Resurgence, or, Can I Surge Protect My Entire Building?
May 27, 2016 3:49 PM   Subscribe

The electricity in our neighborhood often spikes. So far it has killed several fancy toaster ovens, the electronics on the oven, and the rooftop air conditioner. It's easy enough to find a surge protector for a toaster oven (they make 1875 W surge protectors), but what about major appliances like ovens and air conditioners? Is there a way to surge protect where power comes into the building (in which case the entire condo building could benefit)? Are there heavy duty surge protectors for ovens and rooftop air conditioning units? Do they work?
posted by Native in Exile to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can buy a whole-house surge protector at Home Depot and I assume at a lot of places. I would recommend having an electrician install it, however.
posted by kindall at 3:55 PM on May 27, 2016

My utility offers whole home surge protectors and will pay for appliances that get killed despite it. Goes right on the electric box.
posted by tilde at 4:46 PM on May 27, 2016

We actually have a whole house surge protector installed. The electrician warned us that it wouldn't protect from everything -- if we get struck by lightning, or whatever. But for surges coming in through the actual power line, it's another good line of protection. In addition, we have UPS/surge protectors on our desktop computers.
posted by instead of three wishes at 5:00 PM on May 27, 2016

Adding that right now, our whole house protector is glowing green. Apparently if it takes a couple good hits, it will turn yellow (then red?) to warn that it has taken actual damage from surges, and needs to be replaced.
posted by instead of three wishes at 5:01 PM on May 27, 2016

They do make building sized surge suppression devices in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from residential on up. These devices cannot protect against every form of damage, but can reduce the worst things.

There is some question as to their effectiveness as size goes up. The best plan of attack is probably a combination of local surge suppression or conditioned power in the form of a UPS for the smaller items, as you're doing.

Power fluctuations can be particularly damaging to the components in your air conditioner, refrigerator, and freezer, primarily due to the risk of a compressor stall. The cheapest units may not be adequately protected. A surge suppressor will do nothing for this type of problem, and the A/C service guys, when faced with a damaged unit, may handwave about what's actually happened. You may wish to review any records regarding the air conditioner failure to see if you can identify what the technician diagnosed. A quality A/C unit will have better protection against this sort of thing, and I believe the higher end units with a scroll compressor are much more resistant to such issues. Obviously this doesn't fix your current unit, but might be helpful in the future.
posted by jgreco at 5:40 PM on May 27, 2016

I would get someone to come out with a line/power analyzer unit, leave it to log for several days, and figure out exactly what's going on. A surge/spike protector will not protect against brownouts or a number of other things that could be going on which also kill gear.

I've hired someone out to come to a previous workplace for similar issues. It wasn't all that expensive(think $150~)

I'd want a clear picture of the issue before I started throwing solutions at it.
posted by emptythought at 9:33 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

More terms of art to look for: power conditioner or power regulator. But first, contact the utility to find out why the power is so variable and see if they can't do something to regulate it themselves.
posted by fedward at 10:30 AM on May 29, 2016

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