Most people have a power strip or two plugged in around the house. It’s usually in the kitchen or by the computer. You probably already know they do more than offer a few more outlets to use. They’re also known as surge protectors.
A refreshingly accurate name for a gadget that offers protection for your electronics from any sudden power surge. The next level up from a simple plugin surge protector is a whole house surge protector.
These protect all appliances and electronics plugged into the outlets throughout your house. This level of protection is more important than ever considering how many appliances use computer technology and circuit boards now. Everything from your washer, to your fridge, and even your heating system could be damaged by an uninvited power surge.
Upgrading from the spotty coverage of single surge protectors here and there to the peace of mind of one of these whole house units is a big step. While you can easily plug a simple surge protector into any outlet yourself, a whole house surge protector involves (carefully) accessing the main power panel box or hiring an electrician. In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of how to install a whole house surge protector.
How to Install a Whole House Surge Protector
Many manufacturers recommend hiring a professional electrician to install your whole house surge protector. This is for good reason as accessing the main power panel box for your house can be very dangerous.
Even when the main power switch is off, there are still live wires in the box that could cause electrocution and even death. If you’re familiar with accessing this powerful electricity source, this article will walk you through the installation. If you’re at all uncomfortable with trying to install this yourself, hire an electrician to do it for you.
Either way, this will serve as a guide to help you understand the process of how to install a whole house surge protector.
Here’s a list of tools needed to install a main panel surge protector.
- Flathead screwdriver and screws
- Wire strippers
- Electrical tape
- Hammer and nails
- Cordless drill or driver
- Voltage detector
Mounting the Surge Protector on the Main Panel Box
Step 1. Turning off the main power
The first and most crucial step for the install is to flip the main switch outside of your electric panel box. This turns the breakers off and cuts off power to your house. Do this before opening the panel box because an active panel can be dangerous and cause electrocution.
Once you’re sure the box is no longer energized, you can unscrew and remove the entire panel door. A voltage detector will tell you whether the power has stopped flowing and if it’s safe to remove the front panel.
There may still be live wires even with the power flow cut off. Be sure to only touch the wires that you need to for connecting your surge protector. If you’re not sure about this, hire an electrician for your own protection.
Step 2. Mounting the surge protector
You should see one or more small circular knockout areas on the side of the panel where it meets the wall. Gently knock out one hole to create an opening for the surge protector wires.
Feed the wires of your surge protector through this opening and guide them through to the front of the panel until you’re ready to connect. Secure the surge protector module into the wall with screws using your drill and screwdriver.
Different models will have different mounting directions. Read through your manufacturer instructions for these details. Mount the surge protector outside the panel. This lets you monitor your surge protector’s performance without opening the panel.
Finish Installing a Whole House Surge Protector
A whole house surge protector has four wires for you to connect within the panel box.
- Green wire = Ground
- White wire = Neutral
- 2 Black wires = Complete the circuit
Step 3. Strip the surge protector wires
In order to connect the wires, you’ll need to strip the coating off of the ends. Place the wire end into the part of the stripper that reads 14 AWG. This ensures that you won’t scar the cable with too small a strip gauge and reduce the effectiveness of the surge protector.
- Connect the green wire to the ground bus bar on the right
- Connect the neutral white wire to the neutral bus bar on the right (among the other white wires)
- Connect the two black wires to a dipole circuit breaker and mount it close to the main power wires
Step 4. Replace the panel cover and test
Once your wires are connected, you can replace the panel cover (careful not to flip any of the breakers). Replace the four main screws of the panel and then any other screws, making sure there are no gaps or spaces. Now it’s safe to turn your main breaker on again.
Flip the dipole breaker switch that you connected your two black wires to. Check the lights or digital display on your surge protector to see if it’s working according to your owner’s manual.
Benefits of a Whole House Surge Protector
Power surges can happen with a lightning strike, even one that’s not close you your house. The electrical surge can travel down the power lines and hit your home when a storm is miles away. Surges are also common on the grid in general as the flow of electrical demand and supply fluxes. Sometimes a power surge can even come from an appliance in your home that spikes in power or malfunctions.
Having a whole house surge protector installed will give you more peace of mind that your expensive electronics have adequate protection. Check on your new surge protector once a month to make sure it’s still working correctly. For even more protection, it’s still a good idea to use simple power surge protectors in the outlets for major appliances.
Remember, opening your electrical panel is no small job. If you’re at all uncomfortable with installing a surge protector yourself, call an electrician. Either way, now you’ll know exactly what goes into it.