Insurance Insight: Surge protection – something you probably need

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 25, 2002


What is a surge? When most of us were growing up, there was not a lot of talk about electrical “surge protection.”

For that matter, there was not that much electronic gadgetry. But things have changed.

Today, we are wired. By that I mean that practically every system in your home or apartment is run by electricity, and many of these items – computers, TVs, VCRs, telephones, satellite dishes, and even appliances – have electronics that are sensitive to power surges.

The power supply into homes is usually 120 volts, but surges of 300 volts or more can occur. Small electrical power surges can damage and shorten the useful life of microchips, while larger surges may instantly burn out circuits.

Lightning strike surges cause millions of dollars in property damage annually. Damage from a lightning strike is usually covered, but depending on your policy, damage from a power surge may not be covered.

Surges from lightning and electrical power may not be preventable, but steps can be taken to protect your property.

Surge protectors are designed to absorb an electrical surge, before it enters the unit, thus preventing or reducing the chance of damage. There are numerous types and brands of surge suppressors available, and they are usually reasonably priced – depending on system sophistication.

Three basic options include:
1. Meter protection (primary) – Utility companies can install “whole building” surge protection. These systems can absorb large amounts of energy that are being channeled into your electrical system.
2. Circuit breaker protection (primary) – A qualified electrician can install a device at the breaker/fuse box that will provide “whole building” surge protection.
3. Outlet protection (secondary) – Surge protectors are available that plug into the same electrical outlet as the equipment to be protected. These units can be bought at electronics dealers, home improvement stores, and such, and may range in cost from $10 to $100.
Any devices you install should be UL tested. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of repair, and can help reduce your insurance claim costs.

MIKE WILLIAMS is a State Farm insurance agent with an office in LaPlace.