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Updated December 5th / 2019

A whole house surge protector is one of the most cost-effective ways to protect your electronics and appliances from the damage caused by power surges or lightning strikes. That being said, only a small number of consumers actually have these in their home. And many of the people that do have a unit that is either incorrectly rated or incorrectly set up for their application. In this guide, we’re going to help clear up some of the misinformation about power surges and give you the information you need to select the best whole house surge protector for your needs. You’ll learn about the types of power surges, how most whole house surge protectors are vastly inadequate, and finally how to properly select a whole house surge protector that can keep all of the electronic devices in your home safe.

Why Power Strips Aren’t The Best Whole House Surge Protector

panel mounted unit

Sure, they’re inexpensive. But they really only protect against one type of power surge. if the voltage spikes, the breaker will trip. However, this isn’t always instantiations. Delicate devices can still be damaged, and many other types of surges will just pass right through without tripping the whole house surge protector. Not the best solution. Despite being called a surge protector, this name doesn’t give you the whole story.

Additionally, many consumers overlook their most expensive possessions when using power strips as a surge protector. Is your phone and laptop always plugged in to a surge protector? What about appliances like your stove, washer and dryer? A gnarly surge can also take these out! Most of those are 240V, and you don’t often see a surge protector on those outlets! Those things aren’t cheap! It’s estimated most households have around $10,000 of unprotected electronics on a standard circuit with no surge protector. That’s a whole lot of money on the line!

With our growing reliance on electronics and our inevitable move towards smart homes, it’s just not feasible to get a power strip for every single outlet in your whole home. But, you can protect every electronic device in your home with a small investment in a surge protector and a little elbow grease.

The Best Whole House Surge Protector for All Applications

Siemens FS140 Surge Protector

Siemens FS140 rated for 140,000 amps
Siemens FS140 Whole House Surge Protector
✔ 6″ x 10″ x 4″
✔ 120/240V
✔ 140kA rating
✔ Sturdy plastic enclosure
✔ NEMA Type 4 rated (indoor and outdoor use)
✔ LED indicator Lights – protection status and service now
✔ Audible alarm
✔ $25,000 max equipment coverage
✔ 10-year limited warranty
Full warranty details
✔ UL 1449 3rd Ed. Certified
$$$
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Compared to some of the cheaper models on our list, this one might seem like it’s sold at a premium. But when compared with all the other models on the market, this provides more value than any other model we’ve tested. It’s durable, fully featured, and provides some of the best protection from all the different types of power surges that can affect your whole house. For some it might be overkill, but taking the time to select a surge protection device with a whole complete set of features is simple and can save time in the long run.

Sizing a complete surge safety system can be a challenge. The larger capacity models can protect against the largest surges, but let small ones pass. This means that some of your smallest, most delicate electronics can be damaged. Meanwhile, most of the smaller electrical isolation devices aren’t sized to handle massive surges.

This siemens model is the exception. It has a “three stage” protection system that enables it to catch all surges, both large and small. It also has built in digital notification. For consumers with a smart home or businesses with a building automation unit, you’ll get a notification if your ever experiencing unfavorable power conditions from lightening strike or general surge.

Siemens backs up their claims with a whole $25,000 equipment coverage in case of device failure, and provides one of the longest lasting warranties on the market. If this protector fails any time within the next 10 years, you’ll get a free replacement.

How do you know if it’s failed? With the handy LED status lights, it only takes a quick glance to see that it’s currently in operable condition. However, due to the build quality and design, we’d expect this surge protection system to outlast anything on our list.

In our opinion, this is the best whole house surge protector for the majority of home owners. It’s robust, versatile, and it’s multi-stage protection system is one of the best on the market. The next model up is for commercial use, so as far as whole house surge protectors this is about as good as it gets.

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Easton CHSPT2ULTRA – The Best Whole House Surge Protector on a Budget

Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA
Easton CHSPT2ULTRA Power Surge Protection Device
 Compact Size
✔ Works Worldwide (120V / 240V)
✔ 108kA rating
✔ NEMA Type 4 certified enclosure (very safe!)
✔ LED Indicator Lights
✔ $75,000 max equipment coverage
Limited lifetime warranty
Full warranty details
✔ UL Certified
✔ Inexpensive
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This “type 2” protector is designed to mount directly to your breaker panel and cover your whole. It’s fully isolated from external electricity, so you can install it either inside the electrical panel our outside – whichever is easier for you!

Personally, we’d recommend installing it outside of your whole breaker panel as this allows you to use the built-in LEDs to quickly see that it’s operational and hasn’t detected any power surges. The LED on the left shows you that the protector is still active. As long as it’s green, you know that this device is protecting all of your valuable devices. The light on the right tells you if there has been a surge or not. If both lights are on, your house is protected and there hasn’t been any incidents. If only the right light is on, there has been surges but the device still has enough capacity to protect your whole home. If both lights are off, there have been several surges and you’ll need to replace this device.

installed outside breaker

Because of it’s 108Ka rating, it’s unlikely that any standard household will ever have to replace it. we simply aren’t commonly exposed to that much electricity. This is true of most units rated for over over 200 amps. With the exception of catastrophic damage, the chances of having an electricity surge big enough to fry it is incredibly unlikely.

This unit is easy to wire up, requiring it’s own 50 amp breaker. It comes with a decent length of cable attached. if you wire it up inside the panel, you’ll likely trim in back a little. But if you wire it up outside, you’ll have a whole lot of wire wire length to install it without any splices.

Eaton also included the ability to protect your phone line and cable from power surges. As these commonly overlooked devices also carry electricity, having this feature is great for anyone still on a landline, as well as anyone with cable TV or internet. This, combined with its excellent warranty and low price, is one of the first models we’d recommend checking out.

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Leviton 51120 Power Surge Protector

Leviton 51120-1 Panel mounted
✔ Leviton 51120 Whole House Surge Protectors
✔ 14.4″ x 8.4″ x 6.9″
✔ 120/240V
Protection Against 60kA Power Surges
✔ Standard J-Box metal enclosure
✔ NEMA Type 1 rated enclosure (indoor use)
✔ LED indicator Lights
✔ $25,000 max device coverage
Limited lifetime warranty
Full warranty details
✔ UL 1449 3rd Ed. Certified
$$
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The Leviton 51120 is specially designed for residences with a power voltage of 120 or small businesses where there is a high risk of exposure to voltage transients. Voltage transients are a specific category of surges that originate from within the home, or from nearby houses and establishments. Large devices kicking on or off (such as water heaters) can cause a sudden influx of electricity that can damage smaller devices.

Although this protector is a little more expensive than some, it has a whole ton of features to make up for it. Its J-box enclosure makes it a fully self-contained unit. You don’t have to modify your existing breaker box, nor will you have to create a custom mount for it. It can easily be installed in the wall, or tucked away in a closet. The whole enclosure is already constructed for you and will fit nicely in your house. Just run a three-wire pair back to a free circuit breaker and you’ll be able to protect everything on the other side of the breaker. It features ease of installation make this one of the best whole house surge protector devices for anyone looking to DIY.

Leviton installed next to a panel

Although the 50Ka voltage rating may make it seem a little smaller than some competing models, it’s still able to offer protection from an off-site lightning strike. there is still a few key features in this unit. It’s capable of finding and preventing smaller surges that others would miss. This makes it the ideal first choice for any home that wants to protect their smaller, more fragile electronics. Devices like phones, laptops, stereos, computers, and televisions are all the ideal candidate for a whole house surge protector like this, and we’d highly recommend it to anyone willing to make a little extra investment.

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Schneider Electric HEPD80 Power Surge Protector

Square D by Schneider Electric HEPD80 Home Electronics Protective Device
✔ Schneider Electric HEPD80 High Voltage Protection
✔ 2.7″ x 3.8″ x 3.6″
✔ 120/240V
✔ 80kA rating
✔ Sturdy plastic square enclosure
✔ NEMA Type 4 rated (indoor and outdoor use)
✔ LED indicator Light – can be seen without opening panel
✔ $50,000 max equipment coverage
5-year limited warranty
Full warranty details
✔ UL 1449 3rd Ed. Certified
✔ NEMA Type 4 rated enclosure (indoor and outdoor use)
$
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The HEPD80 by Schneider Electric is one of the most affordable type 2 surge suppressors on the market. It comes in a simple metal enclosure and is designed to bolt directly to your breaker panel. With that in mind, many consumers have found it easier to mount it directly to their sheet rock (drywall) instead. These devices features an 80kA rating which is pretty middle of the road for the industry overall, but still way better for service voltage protection when compared with most whole house surge protectors in the same price range.

Device installation is designed to be placed on the first fuse after the main circuit breaker, which will allow it to absorb the whole surge before it heads towards the lower breakers.

This device is suitable for many homes both large and small. Despite it’s compact size, we found it to be very well made. The enclosure is nice and sturdy, and the leads are all 14 gauge or larger. With so many inexpensive products cheaping out on one of the most important components (the power leads,) we were happy to see that schneider didn’t cut any corners. We don’t normally recommend safety devices at this low of a price, but schneider meets all of our criteria. If you’re on a tight budget, this deviec is the best whole house surge protector for you.

Schneider surge suppressor installedHow To Install a Panel Mount Surge Protector in Your House

If you’re on a tight budget and know your way around a breaker, self-install is a great way to bring surge protection to your whole house with minimal time invested.

Although a device like these are fairly straightforward to install, they’re not quite as simple as a power bar. If you’re not comfortable doing your own electrical work, it might be worthwhile to hire a professional. There is high voltage behind the panel – nobody should service an electrical panel without proper protection. But if you follow our handy guide and take the right precautions, you can install these devices on your own.

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Types of Whole House Surge Protectors

A Whole-home device are the most robust models available, typically falling into one of two classes each with different levels of surge protection. If you want to learn about their differences in more detail, check out our explanation of the different types of surge protector models available and learn what is the correct choice to get appropriate device protection in your house.

Why You Need A Whole House Surge Protector

Not everyone has one of these units, but we think they’re a great investment, or think of it like insurance. What’s your most valuable device? like your TV, computer, or home theater system are receiving protection from smaller power strips with surge protection. But that’s not the best type of surge protector. Also, you may not have considered some other appliances that you can’t or don’t use a surge protector device for. For example, do you plug your phone or mobile device into a surge protected outlet whenever you charge it? What about your dishwasher, fridge, chest freezer air conditioner, washer/dryer, treadmills or that expensive espresso machine or blender you spent a few paycheques on? A single smalls urge might not be enough to kill your device this time, but over time even a minor surge can reduce it’s life span as many of them have low voltage components that need protection. Your house has a large electrical system, and one little install can protect your whole house without leaving any room for error.

Is it worth spending several thousand dollars to replace an expensive device, or are you better of spending between $100-$200 on a whole house surge protector?

electrical devices

What Features to Look For in a Surge Protector

Generally whole house surge protectors are often rated by the amount of current (measured in kiloamps, kA) that the device can manage. Most homes will never see a surge greater than 10kA. However, if you buy a surge protector that only has a 10kA rating and then experience a 10kA surge, the capacity of the MOV shunt device will be all used up in one go. Most households can get adequate protection using a house surge protector that features 50-80kA power rated surge protector. Of course, the higher rating you go the better, since it can handle a larger surge and will hopefully provide better house surge protection, but often the price will increase as the rating does over time.


You should also ensure that any whole house surge protector you look at is certified by an independent laboratory such as UL. This is the same company that certifies your washer, dryer, home theater, and any other high-voltage or high power consumption device around the house. The other small thing to consider is to get one with an LED indicator light that indicates whether or not the unit is properly functioning. No point of having it installed if you don’t know whether or not it’s protecting your whole house from an unexpected surge.

Install procedure

Even if you’re going to spring for a professional install, it’s worthwhile to see a video of the whole install process so you understand how specific features work and what level of protection you’re getting. that being said, the whole panel has very high voltage, so make sure you are appropriately trained before installing a whole house surge protector or any other panel mounted device.

Do Surge Protector Warranties Cover All of My Electrical Equipment?

Generally, any whole house surge protector you can buy offer limited warranties of varying lengths and amounts. The warranties offer tens of thousand dollars of protection to cover any damages caused to sensitive electronics due to failure of the protection device. However, it’s often quite difficult to prove and verify that damages are due to your correct use of the device. If you do ever pursue warranty action within the specified timespan, keep in mind that it may not be successful if the manufacturer decides that you may have done something to void your claim.

For example, for a successful claim with Schneider Electric’s whole house surge protector, you need to follow these steps: 1) have your original receipt 2) have an independent repair company verify the cause of any damage 3) file a homeowners insurance claim within 30 days 4) before repairing any damaged device, Schneider must be contacted 5) then you can send in the receipt, independent evaluation, proof of insurance claim and the damaged protection unit to Schneider for them to evaluate. Another customer from Leviton only received half of the total claim, due to the exclusion of outdoor equipment from their warranty. Warranty is one of the more appealing features, but it doesn’t always provide the protection you’d expect.

The lesson here? Read the fine print; follow every single installation, maintenance and usage instructions to a tee. When choosing a whole house surge protector, focus on a company that has good customer service, and they’ll make it easier to deal with the insurance during a claim and hopefully pay enough to make your wallet whole again in the event of a particularly nasty surge.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: How long does a whole house surge protector last?

A: Unfortunately there is no exact lifespan on even the best surge protector, due to the varying severity of power issues that you may encounter. You’ll have to carefully read the product features to understand the level of protection you have. Lightning strikes could fry the device, or it could take 5-7 years of a few smaller but still significant disruptions. You could also have very few pulsations and get up to 15+ years out of one. It’s hard to say and depends on a lot of factors. It’s important to frequently check the indicator lights to ensure the unit is still functioning properly and protecting all of your devices.

Q: Do these companies honour the warranties?

A: While we haven’t heard any horror stories of warranties not being honoured, it is always possible that you overlook a small detail in the warranty info leading to an unsuccessful claim. As long as you follow installation, maintenance and use instructions included by the manufacturer’s warranty info, and follow the steps for a warranty claim, you shouldn’t have any issues. Warranty offers an extra layer of protection and is one of the features we look for, but they don’t offer protection from improperly installed devices or out of specification power issues like certain types of lightning strikes.

Q: If a surge come from appliances like AC units and larger appliances, do I still have device protection before the breaker panel?

A: Any surge on a dedicated circuit like an air condition unit will transfer back to the breaker panel, where the surge protector can then shunt the surge, protecting everything else in your home, the actual internal wiring, and everything connected. Whether a surge originates from within the house or outside the house, a panel mounted surge protector features the equipment necessary to provide protection for the entire circuit.

Q: What’s features do Type 1, 2 and 3 whole house Surge Protectors have?

A: A Type 1 house surge protector protects from an external power surge, like from lightning strikes. These are installed between your power utility’s pole and your power meter, the electrical company often provides service for these to block a surge originating from the genstation. It’s features are industrial in nature, and not something consumers really need to worry about for protection. A type 2 hours surge protector are the ones listed in this article, installed in your breaker panels, and feature protection for everything in that breaker from surges. Type 3 surge protectors are your last line of defense, used at the point of contact – power strips, UPSs, etc. They don’t have much features, but offer a last line of protection.