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The Pros & Cons of Whole-House Surge Protector

James Elder
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by James Elder

Building household resilience means continuously questioning and anticipating future events. Why does the smoke alarm keep going off at night? Why does the circuit breaker keep tripping? Is the surge protector working? Will it be able to handle the next power surge?

Whole-house surge protector
Whole-House Surge Protector

We always need to be ready for the “what ifs.” So, in this article, we’ll discuss whether a whole-house surge protector is a good choice against one dreadful unforeseen event: power surges.

Many of you may argue it’s not and that a plug-in surge protector is a much better option. However, surge protectors are ineffective for high-wattage appliances like microwaves or dryers. Yet, a whole-house surge protector shields all the plugged-in devices within the household.

Let’s weigh down the pros and cons of the two to make it easier for you to decide what kind of surge protection you need.

Pros & Cons of Whole-House Surge Protector

Whole-House Surge Protection
Protects every single electronic in the house (from low-wattage devices to high-wattage appliances)
Protects the electrical wiring systemIt’s a reliable protective tool installed by a professional
Greater protection than a classic plug-in surge protector
Prevents costly repairings of damaged devices
  More expensive than buying a plug-in surge protector
You need a professional to install it, which costs more time and money
Can’t fully halt electrical waves on their own

Whole House Surge Protector 101

Looking at the chart above, we see that the advantages of a whole-house surge protector far outweigh the drawbacks.

But don’t rush to any conclusions just yet! Before making a purchase, we think it’s a good idea to learn more about the nature of whole-house surge protectors, including their benefits and drawbacks.

What Is a Whole-House Surge Protector?

A whole-house surge protector works similarly to a plug-in surge protector in shielding your home from dangerous power surges.

However, a plug-in surge protector is restricted in its protection, as it can only cover a limited number of devices and must be low-wattage to avoid an electric overload.

A whole-house surge protector, on the other hand, protects low- and high-wattage devices because its electrical capacity is incredibly high. It also keeps the entire electrical wiring system in your home safe.

How Does It Shield Against a Power Surge?

A power surge is a sudden increase in the energy charge that travels through your house’s electrical wiring system. Such energy will surpass your home’s maximum rated voltage  and damage everything it touches, from an electrical wire to one of your outlets or plugged-in electronics.

A whole-house surge protector works as a barrier between dangerous power surges and your home’s devices. It uses metal-oxide varistors that are able to withstand and resist high voltage spikes and divert the excess power through your home’s grounding power line .

So think of whole-house surge protectors as energy diverters. Without them, the power surge will directly hit your wiring system or electronics, causing burns, melting, explosions, and fires.

Where Is It Installed?

A whole-house surge protector is installed on your home’s electrical circuit panel. The installation procedure isn’t complex, but you must hire a qualified technician to set everything up.

We advise against DIY-ing the procedure unless you are an electrician. The electrical system is too complex and dangerous to tinker with if you’re untrained. It’s easy to cause defects that could put you in peril.

Compared to whole-house surge protectors, installing plug-in surge protectors is effortless, but that comes at the expense of limited protection of only four or five devices, leaving all other electronics, including the wiring system, vulnerable to harm! So, nothing is more trustworthy than an expert installation and the full-proof protection a whole-house surge protector provides.

How Much Does It Cost?

A whole-house surge protector ranges between $70 and $700. The average cost is around $300 for the system alone.

However, you must also calculate the added expense of hiring a professional technician to install it. Some electricians charge as little as $50, whereas others may charge you up to $1,000 per hour. So the total cost of a whole-house surge protector, including installation, would range from $150 to $1,700.

How Long Does It Last?

A whole-house surge protector may last two to three years in regions with regular power surges. However, they last between five to ten years in areas with infrequent power spikes.

So yes, your surge protector won’t last forever, but how long it will protect your system depends on the frequency and severity of power surges in your region.

Additionally, most companies provide guarantees of around 5 years for these products, which covers you in case of malfunction.

In a Nutshell: Is a Whole-House Surge Protector Worth It?

Yes, it is. Weighing the benefits and drawbacks, a whole-house surge protector is a worthwhile purchase, as advised by the National Fire Protection Association!

Additionally, installing a whole-house surge protector isn’t all that expensive. It’s a steal compared to how much you would pay for repairs and replacements without it. It’s also important to note that some things cannot be repaired or salvaged, like the hard disk in your computer and the valuable data it contains.

Finally, a plug-in surge protector is only helpful in protecting low-wattage devices like TVs, computer systems, modems, routers, digital clocks, and so on.

What will you do with the other valuable appliances during a power outage?

Whole-house surge protectors keep all your devices and your entire electrical system safe. They function as filters, preventing dangerous and irregular voltage from reaching your devices, appliances, or electrical wires.

The Best Surge Protection Is a Layered Protection

The layered strategy combines a whole house with a plug-in surge protector.

The first line of defense against voltage spikes should be the whole-house surge protector, followed by a second line of defense from a plug-in surge protector.

Whole-house suppressors cannot entirely halt electrical waves independently, and a small percentage of excess voltage may still pass through the wiring system. If this happens, plug-in surge protectors are that emergency layer of protection that can be very useful in this situation.


Whole-house surge protectors shield the whole house from a power spike and help avoid electrical fires. But everything has a flip side, even adding whole-house surge protection. Let’s summarize what that is for this device.

A whole-house surge protector protects every item in your home, including lightweight electronics, powerful appliances, and the entire wiring system. It’s an effective safety measure designed by experts and recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. It gives you peace of mind and minimizes the risk of expensive device repairs.

Its only drawback is the purchase and installation costs. But taking everything into account, we think it’s a worthwhile investment, especially if you consider the price of repairs if your home is struck by a strong power surge!

James Elder
James Elder
James Elder has been fiddling with gadgets and using tools from a young age. His father was an excellent craftsman and James enjoyed spending time with his dad and learning all he could about working with wood, drywall, electronics, and various household projects. James has worked professionally for many years and his passion is to share knowledge that is especially useful to aspiring handy men & women to get more done around their homes.
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