Power Surges (and I'm not talking about hot flashes)

Home Inspector with Helm Home Inspections

These days, I have added a new recommendation to the electrical section of my inspections.  "Add a whole house surge protector".  I learned through experience about this.  As our electrical grid ifrastructure ages, we become subject to more problems. 

Many of the appliances in our modern houses have computer boards controlling their operation.  These boards are very susceptible to damage by power surges.  We usually have surge protectors for our home computers, but what about that expensive clothes dryer or furnace.  Both have computer control boards.  I learned about the dangers when I came home one day to find the furnace not running, the dryer was dead and several other appliances were also dead (repairs came to nearly $1000). 

It turns out that the neutral wire on the transformer (on the power pole) came loose.  With no neutral wire there is no regulation of the voltage.  The power surge was apparently dramatic.  When the lineman showed up he did an emergency shut off of the power because of the fire danger.

Since they don't make plug-in surge protectors for 240 volts (dryer) and the furnace is hard wired, the only way to protect them is with a whole house unit.  I have one on order and it will be installed as soon as it arrives.  The good news is that we got a check for $990 from the power company today.

Posted by

David Helm, Inspector, Helm Home  Inspections Bellingham, Washington  Licensed Home  Inspector #272                                                       WSDA  Licensed Structural Pest Inspector  #69844                                                                                    

Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

David, great advice---I have had this as a "recommendation" in my reports for a while now and there are a lot of better types available now than there used to be.  I have a Murray panel and the breaker merely takes the place of two spaces in the panel and they have breakers included in the unit so the spaces are used for both circuits and the surge protection.  Pretty cheap insurance at about 150 bucks.

Nov 16, 2009 05:46 AM
Erby Crofutt
B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing ( - Lexington, KY
The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY

Hmm, more stuff I didn't know I didn't know.  The more I study, the more I learn.  Sorry to hear of your troubles.  Glad to see the power company is taking care of you though.



Nov 16, 2009 12:53 PM
David Helm
Helm Home Inspections - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp

Charlie, Thanks.  Just received my whole house unit.  It goes in today!

Erbie, Yeah we just got to keep learning.  Prior to this happening I never imagined it.  Once we realize that just about everything is computer controlled we see the need.

Nov 24, 2009 01:51 AM