Should I Buy CP&L's whole-house surge protection plan? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Should I Buy CP&L's (Carolina Power & Light) whole-house surge protection plan? I think this is a combination surge-device/insurance policy. I don't care about the insurance policy.

My questions about the surge-protector device:

1. What are the chances that it's not y2k compliant?

2. Will the device be effective at filtering damaging voltage spikes in everyday operation?

3. If I forget to throw off my main breaker after an outage, will the the device guard against damage from the "turn-on" voltage spikes/drops?

4. Can I/Should I buy a whole house surge protector of higher quality than that offered by CP&L and have an electrician install it privately.

5. Any other advice appreciated.

-- Puddintame (, March 01, 1999


Puddintame, if you don't mind, I would like to add to this thread the corollary question of what protection is available against brownouts. My understanding is that surge protectors do not protect against them. Are there any options beyond keeping equipment unplugged?

-- Brooks (, March 01, 1999.

I have seen many devices against brownouts in Thailand, where I spent several months. I think it's an autotransformer that boosts line voltage when it drops. I've never seen one in the US.

-- Ned (, March 01, 1999.

I'm getting some specific information about each of these questions from the company that I got my "whole house" protector from. One thing I specifically saw from their training session was that "plug-in" protectors don't do any realistic protection of even minor spikes.

Should know details by tommorrow afternoon.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 01, 1999.

We have line conditioners by Sutton Designs. These boost low voltage (sags, brownouts) and step down high voltage (spikes). American Power Conversion makes identical ones. (These also provide surge protection and EMI/RFI filtering.)

Approximately $80 for the 600 watt model, and $120 for the 1200w model. Commonly found in computer supply catalogs such as Global, etc. You might do better in price.

We use these on our computers, but there is no reason not to use them for other items.

To guard against the "turn on" voltage after a power outage, the line conditioner will help. That is, if you didn't have a chance to turn off and unplug everything. If you did, then to get an indication of when power is back up, leave one circuit live with a light bulb on.

Then plug things back into the line conditioner in case utility power continues to be "dirty", or leave unplugged. (Just putting some general advice out there.)

It's true that in general, surge protectors don't deal with smoothing out voltage. Particularly with Y2k problems with utility power, people should know that it's a common misconception that surge protectors protect against the most common damage, which is not from surges but from brownouts and sags. Computers are affected the most, but who knows what the power fluctuations are going to be like, and how devices could be affected? Better be safe than sorry.

As for whether the whole-house surge protection devices protect, I can't say but it would be good to know what you find out!

Some better model UPS's used on computers provide line conditioning, but the lower end ones don't. I think APC's BackUPS Pro does though. So if you have one that does, you could use it as a line conditioner, even if its function as a standby power supply would be fairly irrelevant in a Y2k crisis.

-- Debbie Spence (, March 01, 1999.

some home centers carry a surge suppressor for main breaker cabinet. i used to sell & install these as a licensed electrician back in the 70's and recently bought one for $44. they help compressors run cooler and accomplish the same goal as the one you have on your computer.

-- bryan skillestad (, March 01, 1999.

BUT Back up a couple answers and reread "surge protectors do NOT protect against the most common damage, which is from brown-outs/sags"


-- Chuck, night driver (, March 02, 1999.

Seconding what Robert wrote about "'plug-in' protectors don't do any realistic protection of even minor spikes": I lost a microwave oven that was "protected" by one of the plug-in devices during a thunderstorm.

I have heavy-duty APC phone line and power protection for my PC.

-- No Spam Please (, March 02, 1999.

This is a very good question! Puddintame you always come up with questions that get me thinking. Thanks...BTW brown-outs kill compressors and electric motors and that could become a big problem for many. Tman

-- Tman (, March 02, 1999.

Note: quasi-advertisement follows. (I bought my whole-house from this company, and trust Joe's responses. The units are expensive - but we lost two TV's and a VCR prior to installing the protector - and have had no problems since. End endorsement.)

The following answers the questions discussed above. Joe Shipman's address follows.

TO: Robert Cook

Below is in response to your questions:

1. Should I buy CP&Ls Surge Protection Device? It is usually best to buy insurance from an insurance company to simplify any claims process - and buy surge protection from a power quality specialist.

2. What about Y2K compliance of surge protectors? Innovative Technology (IT) Protectors are not date sensitive and are not affected by Y2K.

3. Will the device be effective at filtering damaging voltage spikes in every day operation? IT Protectors work with 24/7 to clean your electrical power of voltage surges and spikes.

4. If I forget to throw off my main breaker after an outage, will the device guard against damage from the turn-on voltagae spikes/drops? IT Protectors will clamp a surge from outside or inside your home regardless of the cause; however, a voltage drop should be addressed with a UPS, auto-transformer, or generator with an automatic transfer switch.

5. Can I/should I buy a whole house surge protector of higher quality than that offered by CP&L and have an electrician install it privately? Many whole-house surge protectors are on the market. Selection of one should be based upon its track record and testing. The IT Protectors are some of the best available. Protectors will save you money 24-hours-a-day by filtering your power, therefore, making your electrical/electronic equipment live longer and require less maintenance.

6. OTHER ADVICE: The main consideration is to protect all the metal wires entering our homes (electrical, phone and cable) to prevent any surges from entering. Add a UPS with software to provide a few minutes of power and provide for an orderly shutdown of your unattended computer during an outage/brownout. We could also add a generator with an automatic transfer switch in which case the UPS would keep your computer up until the generator was started and ready to take the load. Should the generator run out of fuel, the UPS would then do an orderly shutdown.

7. Studies over the last 15 years indicate that the outages and brownouts are only 11.5% of the recorded occurrences. Voltage spikes and surges are 88.5% of the problems causing damage to electronics. The best protection for your money is whole-house surge protection that will last. IT Protectors carry a 10-year factory warranty.

8. Auto-transformers will only handle brownouts and will be the most expensive option, considering purchase and installation (and also the least efficient).

UPS - UPS will provide power for a few minutes during a brownout or outage and, with software, can do an orderly shutdown of your computer. However, the surge protection built into a UPS will primarily protect the UPS.

1. Cheaper UPS will turn on at 132 volts and 104 volts, allowing your electronics to operate at voltages from 105 volts to 131 volts.

2. Better UPS will be operating off the batteries all the time and the batteries will be charging all the time that you have line power applies.

3. The best designed UPS will operate off the batteries and line power simultaneously to supply your computer with 119 volts to 121 volts all the time until line power is removed and the batteries run down.

The saying goes: If you just want a UPS, buy a cheap one. If you need a UPS, buy the best.

I have used the whole-house approach for 18 years and have had no equipment fail from voltage problems during that time and have used the same electrical surge protector for 17 of those years. The true value of this approach is the replacement cost savaings of electrical/electronic equipment. We never unplug anything, and my computers run 24/7 even during thunderstorms.

Summary First, install quality whole-house surge protection. Next, obtain a quality UPS with software for an orderly shutdown of your equipment. After that, obtain and install a standby generator with an autotransfer switch. This will prioritize your expenditures by putting the greatest return on investment items first.

Something else to be considered in addressing power quality is the wiring in your home. Air conditioners, microwaves, printers, coffee makers, garage door openers, refrigerators and lighting ballasts cause transient surges in your electrical panel, which then propagate to other equipment. When sensitive equipment is on the same breaker, it will experience degradation caused by the transients in the system. To avoid this degradation, true dedicated circuits should be run to all sensitive equipment.

Joe B. Shipman, CPQ Power Quality Specialist Phone: 770-794-5999 / 800-948-3373 E-Mail:

Quality Power Concepts, Inc. 3185 Cherokee Street, #100 Kennesaw, GA 30144

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 03, 1999.

My understanding is that middle- to top-of-line Trace inverters control transients up-and-down at the box to smooth out power to everything. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

-- BigDog (, March 03, 1999.

Thanks to everyone for providing the responsive info. Very interesting. Thanks especially for the research Robert.

-- Puddintame (, March 03, 1999.

I pulled this up just to flash it on the New Answers screen to responds to a current post 3-11-99.

-- Puddintame (, March 11, 1999.


You asked about Trace inverters. Such inverters have a different task than surge protectors or auto transformers. Inverters convert direct current, as from batteries or PV cells, to alternating current. As part of that task, they may be designed to attempt to maintain fairly constant voltage output, but that is different than taking noisy AC input and trying to maintain fairly constant AC output.


-- Jerry B (, March 13, 1999.

I have only read parts of the "Wired" magazine article about blackouts (April issue, solid black cover) - but I did notice that they had real trouble in Aukland NZ with surges and transients - not just in the first hours after the fire, but later as well, as they were trying to get power to come back when the four main cables burned out last year.

Troubling thing is - is that case their cables were bad, but their controllers should have been okay. Here, post-2000, the controllers and grid are what is expected to be dicey as power restored - I just don't seen a lot of physical damage that would happen to the power lines or transformers themselves - unless some super-huge surges burned out the high-voltage equipment itself.

(Assuming no mass riots or "burn the city" rampages by our fellow travelers.)

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 15, 1999.

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