Had an individual at church today who is a General Contractor and performs Home Inspection on the side, now he has no other education or training other than what he has as a General Contractor.
He had a friend approach him who had their home inspected and were told by another Home Inspector that they needed a device known as a Whole House Surge Protector. Upon taking to an electrican friend, who told him it would cost $1000 to put in and it was not necessary, he was then telling the home owner and me that the first Home Inspector was in error.
Well, I have to sit down with this individual still and show him a few things. My original education being in the electrical field (originally educated as an engineer) have bit more theoretical knowledge than most electricians and was playing with Metal Oxide Varistors (the devices surge protectors use) in the late 1970s.
Now lets disect this and see what the real story is if we can.
First what is a surge, how do surge protectors protect against them and do they work?
First What Is A Surge:
- We have a lot more sensitive electronic devices in our home than in the past - surge protection now more than ever in the past makes sense. Washers, dryers, refrigerators, everything has electronics and circuit boards today.
- While some think of lighting as surge - most surges are NOT lightning related and come form either inside the home or from the utility company. These can be air conditioners, appliances, many things cause small surges. It is these small surges over the years that cause electronics to fail most often. Whole house surge protectors are ideal for this as you will NOT have surge protection on each and every receptacle.
- You may ask why a Whole House Surge Protector if the appliances create the surges most often. Well these appliances are most often on dedicated circuits - will send the surge back along the conductor to the panel where the surge protector will clamp it. Auto start generators are another culprit, and the surge protector will also protect from these type of surges.
- It is still best to layer protection for very sensitive equipment and the power bar with protection comes into play here. However, in some older homes without ground conductors the power bar surge protection will not work. In these cases the whole house protection is the only answer.
- What size to get? Well most homes will only ever see surges, even from lighting in the 10kA range. However, while a surge protector rated at 10kA would protect against a hit of this level, that one hit may be end of life for the device. It is better to look at a 50kA or 80kA unit which will then last you for years to come. There may also be a nominal discharge rating, one of 3, 5 or 10kA should be sufficient.
And NO IT WILL NOT COST $1000!! Perpahs $200 to $300 depending on what the electrician charges for the unit and labor.
Now without being too harsh - lets try to see what went wrong
- The first individual, who is a General Contractor and does Home Inspections on the side has zero training in Home Inspection. Now this individual is a great guy, a general contractor, but does not know what he is talking about in some areas of Home Inspection. Regardless of background, I have yet to see any individual including myself, who had anywhere near enough knowledge to be a good Home Inspector without some additional education and training.
- The other individual who performed the original Home Inspection. Now I have no idea who he was, but he indicated on the report that the Whole House protector was required. This is again incorrect and reflects poor training on their behalf. Now they may have had some Home Inspection training, but at least from this incident appear lacking in some areas. The device could have been recommended - but should not have been presented as something that was needed.
- The electrician - while coming from the electrical field myself, does not surprise me, is somewhat disheartening. Bottom line is too many, most in fact, electricians really know nothing more than they learned and never graduate beyond that. They learned often by working with others, have little if any ability to actually read a schematic or understand how an electrical or electronic device actually functions. They know how to connect a piece of equipment because somebody showed them. If they run into anything out of the ordinary they struggle. While this appears harsh, from my experience, this unfortunately is reality. I saw it myself years ago, apprentices could take and wire a three phase motor control if you told them what you wanted them to do verbally; but had that same person a schematic or diagram of the same circuit and ask them to connect it and they were lost. Frankly he had no clue and gave bad advise.
- The homeowner - while they were told they needed something they did not.
- They now do not have any protection which could benefit them.
- They have reduced confidence in Home Inspectors because of :
- poor communication or information from one inspector
- mis-information from a friend who pretends to be an inspector and got more mis-information from an electrician friend.