Whole house surge protectors
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Thread: Whole house surge protectors

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    RRMCCABE's Avatar
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    Whole house surge protectors

    I think its time to install a surge protector at my house panel. My electrician (who is a friend) and also wired my house has been on me about installing one since we built the house two years ago.

    Anyway, he doesn't know that much about the product itself but is going to hook me up with someone that sells the systems to get some info.

    I know there are a couple guys on here that are pretty knowledgeable so I thought I would toss it out there.

    What prompted this was we had a small storm early Monday morning and must have had a lightning strike in the area. I woke up and showered and got dressed. Everything on the upper floor seemed fine but once I came down to make coffee something didnt seem quite right.

    To make a long story short one of our 200 amp breakers on the outside of the house was tripped along with a total of 8 breakers inside the house and every GFI outlet.

    As far as damage our Geo Thermal HVAC doesnt work, fireplace on first floor wont ignite, 55" Sony on wall has lost internet, desktop PC no internet, network switch fried, network camera fried, network printer fried, two peices of my ham gear have issues.

    No physical signs of damage anywhere. A lot of the damage must have came across the Network cable when the switch got hit. The only thing that survived hooked up to CAT 5 was the computer in garage.

    The house has a 400 amp meter panel on the outside with (2) 200 amp breakers. One feeds a 200 amp panel in the basement that feeds the HVAC, water heaters and most of the first floor of house. The second one feeds a 200 amp panel in the garage that feeds the garage and the second floor of house.

    Everything is well grounded (least I think so). Has the required UFER ground and the panels are grounded to that as well as two ground rods outside.

    Like I said, just thought I would toss it out to my friends here !

    By the way insurance will cover everything with replacement cost. Course we have to swallow the $1600 deductable.
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    Captain Hook Kennyd's Avatar
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    It's been on my mind as well, looking forward to hearing what others have to say, I know member Arlen is a electrician, hopefully he will comment. Perhaps a PM to EEPete would be in order as well?
    Kenny

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    arlen's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about your "hit". I've had a surge protector wired to my panel for about 12 years now without any problems. I picked mine up at an electrical supply house, but now days they are available at your run-of-the-mill home improvement stores. They are easy to install... they just connect to the ground, neutral, and both hots. I piggy backed the hots on the breaker for my well pump.

    Shopping specifications is just like buying a surge protector outlet strip... the more "joules", the better. That gives you a measure of the amount of energy that they can clamp. In your case, I would probably go with 2; one for each panel. Since the 2 panels are electrically connected, the 2 surge protectors will help each other out.

    The fact that you know what a Ufer ground is puts you ahead of the average guy. With the 2 ground rods and the Ufer ground, your power system ground is probably OK. I would look closely at inter-system BONDING. This is what gets people in trouble. Your phone, cable, satelite, ham equipment, internet systems all should have their own grounding electrodes, and all of those electrode systems must be BONDED together. If they are poorly grounded, or not bonded, large voltages build up between these different grounding systems. The result is arcing across the circuit boards. A satelte system for instance, has a power ground, a coax cable ground, and a telephone ground all coexisting on the same circuit boards. If those different grounding systems are not bonded together with a nice fat copper conductor, differences in potential will commonly be in the several hundred volt range during atmospheric electrical disturbances.

    You indicated you have some ham equipment. I'm a ham also, AA0SG Antennas can be bad. Since they are stuck up in the air, you can count on large voltage potentials with respect to ground. Make doubly sure all of that stuff is grounded and bonded. I would also make sure that your coax (or other antenna leads), are hooked up to "poly phaser" lightening arresters.

    If you have a well, the well casing is a great thing to bond to. Mine is 560 feet deep; makes a good ground.

    If all of your bonding and grounding is good, then a couple of surge protectors would be a great investment,
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    Captain Hook Kennyd's Avatar
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    Here my DA question of the day: I have a 400 amp service, so I have two 42 space CH panels-then a third generator panel. Would one device work for me?
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    Arien had great advice!

    Every house should have a whole house protector on it. IMHO, one per panel. So Kenny needs 3 for his setup. Here are my rules for protection stuff in a house and workshop:

    Whole House protector per panel.
    Anything that's not a light bulb should be on a surge protected and filtered power strip.
    Any wire coming into the house needs protection, and when possible all wire should come into the house at the same place.
    All those different protectors need to be on the same ground. And the ground wire connecting all the protectors needs to be at least a number 6 gauge.

    As we saw with OP, you have a $1600 budget for this. You're going to spend it one way or another.

    Finally, these surge suppressors grab hold of the extra energy on the copper and need a place to dump it. That's what your ground is for. The weenie 4' copper plated ground rod in disturbed soil protects the power and phone company, not you. You need at least two 8' copper clad ground rounds in undisturbed ground. Go 8' out from the house for the 1st, then 8' more for the next one.
    How serious am I about this? My old house had 8 ground rods. Current house has only 4, but, when putting in trenching for lighting, security cameras and other stuff I have 1000' feet of copper wire in the ground as part of the ground system. Hard to do on a retrofit, but a win and what a great excuse to get some backhoe time.

    Here's a picture of some protection devices called MOVs. There's a big honking one that is what is used for whole house protectors, and smaller ones that are used in power strips. Finally, there is a solid state protector. These go from ground to a wire to protect it. The wire must be fused since often these protectors fail to a short. A whole house protector has two of the big honking ones and fuses.

    I'd brag about how well these work, but, we all know what happens when you temp Mother Nature...

    Pete
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    Keeper of the GTT Cookies dieselshadow's Avatar
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    Another DA question for you smart sparkies. What's a UFER ground?

    An old electrician told me never to drive a ground rod into the ground. He used a cup of water pouring down the rod and initial hole drilled for it and worked the rod up and down. I was amazed to see it work it's way down into the ground in just a few minutes. He claimed better conductivity with the earth. Is there any truth to that?
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    Senior GTT Super Slacker Gizmo2's Avatar
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    dieselshadow, I think there is some sort of material one can buy designed to hold moisture in very dry ground when installing ground rods. I have know idea what it is, maybe someone can comment of this also.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gizmo2 View Post
    dieselshadow, I think there is some sort of material one can buy designed to hold moisture in very dry ground when installing ground rods. I have know idea what it is, maybe someone can comment of this also.
    The Ufer ground is basically a concrete encased electrode. The rebar in a slab or in your footings as it turns out is waaaaaaaaay better of a ground than a driven rod. Concrete is hygroscopic (likes to retain moisture), and has large amounts of surface area in contact with the ground. If you do a little "googling" you will see volumes of information. In a nut shell a fella named Ufer developed this method while working for the military. They had a problem grounding munition storage areas in dry soil. IIRC, it was back in the 40's and he may have worked for UL. Anyway, he found that using concrete encased electrodes was way better than the elaborate grounding grids driven deep into the ground.
    To answer Gizmo's question, it's a salt brine that you treat the ground with to improve conductivity.
    Proper grounding is a deep subject. Several years ago I had a 3 day class on just industrial grounding.
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    arlen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieselshadow View Post
    Another DA question for you smart sparkies. What's a UFER ground?

    An old electrician told me never to drive a ground rod into the ground. He used a cup of water pouring down the rod and initial hole drilled for it and worked the rod up and down. I was amazed to see it work it's way down into the ground in just a few minutes. He claimed better conductivity with the earth. Is there any truth to that?
    No. The NEC requires that the rod be DRIVEN to a depth of 8 feet. The water would temporarily improve conductivity. In the end, you would have a loose ground rod with poor contact to the earth.
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    Keeper of the GTT Cookies dieselshadow's Avatar
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    Thanks for shedding some light on the subject eepete and arlen!


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