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Here’s how you can protect your home from electrical surges

(AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo)

We’re still in the middle of monsoon season, a time of year when an electrical storm can suddenly visit your neighborhood and cause big problems.

It might seem unlikely, but if lightning hits a transformer in your neighborhood, a wave of voltage can surge through the wires to local houses.

And lightning is not even the biggest cause of surges: They can be the result of downed power lines, restoration of service after a blackout period, or defective appliances inside your home that trip your electrical circuits.

With more and more expensive electronics inside your home, you may need to protect against surges that can cause damage to everything from your air conditioner to your flat screen TV.

What about whole house surge protectors?

Many homeowners are having whole house surge protection installed. That means that an electrician hard-wires a protector directly to a home’s electrical service panel or the place where electricity first enters your home.

These devices might cost from $500 to $800 or more depending on the size of a house.

Whole house protectors monitor electrical spikes and reduce higher-level surges that might overwhelm plug strips and damage household equipment. They also provide suppression for items that are usually not on plug strips like your heating and air conditioning system, washer, dryer, refrigerator, stove, oven and lighting.

What about surge suppressor strips?

Even if you have a whole house surge protector, electricians recommend that you use plug-in surge protectors inside your home. Those smaller suppressor strips can help protect valuable electronics from smaller fluctuations in power inside your house. These smaller fluctuations can come occur when a large appliance turns on or off. You can also buy box-style plug-in units that can protect all components in one area or room, like inside a home theater.

Periodically, you will need to replace those smaller plug-ins. That’s because plug-in units eventually wear out when they are doing their job properly and absorbing all those spikes in electricity. Replacing them may be necessary every year. Even whole house surge protectors may need replacing. So check with your electrician about regular maintenance for these units.

When buying plug-in boxes or strips, choose high quality devices that meet Underwriters Laboratories standards. They need to be capable of absorbing at least 600 joules of energy.

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