifests itself in electric motors that try to draw more and more current to make up for the shortage of voltage. If that happens, I shut down any air conditioners, refirgerators, etc asap!
As far as phone lines go, I have an RJ-11 jack right up by the main computer's keyboard and I pull the plug (which removes all but one POTS phone from the lines whenever there is a threat of lightning. This eliminates the fax, satelite receiver, 2 line electronic phone, DSL device from harm. We used to go through one or two modems every summer, but no more.
As the other poster said, a good ground (in damp soil) and a neutral tied to it well are absoluteley necessary anyway. When I ran the power and signal line conditioning program for the company I worked for, we found that the quality of the ground varied a lot around the nation. I think Texas, in general, had the worst (highest on average) ground resistance.
Pete Stanaitis ------------------
Dave W wrote:

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The topic is simple. Unfortunately some use English as a replacement for numbers or scientific reasoning. Therefore some have no idea what the many electrical problems are. They 'assume' a protector will solve all electrical problems. But again, this is really simple stuff made complicated only because some make recommendations without basic electrical knowledge.
You have described an overvoltage. How much (because numbers are essential)? For example, 120 volts may increase to maybe 160 volts and decrease to 100 volts in other locations. Therefore some light bulbs fail faster. Some less robust appliances are damaged. This is not a surge AND is not solved by a surge protector. For example, go to any store to read the box. Notice the term let-through voltage: 330 volts. IOW they remain mostly inert - do nothing - until 120 volts increase above 300 volts. Simple numbers necessary to reply.
Obviously from numbers - no surge protector will solve an open neutral problem; does not even claim to. You are asking a technical question that cannot be solved by 'word association' logic.
A broken neutral is one reason why building earthing must exist. Why all incoming utilities must connect to the same earthing electrode. A broken neutral is a human safety problem where building earth ground minimizes the problem and human threats.
'Whole house' protector is rated for at least 50,000 amps. Using word association as a replacement for science, then the protector should easily solve an open neutral problem. But 50,000 amps also has a time parameter. Protectors are for events that occur typically in microseconds. An open neutral is a problem that may be ongoing for hours or days.
The earthing electrode is numerous purposes. One is to minimize problems created by open neutral. A 'whole house' protector is for earthing transients that might otherwise overwhelm protection already inside all appliances. It must also have that same earthing connection BUT does not even claim to address open neutral problems. If earthing is not sufficient for an open neutral problem, then earthing certainly is not sufficient for a 'whole house' protector. IOW same missing earthing also means the 'whole house' protector has been compromised.
Earthing (not a surge protector) is protection. Earthing must be sufficient for a human safety problem such as an open neutral. And earthing must be even better (enhanced) so that an Intermatic 'whole house' protector can protect from a completely different electrical event.

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w_tom wrote:

Finally, a voice of reason; good post. If the earth-loss was the OP's fault, shame on him, but if it was the grid side's fault, then shame plus ALL BILLS to them!
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<<< snip >>>>

I wish I had a whole house surge protector last week. We just had an apparently LARGE power surge in our neighborhood that affected 4800 of PG&E's finest customers. We have had a lot of interruptions (at least 2 or three a year) but not like this one. It happened at 12:30AM and when it happened it sounded like something actually hit the house. SWMBO and I got up and started looking around and then it happened again. Over the next few days I talked to some of our neighbors and everyone has lost some sort of electrical (or should I say ELECTRONIC) device(s). All kinds of stuff from radios and tvs to battery chargers/maintainers, microwave ovens, dishwashers, refrigerators. I'm sure some people will use this as an excuse, but I'll bet that most of it is real.
As for me, PG&E will be getting a bill for two new computers that smoked the power supplies and blew the motherboards and memory (One I had neglected to put back on the surge suppressor after doing work in it, and one that was actually ON a surge suppressor but it was a real cheapie), an air pump for our Select Comfort air bed, a battery charger for my cordless tools, and our dishwasher. All of which fried the electronic circuit boards in them.
I would hope that this is what whole house suppressors are designed to protect us from. It would save me all the hassle of having to repair/replace all that stuff, and of course all the hassle of filling out paperwork and hassling with PG&E. Probably worth the price just for that. However I am still wondering why only one circuit breaker tripped. Too instantaneous maybe??
Wayne
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Again, to keep this in perspective. A protector is not protection. Building earthing is the protection. So that every wire in every cable gets connected to protection, a 'whole house' protector is installed. That protection is enhanced by expanding or improving an earthing system.
If computer is plugged into a duplex outlet and a power strip protector is attached to the other duplex outlet, then computer is protected just like it was plugged into that power strip.
If a power strip is connected elsewhere on the same branch circuit, then protector is providing to everything on that circuit as if those appliances were plugged directly into that power strip protector.
Circuit breakers take milliseconds to trip. Surges are done in microseconds. One tripped breaker would be due to damage (temporary or permanent) created by a 'long gone' surge. Breaker tripped due to utility electricity long after the surge was over.
To get reimbursed, one must prove damage was due to something that PG&E did. Electric companies are usually honest about it. But if they don't know of anything they did wrong, then burden of proof will be upon you. Many people with damage may not be sufficient to claim they did anything wrong.

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w_tom wrote:

Excellent information on surges and surge is available in an IEEE guide at: http://omegaps.com/Lightning%20Guide_FINALpublishedversion_May051.pdf Or a similar NIST guide at: http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/practiceguides/surgesfnl.pdf The IEEE guide is more technical (and better).
The IEEE guide explains that plug-in surge suppressors work primarily by clamping the voltage on all wires (signal and power) to the common ground at the suppressor, not earthing. The guide explains that earthing occurs elsewhere.

Nope. If a plug-in suppressor is significantly downstream from your appliance, there is far too much voltage drop between the suppressor and the appliance. Protection other than connecting through the suppressor is a dumb idea.
------------------------ I havent looked at many specs, but UPSs are likely to go to battery mode on overvoltage. A *few* plug-in surge suppressors are designed to disconnect on overvoltage. Other than that I agree that surge suppressors provide no overvoltage protection. A major author on surges said "In fact, the major cause of TVSS [surge suppressor] failures is a temporary overvoltage, rather than an unusually large surge."
------------------------- Regarding earthing as protection for an open neutral: Any protection relies on an alternate neutral path from the building service neutral to the neutral at the transformer, usually via the earth.
Looking at only the resistance from the building service neutral-to-earth - a very good (low) resistance is 5 ohms. The neutral carries only the imbalance between the hot legs. If the imbalance is a very small 10 amps, the voltage drop from neutralto-earth is 50 volts. That means that one leg can be 70 volts and the other leg can be 170 volts with a small 10A imbalance. And the resistance of the earth and resistance from earth-to-transformer is not included.
(The voltage actually is also determined by load resistance on each leg. And as the voltage shifts, the current will increase on the higher voltage side and go down on the lower voltage side lowering the current imbalance.)
This probably works better in an urban area with metal water supply pipe. The return path can be neutralto-water service, water pipe-to-another building supplied by the transformer, other building water pipe-to-neutral, and other building neutral-to-transformer. This is an all metal path.

Whole house is a good idea. But make sure phone, cable,... service entry protectors are adjacent to the power service, and the protectors connect with a short wire to the earth conductor at the power service. This is called a "single point ground". You want to keep the ground reference for all systems at the same potential.
-- bud--
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Despite his myths and spin, The IEEE is quite blunt about what provides protection. Clamping - also called bonding, connecting, diverting, shunting - an earth ground. Bud's own citation page 6 (Adobe page 8) even says that:

In previous posts, Bud repeatedly claimed grounding was not necessary. Now he is trying to change the defintion of ground. Bud knows if he lies enough, you will believe him just like the many believed Saddam was complicit on 11 September.
IEEE is quite blunt about what is necessary for protection. IEEE makes recommendation in standards - not in Bud's myths. One standard is the IEEE Red Book (Standard 141):

Bud misrepresents what honest people have been saying since the beginning of the 20th Century. Ben Franklin even demonstrated it in 1752. Protection from lightning - be it a human, building, or electronics - means earthing a surge long before it gets near. Earthing. Not some magic box that will somehow stop or absorb what three miles of sky could not.
Then we review Bud's own citations. Remember, Bud will not admit that he promotes for plug-in protectors manufacturers. He assumes you will not read or understand Page 42 Figure 8. A TV is damaged by 8000 volts because the protector was too close to appliances, too far from TV, and the earthing system was not sufficient (ie single point earth ground). Protectors placed too close to an appliance contributed to damage of a powered off appliance; as demonstrated by a 'TV destructive' 8000 volts on Page 42 Figure 8.
A protector is not protection. Building earthing is the protection. So that every wire in every cable gets connected to protection, a 'whole house' protector is installed. That protection is enhanced by expanding or improving an earthing system.
What does the Air Force instruction dated 1 Oct 1998 demand for surge protection?

"As soon as practical where the conductor enter" means a 'whole house' protector located at building earthing; not plug-in protectors. Where real world protection is installed, the protector makes a short ('less than 10 foot') connection to a building's best single point earth ground. Earth ground is protection. Those promoting for plug-in protector manufacturers will say anything so that you will ignore *THE* most critical component in any protection 'system': earth ground. They will even ignore a glaring fact. Plug- in protector numerical specs do not even claim protection from the type of surge that typically causes electronics damage. Of course. No earthing.
That is what Ben Franklin demonstrated even in 1752. It's not the lightning rod that is protection. It is what that lightning rod connects to: earth ground. Bud hopes you forget that primary school science.
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w_tom wrote:
A repetition of the same bullcrap from w_.
The issue is not earthing - everyone is for it. The only question is whether plug-in suppressors work. I provided links for authoritative guides on surges and surge suppression from both the IEEE and NIST. Both guides say plug-in suppressors are effective. Read them for yourself.
There are 98,615,938 other web sites, including 13,843,032 by lunatics, and w_ can't find another lunatic that says plug-in suppressors are NOT effective. All you have is w_'s opinions based on his religious belief in earthing.
Bizarre claim - plug-in surge suppressors don't work No sources that say plug-in suppressors are NOT effective. Distorts or attempts to discredit opposing sources - continued. Attempts to discredit opponents - hysterical personal attacks. w_ is still a purveyor of junk science.
-- bud--
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Our power company, Connecticut Light and Power, is now offering a system. They do the install and provide you with a set of individual protectors to use in conjunction with the main system. Cost is $62 plus $4.95 a month http://www.cl-p.com/online/residential/newproducts/surge_protection.asp
Ii probably should sign up for it. Stories like your reminds me that I'm at risk.
--
Ed
http://pages.cthome.net/edhome/



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