Electrical surges, which are big, short jumps in the amount of electricity in your home’s electrical circuits, can happen for many reasons. They can destroy various electrical devices and appliances in your home. Lightning strikes, downed power lines, increased electricity use from nearby factories, and even temporary surges in large household appliances like air conditioners can all cause these damaging surges, which can cost thousands of dollars in damage. To prevent this fate, you can install a whole-house surge protection device (SPD). These devices constantly check your home’s main electrical panel for big electrical surges and send any extra electricity safely into the ground. If you want to protect your home from dangerous electrical waves, keep reading to find out about whole-house surge protector installation and the cost associated.
Whole House Surge Protector Installation
Before we start, it’s important to note that this job should always be done with the help of a licensed electrician, since messing with your house’s main power box can be very dangerous. But if you are someone who has done jobs like these in the past and knows well about the things included to carry out the job, here are a few essential tools that may be needed for whole-house surge protector installation and setup:
Materials and Tools You’ll Need
- Personal Protective Equipment: insulated work boots, electrical safety gloves, and eye protection.
- Non-contact voltage tester
- A double-pole circuit breaker rated for your SPD
- Cable clamp
- Power drill or screwdriver
- Wire strippers
- Hammer and nail punch, or pair of pliers
Step 1: Turn Off the Power
Open the door to your home’s main electrical service panel and turn off the main breaker switch at the top of the panel. This will turn off all of the breakers inside the panel, making it less likely that someone will get electrocuted.
Remove the screws holding the panel cover in place with a screwdriver or power drill. The number and location of these screws will vary from panel to panel, but there’s usually at least one screw on each of the panel’s four corners. After removing all of the screws, carefully remove the panel cover and set it aside.
Use a non-contact voltage tester to make sure that none of the circuit breakers in the panel are getting power. Simply connect the voltage tester to each of the breaker’s black “live” wires. If the voltage tester lights up, there is electricity in that circuit, and you should not move on until you have turned off the power. If you can’t figure out how to turn off the power to your panel, you should call a licensed electrician for help.
Step 2: Set Up the Panel
For the SPD to work, it needs to be connected to a dedicated double-pole breaker. This type of breaker has two wire terminals, takes up two breaker slots, and is put in the panel right next to the main breaker. In most cases, this will be in the two breaker slots directly below the main breaker. If breakers are already installed in those slots, they should be moved to other available slots in the panel. If your panel is full and there are no more slots available, you may need to hire an electrician to install a separate sub-panel.
Next, take out one of the “knockouts,” which are small, round holes that are meant to be taken out so that wires can be fed into the panel. Take out the one that is closest to where the breaker will be put in. A nail punch, hammer, or pair of pliers can be used to remove the knockout. Insert a cable clamp of the appropriate size into the hole. Use the manufacturer’s instructions to secure it in place.
Step 3: Install the Surge Protector.
There will be four color-coded wires coming from the surge protector: one green (ground), one white (neutral), and two black (hot). If the ends of these wires don’t come with a small section of insulation removed from the ends, use a wire stripper to remove about 1/2 inch (about 1 centimeter) of the insulation from the end of each wire. Completely insert the wires into the knockout and cable clamp, then tighten the clamp. Use the screws that came with the surge protector to attach it to the wall near where the wires went through the hole.
Step 4: Connect the Wires
Depending on your electrical panel, the ground, and neutral wires may be connected to a single “bus bar”—a vertical metal strip with horizontally punched holes and screws on top. There may also be two bus bars, one for the ground wires to connect to and one for the neutral wires to connect to. In either case, the stripped end of the ground and neutral wires will be inserted into one of the free horizontal holes. Tighten the top screw to keep them in place. Once tightened, gently tug on the wire to verify it’s securely installed.
Then, you’ll connect the two black wires to the double-pole breaker in your panel that has the right rating for the amount of electricity needed. For help choosing the right breaker, consult the manufacturer’s instructions.
The double-pole breaker will have two terminals where the wires will be inserted. Each terminal will have a set screw on top that must be loosened before inserting the wire and then tightened after the wire has been inserted. Once the live wires are connected, put the circuit breaker in the space you made in the second step. On most panels, the breaker will simply snap into place after pressing it into the slot with moderate pressure.
Step 5: Reassemble and test the Electrical Panel
Reattach the panel cover to the panel and replace the cover’s screws. Reset the main breaker, as well as the SPD’s breaker if it isn’t already on. If your SPD has an indicator light or digital display, you can use it to confirm that it is fully operational. If this is the case, your home should now be completely safe from electrical surges. Connect sensitive electronics such as computers, tablets, and televisions to a surge protection strip for added security and peace of mind.
Whole House Surge Protector Installation Cost
According to HomeAdvisor and Angi, the typical installation cost range is between $70 and $700, with the national average cost of a whole-house surge protector at $300. Many factors affect the whole-house surge protector installation cost, including the type of surge protector installed, the brand, and any additional electrical work. This cost guide includes comprehensive explanations of these cost factors, as well as the benefits of installing one of the best surge protectors for whole-house surge protector installation.
Factors in Calculating whole-House Surge Protector Installation Cost
Costs associated with installing whole-house surge protectors vary depending on the type, brand, and labor involved. To assist homeowners in selecting the best whole-house surge protector for their home, each of these factors is described below.
#1. The type of surge protector
There are three different types of surge protectors. Each one provides power surge protection, but to varying degrees and for different numbers of devices. Among the various types of surge protectors are:
- Type 1 – External Sources: This electrical surge protector is installed at the base of the electrical service meter before the main circuit breaker box, and all power that enters the home flows through it. Type 1 is the most expensive, has the highest surge protection, and requires professional installation.
- Type 2 – Internal Surges: This type is the most popular, installed either on a single circuit as a breaker surge protector or on the entire electrical breaker box as a panel surge protector. Type 2 protects against both large and small internal surges and is best installed by a professional electrician. The price will vary depending on how many circuits are protected. The cost of protecting the entire panel will be comparable to the cost of a Type 1 surge protector.
- Type 3 – Device-Specific Surges: This surge protector is usually a wall outlet or a power strip and is typically used to plug multiple devices into one outlet. It provides some surge protection, but for the best whole-house surge protection, it should be combined with a Type 1 or Type 2 device. Type 3’s limited protection will be the most affordable of all.
#2. Surge protector brand
The cost of power surge protection devices varies depending on the brand or manufacturer. This is primarily because quality varies from brand to brand. Popular surge protector brands include Eaton, Siemens, Leviton, Square D, and Intermatic. Because labor accounts for a large portion of the cost of a whole-house surge protector, homeowners will not want to skimp on surge protector quality. Homeowners should read reviews, ask electricians for recommendations, and select a reputable, long-lasting surge protector brand.
A whole-house surge protector installation will probably cost more than half as much due to labor. The installation requires a qualified electrician, who will typically charge $50 to $100 per hour in addition to material costs and travel fees. While the process is relatively simple for a trained professional, it does require working with the incoming power to a home, which can be more dangerous.
Additional Costs and Factors to Consider
In addition to the cost factors discussed above, there are a few others that may apply in certain circumstances. Continue reading to find out if an electrical panel upgrade, wiring replacement, or additional outlet installation will raise the cost of installing a whole-house surge protector.
#1. Electrical panel upgrade
Installing a new surge protector in an outdated, faulty electrical panel doesn’t make a lot of sense. An electrician might advise the homeowner to upgrade the home’s outdated electrical panel before a whole-house surge protector installation. Electrical panels have a typical lifespan of 25 to 40 years, so any panel older than this range will almost certainly need to be replaced. The cost to replace an electrical panel is between $526 and $2,010.
#2. Wiring replacement
If the home’s electrical wiring is old and outdated, it will likely need to be upgraded before a homeowner has a new whole-home surge protector installed. Depending on the scope of the project, new electrical wiring can cost anywhere from $600 to $2,300. Homeowners can have their electrician evaluate their home’s current wiring and determine whether an upgrade is necessary. If the house has knob-and-tube wiring, an upgrade is required for safety reasons alone.
Benefits of a Whole-House Surge Protector Installation
Lightning in conjunction with storms is unpredictable, much like one of your electrical appliances going haywire, and all of this can result in power surges. You get the following benefits from a whole-house surge protector:
- Stopping power surges from reaching your home appliances
- Shielding electronic appliances from excessive surge power
- Warns about previous surges by displaying damage (if the surges were extremely powerful) to the system itself, allowing the unit or its parts to be replaced and the house to be secured once more.
Can I install a whole-house surge protector myself?
The installation of a whole-house surge protector requires the services of a licensed electrician. In contrast to power strip surge protectors, which can be used right away.
How much does it cost to install a whole-house surge protector?
between $250 and $300
A whole-house surge protector typically costs between $250 and $300, according to Penna Electric. Installation costs an additional $175, bringing the total cost to under $500 for most homes.
Where is the best place to install a whole-house surge protector?
It is installed between the circuit breaker panel in your home and the community power grid. An electrician must install a whole-house surge protector, which looks like a plain gray box.
How long does a whole house surge protector last?
A whole-house surge protector can last 5-10 years (depending on the quality of the protector) and is an inexpensive way to protect your home’s most valuable assets.
What appliances should not be plugged into a surge protector?
Portable heaters, refrigerators, and other high-wattage appliances should never be plugged into a power strip, but rather into a dedicated electrical wall outlet.
At this point, we all know how destructive power surges can be, mainly the ones caused due to lightning, and how far these things can travel. Having a whole surge protective unit can give you and your family peace of mind that at the very least if there is a surge running around the wires, your electronics will not be affected.
Surges are unpredictable most of the time and not easy to identify unless something goes wrong with your appliances if you don’t have a surge protector unit installed. Your family’s expensive electronic appliances will commend you for regular inspections and maintenance of the house surge protector unit.