What’s the “Best” Whole-House Surge Protection? 98

You probably haven’t stopped and really thought about exactly how many devices you have in your home that plug into a power outlet. So do it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait….

Now, think about how many of those devices have some sort of electronic or digital component. It’s probably way more than you realize. The obvious ones are TVs, video game consoles, Blu-ray and DVD players, audio and home theater equipment, satellite receivers, alarm systems, and computer equipment (including routers, modems, and printers). But there are plenty of additional devices in your house that you may not realize have at least one electronic control board inside — such as your furnace, whole-house vacuum, washer and dryer, garage door openers, security cameras, and pretty much everything in your kitchen from the oven, to the stove, to the fridge, to the microwave, and maybe even your toaster!

And one thing that all these electronic devices have in common is that they hate power surges.

I’d wager that you’re probably already aware of the importance of surge protection for electronic devices… and you may even have a few devices plugged in to surge protectors throughout your house. You probably also believe that if you experience a nearby lightening strike, or some other type of power surge, your “expensive” stuff is fully protected. It probably isn’t. And there’s probably only a handful of homeowners out there with everything protected. That’s why a whole-house surge protector is a crucial element of a comprehensive power protection strategy. But don’t just take my word for it. Spend the next two minutes enjoying some evil laboratory electricity sounds combined with one of the most boring narrators you’ve ever heard:

Or, just check out this photo showing a couple of whole-house surge protectors that blew following a surge caused by downed utility wires in West Chester, Pennsylvania. As ugly as it looks, they actually did their job and nothing else in the house was damaged:

Blown surge protectors -- they sacrificed themselves but did their job!

Blown surge protectors — they sacrificed themselves but did their job!

Why Power Surges Suck

What first got me interested in this subject was when my fancy KitchenAid fridge at my Utah house stopped working. I traced the problem to a fried relay and capacitor on the (impossible to replace) control board. And while there’s no way to prove it, I suspect the fried components were caused by a power surge from a nearby lightning strike (which can occur pretty often at certain times of the year in Utah). In fact, they’re pretty common in many parts of the world, as shown by this “lightning map” compiled by NASA (click here for more details on how NASA generated this image):

NASA Lightning Strikes Map

NASA Lightning Strikes Map

I also blame power surges (possibly lightning again) for causing my Utah house TV’s HDMI inputs to fail (before I put it on its own surge protector). I was already using surge protectors on all my computer and audio/video equipment, but I never thought to protect all the other electronics in my kitchen, or laundry, or garage, or wherever else. That’s when I started researching whole house surge protection options.


Why Whole House Surge Protection Alone Isn’t Enough

While the main purpose of this post is to compare a few whole house surge protection options and give you my recommendations, I don’t want you to come away with the notion that a whole house surge protector, by itself, is enough for you to feel totally protected. It should help you feel safer, but a perfect comprehensive power protection strategy should incorporate a “cascading” approach — meaning you’ve got a “first-tier” of surge protection at your power meter, then a “second-tier” of protection at your distribution panel, and then a “third-tier” of protection where your devices plug in. Not coincidentally, these three tiers correspond to the three standard classifications of Surge Protective Device (SPD) types: Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3.

Three Surge Protective Device Types

For a quick rundown of the three types of SPDs, check out this admittedly cheesy short video from Leviton:

Type 1 Surge Protective Devices

A Type 1 SPD protects against external power surges, such as those caused by lightning or when your power company switches capacitor banks on your power grid. Type 1 SPDs are installed on the “line side” of your main service entrance, between the utility pole and your power meter, right where power comes into your house. My favorite Type 1 SPD is Leviton’s 50240-MSA meter socket surge arrester:

Leviton 50240-MSA Type 1 Surge Protector

Leviton 50240-MSA Type 1 Surge Protector

Type 1 SPDs are the best first line of defense against power surges from the grid. But the big drawback to a Type 1 SPD is that your power company has to get involved in the installation process, since power to your service panel has to be shut off during the installation of a Type 1 device.

I wanted to install the above Leviton unit at my Seattle house, so I contacted Puget Sound Energy to ask them what I needed to do… but they informed me that they don’t allow Type 1 SPD devices at all. Bummer.

When I contacted Provo City Power (who serves my Utah house), I was glad to learn that they do allow them… but they require a special permit, plus I’d have to schedule two separate service calls: one to shut off my power, and another one to turn it back on after the Type 1 SPD was installed.

So while I’d love to have a Type 1 SPD, I can live without it for now and just run with Type 2 and Type 3 devices for now. But if you live in a part of the world that makes it easier for you to have one (or you have an awesome utility company that provides them), I highly recommend it.

Type 2 Surge Protective Devices

A Type 2 SPD is installed at your “branch panel” (more commonly referred to as your breaker panel). It’s called your branch panel because it “branches” the power coming from your service panel out to all the circuits in your house. A Type 2 SPD (sometimes called a “panel protector”) wires directly to a dual-pole breaker in your panel, and can protect all the circuits in that panel, as well as any sub-panels that might be connected “downstream.” Here’s Leviton’s 51120-1 Panel Protector Type 2 surge protector:

Leviton 51120-1 Surge Protector

Leviton 51120-1 Surge Protector

One major benefit of a Type 2 SPD over a Type 1 is that they also protect against surges that originate inside your house, like when a large electrical load is switched on (such as a pump, garage door opener, or air conditioner). Type 2 SPDs are what I’l compare and recommend below.

Type 3 Surge Protective Devices

A Type 3 SPD is the one you’re probably already familiar with, such as a surge strip or battery backup unit with surge protection. Type 3s are used at the “point of use,” meaning you plug the device(s) you want to protect directly into an outlet on the Type 3 surge protector, then plug the surge protector into a standard power outlet. Most people use Type 3 devices as their first and only protection for your devices against power surges, but (as their name suggests) they’re actually designed to be the third and final chance to protect your device against a power surge… before your device takes the hit.

I can think of two primary benefits to combining a a Type 3 device (like a surge strip or a UPS unit) with a Type 2 device and/or Type 1 device. First, their effectiveness at preventing damage to your equipment is dramatically increased, because any surges on your system will be partially suppressed by the Type 2 device before it even reaches the Type 3. Second, your Type 3 surge protectors will last longer, because they’ll be required to kick in far less often, and under far less severe conditions, which will extend their service life.

Because they’re so inexpensive, I recommend using some sort of Type 3 device for all your major appliances, as well as for any and all other electronic devices in your house whose cost or inconvenience to repair or replace outweighs the minor cost of the Type 3 surge protector. Here, for example, is the RCA PSAPP1R Appliance Surge Protector I now use on my fridge. You can scroll to the bottom of this post to read all the details.

RCA Appliance Surge Protector plugged in

RCA Appliance Surge Protector plugged in

I’ll only be focusing on Type 2 surge protectors for the rest of this blog post, so I recommend this post from TheWireCutter for Brent Butterworth’s recommendations on a Type 3 device.

Comparing Type 2 Whole-House Surge Protectors

Because I won’t be installing a Type 1 SPD, I wanted to choose a high quality Type 2 whole-house surge protector to act as my first line of defense. During my comparison, I focused my analysis on ten important criteria that should always be considered when evaluating a whole-house surge protection device:

  1. Most importantly: is the unit UL Certified under the UL 1449 3rd Edition and listed as a Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor (TVSS) on the equipment label?
  2. What Modes of Protection does the surge protector provide? Ideally, a good whole-house suppressor should protect, at the very least, Line to Neutral (L-N), Neutral to Ground (N-G), and Line to Ground (L-G) on both incoming lines.
  3. What is the Maximum Surge Current Capacity of the surge protector? This number should be measured in kA (thousands of amps) per phase, and essentially represents how big a jolt the unit can survive. It’s an important rating, but it’s not the only number to consider when evaluating a surge protector’s true capabilities (more on this later).
  4. What is the unit’s Short Circuit Current Rating (SCCR)? This represents the maximum level of short-circuit current that surge protector can withstand.
  5. What is the Voltage Protective Rating (VPR) for each Mode of Protection? This is sometimes also referred to as clamping voltage. VPR is like a golf score — lower is actually better. The VPR represents how much voltage is still “let through” to your equipment after the surge protector has done its job. When comparing surge protectors head to head, this rating should be compared based on the same Modes of Protection, and taking the Max Surge Current Capacity into consideration.
  6. What is the Maximum Continuous Operating Voltage (MCOV)? MCOV is probably the most important factor to consider when evaluating a surge protector. Higher is better, and it should never be lower than 115% of the system’s nominal voltage for both L-N and L-L. For example, if evaluating a 120V/240V unit and following the 115% rule, the L-N MCOV should be at least 138V and the L-L MCOV should be at least 276V. If it’s not, the surge protector isn’t any good.
  7. What is the surge protector’s NEMA enclosure type?
  8. What type of warranty is offered?
  9. What additional connections (phone, coax) are supported? Even if all your power cords are surge protected, surges can still travel through the coax cable that delivers your cable TV/Internet and satellite signal, or phone lines. A comprehensive power protection strategy should also include protection for these connections, too.
  10. Does the unit’s price represent a good value? If one unit is more expensive than another unit, is the increased price justified based on the increased features and/or performance?

After a lot of research, I narrowed my choices down to a final four. I’ve included their photos below, along with a link to their manufacturer spec sheets, which is where I gathered the comparison information.

Square D (by Schneider Electric) SurgeBreaker Plus SDSB1175C

Square D SurgeBreaker Plus SDSB1175C

Square D SurgeBreaker Plus SDSB1175C

Square D has a stellar reputation for quality in the electrical products industry, and there’s a good chance you’ve already got at least a handful of their products in use somewhere in inside your house (and probably inside your breaker panel). View spec sheet.

Eaton / Cutler Hammer CHSPT2ULTRA

Eaton / Cutler Hammer CHSPT2ULTRA

Eaton / Cutler Hammer CHSPT2ULTRA

Cutler Hammer is also a well-known name in the commercial electrical products world, and now that they’re owned by Eaton, they’re still cranking out quality stuff. Home improvement contractor / TV host Mike Holmes always included this brand of surge protector on the homes he remodeled — which eventually landed him an endorsement deal with the company in 2012. View spec sheet.

Sycom SYC-120/240-T2

Sycom SYC-120/240-T2

Sycom SYC-120/240-T2

This whole-house surge protector made my final four because it was recommended to me an electrician who informed me this was the unit they always install to protect houses in Utah against lightning strikes. View spec sheet.

Leviton 51120-1 Panel Protector

Leviton 51120-1 Surge Protector

Leviton 51120-1 Panel Protector

I’ve used Leviton products with great success in the past, and this unit is a big seller for them. View spec sheet.

So let’s compare these final four head to head in each category, and see who comes out the winner.

1. UL Listing

All four finalists are UL Certified under the UL 1449 3rd Edition and listed as a Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor (TVSS).

Winners: Four-way tie

2. Modes of Protection

As I said above, a good whole-house suppressor should protect at least, Line to Neutral (L-N), Neutral to Ground (N-G), and Line to Ground (L-G) on both incoming lines.

Square D: L-N / L-G / L-L / N-G

Eaton: L-N / L-G / L-L / N-G

Sycom: L-L / L-G

Leviton: L-N / L-L

I was really surprised, and disappointed, that the Leviton unit didn’t support Neutral to Ground or Line to Ground protection modes.

Winners: Square D SurgeBreaker Plus & Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA

3. Maximum Surge Current Capacity

One of the minimum requirements of my final four was that they have a max surge current capacity of at least 30kA (30,000 Amps). I chose this number because an investigation by the author of a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guide on power surges found that a 100kA lightning to a pole adjacent to a house would result in a maximum probable power surge into the house of 10kA per wire. Based on those findings, the IEEE recommends that a service panel protector have a minimum rating of 20kA to 70kA (or for high lightning areas 40kA 120kA) per hot wire. Those recommendations are many times over the maximum current that a whole-house surge protector will likely ever be called upon to suppress in any single power surge, but that recommended rating rating will assure that the surge protector live a long service life as it suppresses multiple smaller surges.

Here’s how the finalists did:

Square D: 80kA

Eaton: 108kA

Sycom: 100kA

Leviton: 50kA

All four are above my 30kA minimum, and well within the IEEE’s recommended capacity ranges. But the Eaton and Sycom units are at least 20kA higher than the third place Square D, which is 30kA above the Leviton.

Winner: Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA (followed closely by the Sycom)

4. Short Circuit Current Rating

The SCCR is the the maximum level of current that the whole-house surge protector can handle in the event of a short-circuit condition in the building’s wiring. These ratings don’t need to be anywhere near as high as the surge current ratings, because short-circuits won’t produce currents anywhere near as high as power surges.

Square D: 25kA

Eaton: 22kA

Sycom: 10kA

Leviton: 10kA

Winner: Square D (followed closely by the Eaton)

5. Voltage Protective Rating

Now we’re getting to the really important specs. Often referred to as a surge protector’s clamping voltage, a Voltage Protective Rating (VPR) represents how much voltage is allowed through the surge protector after it’s done its job. VPRs are given for each Mode of Protection supported by the surge protector.

Square D: L-N: 600V / L-G: 700V / L-L: 1000 V/ N-G: 1000V

EatonL-N: 600V / L-G: 600V / L-L: 1000V / N-G: 800V

Sycom: L-L: 1200V / L-G: 600V

Leviton: L-N: 800V / L-L: 1200V

By looking at these numbers alone, it appears that the Eaton barely ekes out a win over the Square D unit. But what makes it an even more impressive victory is that fact that while the Eaton allows 100V less through in L-G mode and 200V less in N-G mode, the Eaton’s max surge current capacity (compared above in #3) was 35% higher than the Square D… meaning the Eaton is doing a massively better overall job at handling surges; it can take a bigger “hit,” but still allows less voltage through after the fact.

Winner: Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA

6. Maximum Continuous Operating Voltage

As I said before, the MCOV is probably the most critical factor when evaluating a whole-house surge protector (or any surge protector, for that matter). In this case, higher is better,  as it represents how much voltage the unit can handle in a continuous overload condition (vs. just a momentary surge) and still remain operational.  A surge protector’s MCOV should always be at least 15% above the of the system’s nominal voltage for both L-N and L-L modes. For example, on a 120V/240V unit, the L-N MCOV should be at least 138V and the L-L MCOV should be at least 276V.

Square D: L-N: 150V / L-G: 150V / L-L 300V

Eaton: L-N: 150V / L-G: 150V / L-L: 300V

Sycom: L-G: 150V / L-L: 300V

Leviton: L-N: 150V / L-L: 300V

So, ignoring the fact that the Square D and Eaton units support more protection modes (which was compared in #2 above), all four units share the same ratings for their respective modes, and all of them are comfortably above the 138V and 276V minimums.

Winner: Four way tie

7. NEMA enclosure type

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) provides rating standards for electrical enclosures. The higher the NEMA enclosure type, the better they are at keeping out dirt, water, and other elements. A unit’s NEMA rating determines whether or not it can be mounted outside a building. If you’re really interested, you can check out NEMA’s full descriptions of their enclosure types here.

Square D: NEMA Type 1 (indoor only)

Eaton: NEMA Type 4 (indoor or outdoor use)

Sycom: NEMA Type 4 (indoor or outdoor use)

Leviton: NEMA Type 1 (indoor only)

It’s unlikely that you’d want to install any of these units outdoors, but I still value a higher NEMA enclosure type as better in this comparison.

Winners: Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA & Sycom SYC-120/240-T2

8. Warranty

Many surge protector manufacturers will try to impress and distract you with their “warranty.” Some will even go so far as to offer a cash equipment replacement guarantee of a certain dollar amount (often between $25K – $75K) in the event that your downstream equipment gets fried.

However, if you read the fine print (and especially if you search for online accounts of customers who’ve tried to cash in on those replacement guarantees), you’ll find that there are plenty of loopholes that allow the companies to get out of paying you a dime. Didn’t have an electrician install it? Denied. Didn’t get a permit to install it? Denied. Violated some local electrical code in even the smallest of ways? Denied. The equipment is “commercial” or “industrial grade” not commonly found in a home? Denied. Don’t have a receipt for the oven, or TV, or computer that got fried? Denied. Didn’t have a separate surge protector on your coax cable to the TV? Well… you get the idea. And here’s a classic taken straight from one of the warranty sheets: “Failure due to direct lightning strikes and temporary over-voltage are not covered.” Sigh.

And in the unlikely event you do happen to get them to cough up some money, they won’t pay the full amount. They’ll pay the lesser of their guarantee amount and your homeowner’s insurance deductible (which is probably lower than $25K). So I didn’t take into account any of the cash guarantees when comparing the warranties, since they’re probably all equally unlikely. Instead, I compared the units’ warranties against defects in workmanship, which is pretty much the standard by which any company warranties its products. In this case, the unit would only be “defective” if it failed to

Keep in mind that surge protector warranties almost never cover damages to a surge protectors after they’ve done their job. If they die after getting fried, that’s not a “defect.” When up against a maximum surge event, their job is to “sacrifice” themselves and burn up so that your more expensive devices will have a better chance of survival. So with all that understood, here’s how the warranties break down (I included a link to each of their warranties, too).

Square D: 3 years (but up to 5 years if you’re also using certain additional Square D products in the chain)

Eaton: Limited Lifetime

Sycom: Limited Lifetime

Leviton: Limited Lifetime

The bottom line is that these warranties are probably only applicable if you can prove the unit malfunctioned… and you probably can’t. So in that case, there are no winners here, and the real loser is the homeowner.

Winner: Not you

9. Additional Connections

It’s important to keep in mind that power surges can travel down any wiring… not just electrical wiring. In fact, the NIST suggests most damage to electronic equipment is from high voltage between power and phone, cable TV, and satellite wires. That’s why a comprehensive power protection strategy is impossible without also protecting all the wiring that comes into your house and connects to your electronic equipment, including phone and coax cables.

So this comparison category shows whether the final four units support protection of those additional wire types.

Square D: 1 coax and 4 phone line included

Eaton: requires additional CHSPCABLE module to protect 2 coax connections and additional CHSPTELE module to protect 3 phone lines

Sycom: None

Leviton: None

The Square D SurgeBreaker Plus is the only whole-house surge protector in this group that includes built-in protection for coax and phone, so it’s technically the winner here. But it’s a somewhat hollow victory, since (as you’ll see in the next category) the price of the Eaton surge protector plus the two add-on modules is still far lower than the Square D unit by itself. So the Square D gets the win… with a wink.

Winner: Square D SurgeBreaker Plus SDSB1175C

10. Price & Value

For each of the finalists, I’ve included the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, as well as a link to the best street price I could find for the unit.

Square D: MSRP: $630 / Street price: $247 (Amazon)

Eaton: MSRP: $269 / Street price: $118 (Amazon and Home Depot)

Sycom: MSRP: $166 / Street price: $79 (Amazon)

Leviton: MSRP: 410 / Street price: $193 (Amazon)

If this category were judged based on price along, the Sycom would be the clear winner. But value is a much better criteria to measure here, and in order to do that, we have to look at the comparisons in the previous categories. When looking at all the other comparison categories, the price vs. performance winner is clearly the Eaton.

Winner: Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA

Overall Results

Fourth Place: Leviton 51120-1

I had high hopes for the Leviton, as I’m a big fan of their products. But, it only offers two protection modes and was ridiculously low where compared to all the others’ Surge Current Capacity. It barely outperformed the Sycom in the VPR comparison, and but that’s the only category in which it didn’t finish last (or tied for last). Now add the fact that it’s got the 2nd highest prices, but ranks the lowest in overall performance, and it’s an easy call to rank it last in this comparison.

Third Place: Sycom SYC-120/240-T2

The Sycom barely edges out the Leviton for the third spot, but only because it provides a similar (but still inadequate) level of protection when compared to the Leviton at a much lower price. And although it did OK in a few categories, it failes miserably in the all-important protection mode category, and I can’t recommend it as a good option, even with the low price.

Second Place: Square D SurgeBreaker Plus SDSB1175C

Schneider Electric (owners of the Square D brand) are no rookies when it comes to surge protection. They also own the APC brand of battery backup units, which is far and away the most popular computer power protection brand on the planet. It performed well in nearly all the categories, including placing third for surge current, second in the VPR category, tie-ing for first int he MCOV category, and clearly winning for additional connections. However, it’s the most expensive unit in the group — and its street price is more than double the Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA, which beat the Square D in every category except the additional connections comparison. But even if you purchase both Eaton add-on modules to give it similar specs in that category, the Square D is still around $60 more expensive.

Overall Winner: Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA

The Eaton takes top honors in nearly every category, and even though it didn’t win the category for additional connections, you can still purchase the coax and phone add-on units along with the CHSPT2ULTRA and end up with money in your pocket. In fact, Eaton sells a “combo pack” called the CHSPT23PACK that includes the CHSPT2ULTRA whole-house surge protector, CHSPCABLE coax unit, and the CHSPTELE telephone unit. The add-on boxed click into the surge protector, sharing the main unit’s ground. I found the CHSPT23PACK on Amazon for $189. However, I don’t have the phone lines connected in any of my houses, so the best deal for me was to buy a couple of CHSPT2ULTRA units for $118 each at Home Depot, then pick up two CHSPCABLE units on eBay for $59 each, which gives me Type 2 protection for my panel and satellite cables for only $177 per house.

Update: I purchased the two CHSPCABLE units on eBay from Lon Lockwood Electric of Rochester, New York. When the package arrived they had included a note thanking me for my purchase, and telling me they’d thrown in a free CHSPTELE unit at no additional charge. Thanks, guys!


Unlike most of my other home improvement posts, I won’t be discussing installation of Type 2 whole-house surge protectors here. I recommend saving money by shopping for the best deal possible on the Eaton unit, and then spending that money on a qualified electrician to home to your house to install it properly. It won’t take him very long (you’ll probably not even hit his minimum rate), so maybe find a switch or two you need him to re-wire at the same time to get your money’s worth. Installing a Type 2 SPD requires opening your breaker panel, (ideally) installing a new dedicated two pole breaker, and wiring the SPD to your neutral and ground bar. You can potentially zap yourself dead (I’m not exaggerating) if you attempt to install one of these in your electrical panel on your own. So unless you’re an electrician, or have previous experience working with electric panels and know what the heck you’re doing, I highly recommend hiring an electrician for this job. I’m usually all about DIY, but not in this case.

Now, that said, I did install my own — but I killed the main power outside at the meter first, and I’ve done stuff like this before. Here’s what it looked like when I was done (notice I also clicked the compatible CHSPCABLE coax surge suppressor underneath it):



And here it is peeking out of the bottom of the panel with the door put back into place:

All buttoned up!

All buttoned up!

Again, the above photos are just for illustration. If you don’t know what you’re doing in your electrical panel, this isn’t the project on which you want to learn. Hire an electrician and watch him (or her) install it. Feel free to ask them questions as they do it. You’re paying them to be there — so maybe you can treat the expense of the service call as “tuition” to learn as they show you.

Don’t Forget Type 3 Point Of Use Surge Protectors

If you can remember all the way back to the cheesy videos at the top of this article, you’ll know that a “tiered” approach is the best way to provide maximum protection to your home’s expensive electronic components (including the ones you probably didn’t realize were “electronic”). A Type 2 whole-house surge protector is a good first line of defense (and a great second one if you can swing an install of a Type 1 device, too), but you should also use Type 3 “plug-in” surge protectors placed strategically around your house on your most expensive and sensitive electronics.

Type 1 and Type 2 Units Should Take Multiple Hits

One of the early questions posted on this article asked whether Type 1 and Type 2 surge protectors will need to be replaced following an “event” — as is the case with most Type 3 devices? I figured it was a good enough question to update the article and include an answer here.

Of the four above units I researched, three have two LEDs indicators that show their protection status for each line (the Sycom has only one). Because their max surge current ratings all exceed what’s likely to be the biggest single hit they’ll ever see, they are designed to suppress multiple events below their max thresholds before they “fry and die.”

If a power event hits your surge protector that either exceeds its upper limit (unlikely) or a smaller hit acts as the final “killing blow” after taking multiple hits over its lifetime (more likely), the surge protectors I researched are all designed to sacrifice themselves to protect everything downstream. At that point, the unit’s LEDs will not light up, indicating that it’s no longer protecting anything “downstream.”

So the answer to the original question is “After a single event? Probably not. But after repeated events (which could take place over weeks, months, or years — depending on your location), then eventually, yes.” That means it’s a good idea to periodically check your Type 1 and Type 2 devices as part of your standard home maintenance schedule… especially after a nearby thunderstorm. Your LEDs will tell you when it’s time to replace it.

Final Thoughts

Your investment in electronics (and appliances with electronics) in use in your home is probably greater than you realize. For a few hundred dollars (which includes installation by an electrician), you can protect those devices against power surges, which are far more common that you think.

Out of the four finalists I compared, I’d be happy with either the Square D SurgeBreaker Plus SDSB1175C or the Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA connected to my electrical panel as a whole-house surge protector and as part of my overall power protection strategy.

But I’m happier with the Eaton, because it’s a way better deal.

As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below!

Further Reading

  • Holy Cow. It is too early in the morning to have read this, now I need a nap. (#10.price alone) You are amazing.

  • Bryce

    Perhaps this is a silly question… Do Type 2 (and Type 1) devices require replacement following an “event” the same as Type 3? Presumably that would require another electrician’s visit, and in the case of a Type 1, cooperation from the electric company.

    • Great question, Bryce. And I’ll answer here and also update the article. The Type 1 and Type 2 devices I researched all have at least one (and most have two) LEDs that show their status. They will be able to suppress a number of events that are below their max thresholds, before burning up. If an event hits them that either exceeds their max (unlikely) or acts as the final straw after multiple hits over time (more likely), then the unit is designed to sacrifice itself to protect everything downstream. At that point, the LEDs will not light up, indicating that it needs to be replaced.

      • Bryce

        Thank you so much for the clarification (and the great post, of course)! I’m accustomed to Type 3 single-use equipment, so it’s a relief to learn that Type 1 and 2 can take a few hits before needing a service call.

        • Thanks again for the great question, Bryce. I’ve added a new section of the article to proactively answer it. 🙂

  • Cheryl Hunt-Black

    You are amazing! I live in a remote mountain region of Costa Rica where we have truly terrifying lightening. I’m technologically challenged but you explained it in a way I can understand….mas o menos. I doubt that the power company will even know what a type 1 device is but I’ll ask. I’ve lost numerous expensive pumps for my water, a fridge etc. I disconnect all my plugged in devices during a storm but my pool pump, electric dog fence, water pumps. Pool chlorination devices are in a bodega and have their own distribution panel. I gather I need 2 type 2 protectors…one for the house and one for the bodega. Muchísimas gracias! I’m so grateful for your advice.

    • You’re welcome, Cheryl! My aunt also lives in Costa Rica, and has many of the same issues as you!

      Even if you’re not able to get a Type 1 installed, go ahead with a Type 2. If the distribution panel in the bodega is “downstream” of the main panel for the house, then just a single Type 2 will protect everything. If both panels connect directly to your “mains” disconnect, then you will need two of them. Don’t forget to also include some Type 3 at the point of use for your most important devices. Come back and tell us how you make out! 🙂

  • Wes

    Keep in mind that for a type 3 surge protector to work properly there has to be 30ft of wire between the type 3 and the type 2 surge protector back at the service panel. If there isn’t then a type 2 has to be used. I just leant that a couple days ago but I forget where I read that now. Often you’ll see that 30ft requirement in the manual or insert with the product so now I know why.

    • Hi, Wes. Thanks – that is worth mentioning, and I’ll include it in the post.

      As to where you read it… you could have read that in any number of places, because the National Electric Code (NEC) as of 2008 says that permanently connected Type 3 SPDs need at least 30′ of wiring between them and the panel.

      However, as of the 2011 code, this requirement only applies “if the Type 3 SPD includes a cautionary marking, tag, or instruction statement pertaining to the 10 m (30 ft) distance.” To be exempt from the labeling requirement, the Type 3 SPD has to actually have passed the Type 2 Nominal Discharge Current Test under UL 1449 3rd edition. That means it basically performs like a Type 2 SPD, and therefore can be safely installed closer than 30′.

      The 30′ length requirement is due to the drop in resistance over 30 feet of romex wire. If the Type 3 SPD is closer to the service panel than 30 feet, the higher resistance there’s a chance that the Type 3 SPD will take the brunt of the impact — rather than the Type 2, which totally defeats the entire concept of a cascading or tiered approach. That length of wire creates a large stepdown in the current that the end of branch needs to deal with when there’s a Type 2 SPD installed at the panel.

      Thanks again for pointing that requirement out! 🙂

  • John Kim

    Thanks for posting this very informative article!

  • Bert Gunn

    hi Steve, Thanks for a great article. In my panel, all the neutrals and grounds are connected to same bus bar as it is directly off the meter with no breaker outside. Therefore, I think that all i need is a L-L and L-G surge protector. A 4 wire would be needed if there is a breaker outside or a longer entrance wire, as then, there could be a differential between n and G in case of a large surge. I also just ordered a surge capacitor (CA302 by Delta) along with their LA302 lightning arrestor. my feeling is that these are needed in addition to the surge protector for large strikes. It was very interesting to read about the capacitor and how it reacts faster than a surge protector or lightning arrestor. the cap does not absorb the surge, but holds it and releases it over a bit of time (well, milliseconds) to smooth out the signal. What do you think?

    • Paul_Scheufler

      I had those two items in my panel. They did not stop a lightening surge from the street that went thru my panel and phone box and destroyed most of the electronics downline that were protected by type 3 SPDs. When the lightening got to the end of the last branch, it did the most damage. My last outlet in the attic exploded. The attic fan plugged into it caught on fire! It pays to have the best comprehensive protection you can find. I called and emailed Delta but have not heard any response from them.

      • b balka

        There are 3 key components to effective surge protection. Buying a good surge protector is the first key component. Installation of the surge protector is the second, especially minimizing wire length (resistance) and bends/twists (reactive resistance). Not discussed here yet, the third key component is how effective your ground system is, i.e. what your connecting this protector to, to do it’s job. In my profession our spec is 25 ohms or less ground resistance. It won’t matter how good a surge protector you install or how well you install it, the surge protector won’t be able to perform if your ground resistance is high. Soil conditions/type and the amount of available soil around the rod impact the resistance to ground. To get an effective ground in good soils, the rod needs to be install where soil surrounds the rod (8′ rod length minimum), having a 6 to 8′ radius of unimpeded soil surrounding the rod, (think of it as a cylinder of soil 12 to 16′ in diameter and as long as the rod driven into the ground). If your rod is installed close to your foundation, a large percentage of the ground mat around the rod doesn’t exist as it’s been displaced by the foundation. Many times near a foundation the soil is also dryer, which further exasperates the problem. Poor soils, such as sand, may require deeper penetration to get down to a level where the soil is more compact and more water exists in the soil. In some cases, deeper may be impractical because of rock, etc., so multiple parallel rods can be installed to try and achieve the right level of resistance. In any case, you want a total ground resistance below 25 ohms during the driest part of the year to get an effective ground, and the lower, the more effective your surge protection will be. This also means the grounding cable should either be cad welded to the rod or insure the ground rod clamp is well clamped to mitigate resistance. Connections from the rod and all the way back to the ground buss bar in the panel should be tight with no corrosion to insure little to no additional resistance.

        • Paul_Scheufler

          Thanks for your input! I am no electrician. I know that there is a ground rod about 4 feet away from my house that is connected to my panel. There is also a requirement here to use the water pipe, at the water service entrance as a ground. My Delta Lightening and Surge Capacitors were not wired to their own breakers but may not need that. They were wired directly to the mains. Not sure if that was correct either. A new Eaton unit will be installed soon. I am wondering if surge capacitors like Delta offers make sense to be included for extra protection. Would anyone care to comment on that please?

          • b balka

            I don’t have any recommendations you reference for the extra protection, but wanted to make a comment in reference to your direct connection to the main breaker. I would strongly suggest you remove that connection and install it per manufacturers recommendation. This means if you have a 100A or 200A main, the small wires going to the surge protector could be subject to that level of current if something went wrong, such as an internal short in the surge protector. This would probably never trip and create a significant fire hazard.

  • I am a professional electrician and I appreciate your thorough review of the surge suppressing products. I prefer the Square D SDSB1175C, if you have the space to mount it. The installation is neater more professional looking. It can be cut into the wall below or along side the Load Center (we install only Square D QO models) and with its flush cover it provides a neat and business like installation. I don’t like the look of exposed equipment nippled on and hanging below a panel I prefer equipment mounted in an enclosure. I imagine if a surge protector ever blew form a mega event there could be shrapnel all over the BMW or Lexus in the garage if it was made of plastic with no enclosure. I think the steel enclosure of the SDSB1175C would contain such event if it happened. I have watched videos of panel boards and molded case circuit breakers blowing up during bolted fault testing and it is looks like a mini bomb going off once the equipment goes beyond its current carrying capacity.

    • MrPete

      Eaton does sell an inexpensive flush-mount kit, CHSPFMKIT. Or you can purchase a metal enclosure (normally designed for outdoor use but usable indoors as well), CHSP3RTELCABLE.

      Seems like a pretty comprehensive line, including steel if you want it 🙂

      FWIW, a “mega” event can easily blow out a normal metal box. Lightning strikes are essentially unpredictable. Some things may be left alone, while the uber-voltage hops over and destroys something else.

      I will never forget the closest I ever got to a big lightning strike: while waiting at a traffic light, a bolt hit the far right corner of the road, ~50 feet away. The bolt was about 2 feet across, lasted for several seconds (!), made a gigantic hummmmm….. and when it stopped, everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief that we were still alive. Traffic lights gone (of course), cars still worked, and a huge smell of ozone in the air. I do NOT want to be in the path of something like that. Ever! HUGE respect for the power of lightning.

      • Thanks, Mr. Pete. I’ll look into the flush mount kit! 🙂

  • MrPete

    Seems to me that in the long run (especially places that have a lot of induced-voltage surges due to nearby lightning), the major cost is going to be replacing a unit every several years.

    You didn’t rate or explain the ease/difficulty/cost of replacing these units once the first one has been installed.

    I’ll ask it this way: with an existing professional installation, which units (if any) can be replaced-on-failure without calling in a professional electrician? Which ones are easiest to replace?

    • MrPete: That may indeed be the major cost, and hopefully less expensive than replacing the downstream electronics. 🙂

      I didn’t do any rating of the ease/difficulty/cost of replacing these units, primarily because I install my own (but don’t recommend that for those not familiar with breaker boxes). As far as I could tell, all of the Type 2 units need to be replaced in the same way, at the panel, since they wire directly to the ground and neutral bars in the panel, as well as to a breaker. Replacing them will be slightly cheaper time-wise than installing the first one, since any drilling or punching out of knock-outs is already done, and hopefully any dedicated breaker is already installed. So that’s pretty much a wash between all units.

      • MrPete

        Thanks, Steve.

        At the Home Depot website, I see a review mildly knocking the Eaton unit because its “pigtail” is stranded aluminum wire:

        “The only gripe is that they used 14 gauge stranded aluminum wire for the unit’s pig tail to hook up. This unit is not cheap, they could have spent $ .50 more on copper wire!!!. Stranded aluminum wire needs a solid compression type fitting to attach the wires to the neutral /ground buss bar and the breaker lugs, because they are so much larger than the wire. I improvised and used 14 gauge round butt spice connectors to attach the pig tails properly, because the stranded aluminum wire will mash out under proper tightening.”

        I have no idea if all of them are like this, or whether this really is an issue…

        • The “stranded aluminum wire” is probably tin plated copper, lay people can’t tell the difference. Aluminum wire smaller than #8 is no longer used in buildings and I doubt that Eaton would use aluminum wire in their products, they produce a high quality line of equipment.

        • len

          The wires may be AL, and not tin plated. BTW, AL can be plated too! The newer panels and breakers can easily deal with Aluminum, they are dual rated AL/CU. The larger cables for HVAC and service entry in my QO panel are AL. There are coatings on those sections to reduce issues. Tight screw terminals are fine for AL. Also, this unit draws very negligible current (usually 0 unless there is a surge, maybe .01Amp for the LED). There will NEVER be a heat issue. All aluminum wiring issues were at the outlets, because the outlets were designed for CU wire and almost never in panels. I’m sure Eaton knows this and don’t want any issues!

  • MrPete

    BTW… there’s something about this that remains confusing:

    A normal Type 3 unit handles regular surges “invisibly”, clamping the surge and just carrying on as if nothing had happened.

    As you note, the Type 2 units involve a connection to a large circuit breaker. What is the function of the circuit breaker here, under what conditions does it “pop”, and does this mean that having whole-house protection means I am more likely to see some or all of my power disappear when a surge hits? I hope these questions make sense!

    Thanks sooo much…

  • Carol

    What am I missing? On its face, the Levitron warranty seems to cover without homeowners insurance claim, professional installation, permits, etc. The negative seems to be time frame to collect anything. http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/SectionDisplay.jsp?section=43062&minisite=10251

  • Marty M.

    Amazing article! I just found this while trying to research this after my high-end microwave/convection blew 2 boards because of a surge. I have one question…..
    When the type 2 SPD fries, do you lose power to your home, or just lose protection? Just wondering if I have an “emergency” call to the electrician when the time eventually comes? Or, is that what the circuit breaker is for?

    • Just lose protection, and then you can replace the Type 2 SPD at your leisure (although I’d do it soon, so as to remain protected).

    • I believe the use of the 50A circuit breaker helps to assure the power stays on in your home after a large surge knocks out the type 2 surge suppressor. Eaton says you can use a breaker as small as a 15A, but full coverage is obtained by using a 50A. You certainly don’t want the power to your entire home to cut out after a surge. You’d lose your refer and freezer items pretty quickly if you were not home.

      • b balka

        The breaker installed is so current beyond its rating doesn’t travel through the surge protector and potentially start a fire, the breaker would trip instead. This breaker is only connected to the surge protector, not other circuits in the house. A smaller breaker, such as the 15 amp, may prematurely trip before the surge protector had a chance to drain all of the surge current to ground.

        Steve, just curious why you twisted the leg wires from the breaker to the surge protector? Wouldn’t that effectively cause inductive resistance, reducing the effectiveness of the surge protector or even allow bleed over surge current from 1 leg of the panel to the other?

        • Absolutely correct. After I wrote the above comment I realized I didn’t say what I was thinking very clearly. Thanks for the excellent clarity now!

          FYI, Eaton (and others) say reason the wire is loosely twisted is to make sure both of them are as straight as possible from the surge suppressor to the load center. That keeps the resistance as small as possible. What is not wanted is to have one wire (or both) having a sharp bend in it that would increase resistance. It doesn’t seem like that would matter all that much, but apparently it does. A small increase in resistance due to bends and crooks in the wire reduces the effectiveness of the suppressor.

          • Marty M.

            There were some comments earlier about the Eaton product having Aluminum leads…..I liked the unit, but don’t want Aluminum wire in my home, so I contacted Eaton support, and they told me that yes, the leads ARE stranded Aluminum. My next choice would be the square D. I don’t know if I have enough room for it due to how my panel is framed (my basement, where the panel is, is finished). Just wanted to pass along what I heard about the Eaton wiring.

          • The Cutler Hammer is a good unit, especially for the money. I just bought one on eBay for $110 shipped. Installed very easily and looks well designed and professional on my load center. I just can’t imagine why they would use aluminum wire in place of copper. It may be an issue of resistance of the stranded aluminum vs stranded copper, given the surge anticipated to be carried by the short jumper from the breaker to the suppressor.

    • When the type 2 absorbs enough surge to render it useless, power is still hot to the house. The same goes for most type 3 (point of use) surge suppressors. You really don’t want them to stop powering the item in question, especially if you have them attached to a refrigerator or freezer. Both type 2 and type 3 will have to be replaced when they no longer show the green LED light(s) that indicate protection. Some manufacturers actually replace the suppressor when it dies from a surge. This week my Tripp Lite Isobar 6 (type 3) died for no apparent reason. I sent them an email right away and they replaced it no questions asked. Warranty on the suppressor itself and the appliance protected is certainly a factor to consider when shopping for suppressors.

  • dcweeks

    Are the Square-D “regular” surgebreaker products (not the plus) going to provide a similar level of protection? The catch being that you have to have a Square-D homeline or QO panel? If you have one of these panels and buy the equivalent surge breaker product, it seems like it might be an even better value if that is the case. Those products have a $60 to $70 street price and (I’m not clear on this) don’t need to be hooked up a dedicated breaker either so that might be further savings.

  • Steve, Your installation might be a little more efficient if you had mounted the CHSPT2ULTRA horizontally straight across from the 50A double breaker. That would allow the wires to be totally straight from the surge protector to the breaker. I have read over and over again that the wires need to be as short as possible and as straight as possible to minimize resistance during a surge event. This seems minor and unnecessary, but it is evidently quite important You would have had to drill through the stud at the side of the panel to mount this way, but in my opinion it would have been worth the effort. In order to mount through the stud, you must extend the length of the CHSPT2ULTRA threaded mount by using PVC threaded connector mounts. I had the exact same situation you did with studs on each side of the service panel. I mounted the unit through the stud on the side of the panel which allowed very short twisted wires straight from the CHSPT2ULTRA to the 50A double breaker.

    • Great tip, Michael. Thank you! I did consider that, but didn’t want to go through the extra steps… but it might be worth it.

      • The odd thing about surge protection is we’ll never know what is worth it and what isn’t. If it gets tested and survives or fails, we’ll really never know why it worked or didn’t work. Every surge event is different, and we don’t ever know what really happened and to what degree. That’s why I say lets make the install as close to perfect as possible, cutting no corners and taking no shortcuts.

        Your analysis of home surge protection is the best available that I was able to find. To protect my house I was going to a different product mix until I read your analysis. I then bought a CHSPT2ULTRA Type 2 suppressor and paired it with Tripp Lite IsobarUltra Type 3 products at all my TV, Home Theater, and Computers. I also added Leviton hospital grade surge outlets at my kitchen range, refrigerator, dishwasher, and clothes washer. I have a horse farm with 7 overhead door openers and there I added IsoblokUltra outlet surge protectors too. I figure now I am as fully protected as I can be (without involving the utility company by installing a type 1 at my meter). I am sleeping well at night and for less than 400 bucks (all products bought at a substantial discount on eBay), most all surges will be uneventful. I installed a full new kitchen last summer and between the new appliances and my 50″ and 70″ TV’s and several computers with peripherals, I have many thousands of dollars that are vulnerable to even minor surges. The price to protect them all is small and a fraction of the cost to repair most any one item.

        • Totally the same approach I take with my electronics, Michael. Compared to the price of replacement hardware, it’s cheap insurance!

  • Waldo

    I own a 1800 sq.ft. manufactured home that plugs into a 50 amp pedestal. (It is amazing what you can do with 50 amps if you are careful and use all the gas possible.) Question: Would it make sense to use a premium 50 amp RV surge protecter like TRC 34750-001-LCD 50 Amp Surge Guard? This would avoid all installation cost, but would it do the job. I live in Santa Cruz CA where lighting is very rare. Your article is the best review of any product category I have ever seen. I will be reviewing your blog post before buying anything including water.

  • Newt T.

    Hi Steve,
    Thanks for a great article. I have a silly question with the same subject as Mr.Pete and Marty M. above. I have a Ditek (dead) which was professionally installed. After removing the breaker panel, I saw the White and Green wires attached to the Ground bar and the 2 black wires attached to the TWO MAIN BLACK WIRES coming from the street (NO circuit breaker used).
    Following your advice, I bought a Eaton CHSPT2Ultra and a dual pole 50A breaker.
    Pardon my ignorance, but it seems to me that the Surge Protector 50A breaker does the same job as the Water heater or the stove/dryer…. breakers. They only protect a single item, not the whole house
    How are my equipments protected IF I have a surge which tripped the 50A breaker or zapped the Eaton surge protector
    Thank you very much for your assistance
    Newt T.

    • len

      No, they protect the whole house. During a surge event they create a momentary short circuit to drain off current and lower voltage. Maybe like the safety valve on your water heater?

      When you get a surge the impulse current and voltage flows thru the wires and the Metal Oxide Varisors inside relieve the pressure. The 50Amp breaker shouldn’t trip. Most units need just a 15AMP., but the ultra can handle more current. Surge events happen in microseconds. If they hit your computer the surge is going to tear thru whatever to reach ground. Better it happens in the CHSPT2ULTRA instead of your new LCD TV.

      Beyond this explanation you would have to understand the theory of electricity. Things that happen very fast electrically can produce high voltages. Same thing happens with the spark plugs in your car, they purposely make 12 V become 50,000V, but it happens in an instant to light the gas.

      • Newt T.

        Hi len,
        Thank you very much for your explanation. Now, I have a slight idea how the surge protector works.

  • David

    My panel is flush mounted in a concrete wall, any suggestions on how to mount the Eaton surge protector ? I believe the easiest way would be to mount the surge protector on the wall beside the panel and bring the wires out between the panel tub and panel cover.

    • Hi, David. That sounds like a good approach. Just make sure the wires are well insulated. I’d consider using some flexible conduit and chiseling some of the concrete to get it into the box.

  • Craig

    Hi there. I have a quick question. I am comparing a Square D HEPD80 against the CHSPT2ULTRA, as they are nearly identical in price. The HEPD80 has a bit lower rating of 80kA (vs 108kA), but says it has 6 modes of protection where the CHSPT2ULTRA list 4. Is this only due to that the Square D is counting the L-N and L-G separately for each leg? Any other thoughts on this model? Thanks for a very informative article!

    • Square D (and Schneider Electric) make quality stuff. But it looks like the HEPD80 has the exact same specs as the other Square D unit I reviewed — same max surge rating (80kA), same short circuit rating (25kA) and while the data sheet says “6” modes of protection, they list the same four in their VPR ratings as the rest (also with the same specs as their sister unit). I’d have to imagine that yes, they are probably counting the L-N and L-G separately. The price at Amazon seems pretty good, so it’s probably not a bad choice!

      • Craig

        Thanks so much for the quick reply. I think given that the HEPD80 has no additional modes of coverage over the Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA that you reviewed, I would probably just choose the Eaton as it is the same price, but has a higher max surge rating of 108kA. Do you regard the quality of the Eaton brand as the same as Square D?

        • Hi, Craig. Yes. They are both top quality products, and either would probably save your bacon. 🙂

    • len

      N-G are usually tied together at the main panel so it don’t matter. If you mount in a subpanel then then the N-G travel down separate wires till they reach ground, so it may be small issue, maybe if you have large machinery in your home. 99% of the time the issue will be on the hots b/c that is what is on the poles. I guess if lightning strikes your ground then you need some ground protection, but most of the charge will go into the ground.

  • Check eBay prices. I bought the Cutler Hammer Ultra new in the box for 110 bucks and free shipping. Its a great unit. Square D products are all excellent and are also available on eBay for just a bit more than the CHSPT2Ultra, but why spend it?

    • Bob Smith

      Because Square D is made in America, the Eaton in china. The job you save maybe your own.

  • Shimon


    Thank you for an incredibly informative article. I have had a hard time getting clear answers on whole house surge protection and your article is the best I have found.

    Here in Florida, the power company Florida Power & Light (FPL) offers a Type 1 option called SurgeShield (http://www.fples.com/residential/surgeshield.shtml). It is a monthly rental from them that costs about $125-130/year. The plan includes some cost coverage if there is damage, but I’ve read it is hard to collect. I spoke with an electrician and he recommended just paying for SurgeShield rather than paying an electrician to install a system and then paying to replace it every few years.

    My questions for you are:
    1) If you had the option to do something like SurgeShield, would you?
    2) If I do SurgeShield (Type 1), do I need Type 2?

    I do use Type 3 – some as power strips and some as Leviton 15amp receptacles (behind wall mounted TVs). I probably need one for the fridge! Going to look at the one you used.

    Thank you,

    • Hi, Shimon. If you live in an area at high risk for surges, then $10 a month sounds like cheap insurance. Of course, it would probably be even cheaper if they let you install your own, but if that’s not allowed, then I’d strongly consider it.

      To answer your second question, yes – I would still install a Type 2, as well as continue to use Type 3 devices. A Type 2 will help protect against surges that might originating inside your home’s wiring (by something you’ve got plugged in) and do it better than a Type 1 since it’s on the same side as the main disconnect.

      • Shimon

        Thank you for your response! I will look into it. I’m not sure if they would allow a Type 1 other than their system.

  • I have (like most people) 3-phase 240 coming into my house, which is split into various circuits. Does something like the CHSPT2ULTRA protect against surges on all lines, or just the pair it is connected to? Seems to me, naively, like I’d need one for each hot-to-neutral line pair.

  • I have 3-phase 240 coming into my house, which is split out into various lines. If I install just one of these devices, won’t it only protect part of my lines? Or am I missing something?

    • As I understand it (and I’m NOT an electrician), putting one on the first sub-panel will cover everything. But maybe an actual electrician reading this can chime in?

    • The surge protector works to protect all circuits downstream of the protector. It does this by being the path of least resistance for a surge. Only one is needed to protect the entire panel.

  • Craig

    Hi again Steve,
    I picked up a CHSPT2ULTRA. Home Depot currently has them on sale for $81 and some change, so a hell of a good deal!
    Quick question. I have read that the biggest efficiency killer is lead length, and they recommend to keep the leads as short as possible (<12"). I have my new 50A breaker installed in the top left slot. The Ground bar is on the left side as well. My plan is to mount this device on the panel just to the side of the breaker so the L1, L2 wires can go directly into the breaker.
    My question is, since this is in the main panel where Ground and Neutral are bonded, do you see any issue with running the ground and neutral leads to the ground bar, instead of having to run the neutral all the way over to the other side of the panel?
    Thanks again!

    • Not being an electrician, I don’t know enough about it to answer that with any authority! I’d call Eaton and ask. If you do, please post what you find! 🙂

      • Craig

        So I contacted Eaton as you suggested and posed this question:
        Please tell us your relationship with Eaton: Residential Products End User
        Please select a Product family: Surge Suppression
        Part Number: CHSPT2ULTRA
        Message: Can the ground and neutral leads both be run to the ground bus bar in the main panel since they are bonded? This would help keep the leads shorter

        Their response was very short and to the point:
        Yes they can be.

        So this is great news!

  • Pingback: Main panel surge protection for metal shop, anyone?()

  • Cheryl Hunt-Black

    Hi Steve, I’m the woman from Costa Rica that wrote to you months ago. I approached my electric company about the type one and they will do it. I had 2 of the Eaton type two protectors installed as you recommended….one at the box in the house and one down at the box in the bodega since they are independent of each other. Rainy season has started and the eaton in the house has taken 2 hits because I saw it. Green lights are still on! The electric company was very helpful they recommended that an electrician put in 3 copper rods 3 meters long, 3 meters apart in a triangle formation as ground. I have one set at the bodega and one set down the hill at my meter. They also checked the ground on my transformer which I had to buy myself 10 years ago. I will get the type one done as soon as I can get it from the U.S. Thanks again for all your help. Now I don’t need Xanax! You’re the best!

    • Hi, Cheryl. That’s so great to hear! Here’s to nothing but green lights! 🙂

  • jack c

    what do you know about type 2 TRIPCON power conditioners a surge protector

  • waterjet

    I have been researching Type 2 SPDs for a little while, since I lost some equipment in a recent thunderstorm. I found one with incredible specs and under $200. Seemingly, better than the ones that are listed in your article, but it is UL 1449 2nd Edition Certified, not 3rd Edition. I did some research on the changes between the two and I’m not sure that the difference is all that great, other than changes in terminology. Given that I’m not an expert, I thought I’d ask to see if this is worth considering. With a 180kA peak capacity, 60kA per phase line protection, 330V UL clamping rating and 6 distinct protection modes, it sounds pretty good. Any insight would be helpful. It’s an Intermatic IG3240RC3, but the newer models specs do not seem as robust.

    On another note, when looking at the Eaton SPD, I wanted to know if it is necessary to have the additional cable module if I have a solid ground at the cable box on the outside of my house?

    Would also like to hear reviews for Square D HEPD80. It seems very much in line with the Eaton CHSPT2ULTRA.

  • waterjet

    Does using a 50amp breaker for the Eaton make it more reliable than an SPD using a 20amp breaker?

  • Derek Casari

    Hi Steve, you may not be aware of the Henry Engineering unit. Quite expensive but they are a first call for a number of reasons. Most likely out of the budget for most homeowners:http://www.henryeng.com/pchome.htm

  • Bob G.

    Steve – I talked to Zero Surge and they tell me that a type 2 panel surge protectors do not work. U.S. TECH published an article written by chief engineer Rudy Harford from Zero Surge Inc.
    The following is from the article; Whole house and branch circuit protectors typically had a very high let-through voltage or VPR (voltage protection rating) of 700 to 1,000V. A 700V VPR is too high to protect sensitive electronic equipment, requiring a lower 330 to 400V VPR point-of-use protection for optimum protection of these sensitive systems.
    I was also told by Zero Surge that a VPR of 700 will not protect appliances or any other items either. So, my question is… Are whole house surge protectors a waste of money and should I just stick with plug-in protectors?
    Bob G.

    • Hi, Bob. Thanks for your comment.

      I’m a skeptic by nature, so I like to take a closer look at things.

      First, to refer to Randy Hardford as simply the “Chief Engineer” of Zero Surge (as this “article” did) is a bit misleading. He’s the founder of that company, and at the time that “article” was “published” in 2012, he was also their President.

      In 2005, Randy patented what he calls “Zero Surge Cancellation Technology” (he has over 43 U.S. patents). That technology is at the core of Zero Surge’s current line of products.

      So to say that Randy has a financial interest in claiming that his competitors’ product don’t work, but that his products are the only ones that do work, would be an understatement.

      As for “U.S. Tech,” they’re not a research publication. They’re a trade journal… one that allows any member of the industry to submit “articles,” even if those articles read more like press releases. Here’s Randy’s 2012 “article” you mentioned:


      The last line of that “article” tells what it’s really about: “Alternative options with superior performance and endurance are readily available.”

      Followed immediately by the address, phone, email, and website for Randy’s company.

      That “article” is a press-release and a sales brochure. It makes vague mention of a research institute that apparently supports his claims, yet fails to link to the actual research.

      If an independent third party (such as Underwriter’s Laboratory) were to claim that “whole building surge protectors don’t work,” I’d probably sit up and take notice. But they don’t claim that. Instead, they put their labels on them showing that they’ve tested their claims.

      The only person claiming who IS claiming that happens to be the founder of a company who makes money if enough people believe his claims. 🙂

      So for now, I remain unpersuaded.

  • Jeff Schiefer

    Great article, excellent info. I just started looking into whole house surge protectin because the control board on our furnace died for the second time in 4 years. May just be a quality issue, but I was thinking it could be wear and tear from line fluctuations. In central PA, we have a lot of “light flickering” from time to time during winter winds, storms, and other unknown influences. I’m thinking a type 2 SP would really help with these fluctuations?

    Second question. Our internet is via cable. A few years back, I ran the coaxial (where it comes into the house) through a type 3 SP strip that had a coaxial protection circuit. The result was dead-slow internet. I had to unhook it from the strip. Have you, or has anyone had similar experience with a type 2 panel-mount SP? I’m wondering if a better quality device would offer the protection without dramatic signal loss. Any suggestions?

    • Hi, Jeff. The surge protector helps with over-voltage situations, but “brown outs” (where there’s momentary low voltage) can only be helped with something like a battery backup unit or a regenerating line conditioner. That said, the over-voltages are what do the most damage with something like an HVAC unit, so yes – a whole house protector will be cheaper than replacing your control board again and again.

      If you were using a cheapo power strip with a coax connector, then yes — totally possible the signal loss affected your Internet speeds. A run mine through one of the Eaton units, and still get blazing fast speeds. You can also find in-line “cylinder” style units that need to be separately grounded. I’ve used those in the past, too.

      Good luck, Merry Christmas, and let us know how things turn out! 🙂

  • J Chambers

    I realize this is an old topic, but we spec SPDs for industrial use, and we usually use Joslyn SPDs. They are from Thomas & Betts(which itself is owned by ABB Group).


    • Yep! That’s right.

      • dohertymtd

        The Joslyn units look very good and their website has a cleaver key to decide which Joslyn model is appropriate for your application. I easily navigated the key and tried to determine how much suggested unit costs, but was unable to find a published source with prices on-line.
        On a personal note, my Eaton installation survived the epic windstorm and power outage in Spokane, WA a week before Thanksgiving 2015. We had no damage at all in the house and our power was out for nearly 5 days. Transformers were blowing all over the neighborhood during the storm so I am sure there were significant surges. The Eaton type 2 (and the Tripp Lite Type 3’s in my sensitive circuits) did their job. When the power came back all we were fine. Many neighbors were not. Good enough for me…………..
        Since then I have installed a Reliance Controls manual transfer switch so I can run my house largely on generator power. A Reliance Panel Link switches out the subpanel to my stable to keep my horse waterers warm and free of ice and keep the lights on in the stall areas. Now I really feel secure.

  • Yep! Even being a skeptic, I would never rule out the the possibility that it very well could be that he built a better mousetrap. I suppose time will tell, as the better mousetrap tends to be the only one standing in the long run!

    • Always-Learning

      Two thoughts. 1) I don’t think the guys at Zero Surge, Brickwall (a private label customer of Zero Surge), and SurgeX (a licensee of Zero Surge technology) are even on the radar screen of the companies that make Type 1, 2 or 3 SPD’s. The major players are using low cost 1970’s era MOV’s to protect modern day electronics and have such a huge profit margin that they can sell floor models at $8 and still reap huge profits. 2) My understanding of UL is that they rate products for safety, not performance and endurance. They came out with a UL 1449 adjunct test in 1996 that only Zero Surge & Brickwall have paid to have their products tested 6,000 volt, 3,000 amp, 8/50us waveform with 1,000 hits which would destroy just about every Type 3 non series mode SPD on the market today. To me the adjunct test is more about endurance and performance and according to UL and the IEEE represent about 10 years of worst case surges.

  • Dan k

    Correct me if I am wrong. I think a negative aspect of these devices is that they use MOV (Metal Oxide Varistor) protection, a wear out item, hence the light indicating failure of this MOV. I am trying to find a whole house unit that uses Advanced Series Mode protection instead. ASM does not wear out, unlike MOV. Also, I am not clear on the advise that you are not supposed to run MOV devices in a chain. So, for example, you should not plug a MOV power strip (Most are) into another MOV protected power strip. The MOV protection does not work properly when another such device is in the same run. So, how do MOV power strips, or MOV battery backups such as APC units, function properly if they are in houses that have the MOV whole house unit in the main electrical box?

  • smith


    Regarding your SPD tutorial, great work but now I’m stuck at this part.

    I bought siemens FirstSurge™ Plus (fs100) surge protection device, however, I have this problem:

    When I try to connect it, it immediately damaged, even though the wiring
    as per the datasheet here

    The building have L, N ,and Ground , 1 phase 220 V 50Hz

    I connect the black wire to the L

    The white wire to the N

    the green to the ground

    NOTE: The device has two lines (L1,L2) 120/240 V, however, my panel have 1 line providing 220V

    How to connect it?

    I’m going to buy/replace it but I need to know what I did wrong as every thing seems OK until it connected , Any suggestions?


    • Minok1217

      I think the unit may not be compatible with your power system – its designed to run on a 120v power system, where one can get a 240v via using a 2nd phase of power from the main bus. Each of the L1 and L2 are 120v each, but between the two its 240v. If you have 220v on a single phase, then I suspect this device is not for your power system as the 220v on a single phase is indeed an over-voltage for a system designed for a 120v on single phase environment.

  • Clay Jorgensen

    So the Sycom SYC-120/240-T2 has no green wire? My neutral is not combined with the ground bus, should the white wire on the Sycom go on the neutral bus or ground? Their installation instructions are pitiful. Basically just says “install it… etc” little detail about how exactly! I just see that all the other ones have a white and a green wire so I’m unsure of how to install it.

  • Keith

    Steve, thank you for a very good article. I have two Square D SDSB1175AC SURGE PROTECTORs, one in each 200 amp panel. I have not been able to tell the difference between my “AC” 12 year old device and the “C” device that you recommend. Last night we had a surge before an outage with the winds on the East Coast. One of my devices is connected to a 20A breaker and another to a 30A breaker. Both breakers tripped before the power went off along with another 9 breakers in the two panels. Power is still off so I have not investigated the tripped circuits yet but when the surge ocurred we smelled burned electrical in the upstairs bedroom.

    1. Is my unit (SDSB1175AC) just as good as the SDSB1175C?
    2. Should I be concerned that the breakers that feed my device all tripped?
    3. I do have some point of use protectors as well but beyond having them everywhere is there anything else I should change out like the breakers or my SDSB1175AC?

    Thanks, we get 1 or 2 of these events a year.

  • Keith

    Steve, thanks for the article and your advice. I have two Square D Surgebreaker Plus units that are over 10 years old but lights have indicated they were still working. We get big surges 1-2 times a year. Two years ago these Type 2 units (two SDSB1175C, one on each 200A box) did not prevent a surge from taking out 2 ethernet cards (am not using the SDSB1175C for anything other than panel surges), a phone power converter, a GFI outlet and a garage door opener but I have Type 3 protectors on them now. Last night here in Maryland we had major winds and a surge before the power dropped. Power is still not on so I have not yet checked out the 9 circuits that tripped their breakers. When it happened at 4AM it was a downed power line a mile or so down the road and we heard a pop inside the house and smelled burned electric for a few minutes. The Surgebreaker Plus units are coupled into the panel using one 20A and one 30A breaker and both were also tripped. The old documentation I found says to use a 30A or less breaker but I have to wonder whether a larger breaker would have prevented the other breakers from trlipping and whatever fried. Please help me with a few questions.

    1. Why would 9 breakers trip as well as the two breakers powering the SDSB1175C; is this an indication surges are not being controlled?

    2. Should I change our the SDSB1175C, change the 20A breaker or add/modify other components?


  • Bj

    You didn’t talk about response time. This is very important.

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  • Ray

    I’d be curious what you think of this (relatively new) Intermatic surge breaker. Seems to have similar specs to the Eaton and Square D, with the benefit that the actual surge modules (presumably the MOVs and maybe some other stuff) are end-user replaceable and only around $50… so cheaper/easier to replace after enough surges come through to kill it… seems interesting….


  • Craig Weems

    Great info but their is another reason to get a surge protector: lose your neutral from the power company. Some might think that the ground is the same as the neutral but not when it’s gone. In these cases the voltage is dependent on the load. In my case the voltage feeding the AV cabinet was 187v. It burned out about $3000 worth of LED’s too. By law in Texas the power company is not liable. The service drop was almost 50 years old. I was told by an architectural electrical engineer that such failures were very rare. I discovered that in most cases it was only the LED power supplies that were fried. The challenge was not finding a power supply with the right output but finding one that also would fit in the same place.

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  • Harlan Holmes

    I see it’s been a few years since your article was updated or you responded to questions. Are you still willing to do so?

  • doug

    Terrific editoral [teaching moment], Steve…and spot on for what I’m looking for right now [new construction in the planning stage]. Have one question, though: If I were to have a Type 1 installed for the main circuit box, would it be prudent to also include a few surge protected circuit breakers, as well? For example…a high end electronic induction cooktop? What about a clothes dryer, that operates off of a 220V AC socket? Thanks in advance…doug

  • surgeprotection1

    A very helpful blog
    on surge protection device, I am having this device at my home and also at my
    office. It is efficiently running since 3 years. No problems as previous was.

  • Augsburg

    I came across this post looking for a way to check the health of my whole house surge protector. A couple of comments. First, the Square D comes in two versions, one with the appropriate NEMA enclosure for outdoor use. Second, we did install the Square D about 4 years ago and have experienced numerous power surges here in Tucson AZ. (Our local utility is notorious for power surges.) So far, so good. No problems and as far as I can tell, the Square D protected us.

  • doug

    Wonderful article, Steve
    Have a question, though. Is it OK [appropriate, prudent] to use a SP’ed circuit breaker in addition to an installed Type 2 [such as the Eaton], as well?

  • John Phillips

    I installed a pair of the the Eaton CHSPMAX units in my previous home and they were still going strong when I sold it 10 years later. I just [today] completed the installation of the CHSP2ULTRA unit in my current home which we bought about a year ago and have already lost an outdoor antenna and had to repair a microwave due to surge or power related incidents. Your article was extremely informative in helping me understand the specs. I’ve long felt Eaton’s products represented the best value to performance entry in this space and your thorough research and documentation pretty much confirmed it. Thank for a really great article. You’re helping a lot of people and we appreciate it!.

  • Minok1217

    Great review.
    Now I have a followup as I recommended/asked my electrician for a quote on the Eaton to be installed and he recommended not the CHSPT2ULTRA but instead the BR250SUR. I suppose partly because it is easier to install – it is the breaker and suppressor in one.

    So looking at the specs between the CHSPT2ULTRA and the BR250SUR
    1) The BR250SUR only provides L-L and L-N protection at the load center, no N-G or L-G. Given this is installed IN the load center, which is on the other side of the wall from the meter outside (ie a few inches between panel and meter) – Is the N-G and L-G protection your set as a baseline really necessary?

    2) The other difference is the BR250SUR is that it only provides 10 10kA discharge 10kA sc rating and 36kA surge current capacity (vs the 20kA, 22kA, and 108kA of the ultra). Are these significant limiting factors in a single family home?

  • Ian Journeaux

    This is a pretty old article but hope someone can take the time to comment. I have the same surge suppressor used in this article.. Steve instlalld the surge protection device at the bottom of his panel and the breaker was also at the bottom of the panel. I believe the ideal location for the breaker is at the top closer to the main breaker with leads as short as possible to the surge protector..
    That said, how much protection are you giving up by wiring it this way versus ideal? In my case, coming out the bottom as Steve did is much easier for me but it it made a big difference in the efficciency of the the surge protection, I would do the work required to get close ot ideal.
    Looking forward to any comments

    PS Reread the thread and noticed that someone had the same issue as me and drilled throuhg the 2×6 to get to the panel then used a nipple to attadh the surge protection. That is enough onfirmation for me to go though the extra steps to do it htat way.