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Our neighborhood and my house has Square D QO equipment. There is the external main shut off with a 200 amp breaker. It goes straight to lugs and then the wires that go to the main panel in the house with all the house circuit breakers. I took a photo of how it looks outside on the house next-door who is awaiting hook up and closing. I drew a red line where I would want to insert one two pole breaker to put a surge protector on ( I have a Seimens First Surge Pro.)

What would have to be replaced? I see that 200 amp breaker being sold where it has the attachments for the meter on one side and the lugs on the other. Is there some thing that could attach those lugs that would give me a mount for a circuit breaker and then has lugs on the other end to reattach the wires going into the house? Or does that whole black plastic assembly that the main breaker is mounted on have to be replaced? How would you do it. Thank you so muchenter image description here

Where we live there are a lot of electrical storms that brown out, surge, trip breakers etc. And this happen often.

I picked up a Seimens First Surge Pro ( which is what is recommended by the manufacture according to the map of the country.) We actually aren’t as bad according to the national lightning databases as other areas but I have a family that lives in those areas and they don’t get brown outs and tripped breakers with every electrical storm. So there’s power grid issues too I’m sure.)

So I am putting additional equipment on the breaker panel in the house and at outlets ( 3-stage approach.)

I Try to focus on the one problem and said that I’m handling the inside issues. If I hit snags with that then I would ask a separate question.

I was putting forth why I need such a top end product. I know it doesn’t fix all of those problems.

The whole project is this ( after the FS140):

I have one of the APC 10-circuit transfer switches which of course I know has its issue with fuses etc.… But I also have from an old computer networks a huge APC uninterruptible power supply ( 30 amp plug) that holds about 10 batteries and then an add-on huge rack that holds two more trays of the same. The APC transfer switch has UPS input and will electronically switch to the UPS supply ( with adjustable sensitivity too.) I am also wiring a Reliance P50 external generator plug jack to it ( have Southwire 6/3) so I can connect up my portable generator with 50 amp outlet.

On the inside breaker panel will be a Leviton 4000 series SPD that also has filtering.

So I was going to use the APC transfer switch to watch sensitive circuits with Philips Hue downlight, tv, etc. Basically making my own UPS.

On my home theater, I’ve had an APC S20 power conditioner/brownout protector since 2008 ( got it for $400 instead of $2000 when “Tweeter” went out of business;))enter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description here

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    The type of protection you're talking about won't help with brown outs, sags, noise, or voltage fluctuations. Have you considered getting a power conditioner or UPS for your most sensitive loads? Aug 23, 2021 at 13:57
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    Agree 100% with @RobertChapin - a whole house surge protector will protect against power surges. If you need brown/black-out protection, you'll need an instant transfer UPS backed up by a generator. More likely, you'll want a few small UPS for critical electronics (like computers) to keep them from dropping when the power dips too low (and shut them down gracefully if the UPS batteries run too low). The UPS will give you time to get the generator started to power whatever parts of the house you deem critical generator loads (or the whole place).
    – FreeMan
    Aug 23, 2021 at 14:01
  • @FreeMan if you have an automatic whole house generator I agree re UPS but if you need to roll out a portable one I do not think there is a UPS available at a reasonable cost that provides everything you describe. I've looked hard for that. I know we frown on product/shopping questions but I'd love some direction if I'm wrong. "Battery generators" can run electronics for hours but don't auto-switch and residential auto switching ones only run for 10-30 minutes without power. Am I wrong? (Ok 30 minutes is enough to get the generator out ... but it's tight.)
    – jay613
    Aug 23, 2021 at 14:38
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    @jay613 All my computers, cable modem/router, and the TV are on individual UPSs. My file server (with all disks spinning) is the biggest power user, and I can get 30-40 minutes of run time. If I had a permanent generator (especially with auto-start), or even one stored in a handy (not blocked in) place in the garage, I'm certain I could get it started before the batteries died. I don't know of any other loads (in my house) that are so critical they'd need to be on a UPS, so I wouldn't worry about them. The fridge will last hours w/o power if nobody opens the door...
    – FreeMan
    Aug 23, 2021 at 15:10
  • Hi and thanks. I understand all this. I was trying to be brief, but I laid out the whole plan in my edit. What do you think?
    – hometech99
    Aug 23, 2021 at 18:02

2 Answers 2

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TL;DR Put it in the main subpanel (i.e., in your house)

There are "Meter Mains" that include:

  • Meter
  • Main breaker
  • Some regular breakers
  • Feed to other panels

Yours is not like that. It has the meter and the main breaker and a feed to your main panel. And that's it. The ones that include some regular breakers use them to (a) feed one or more subpanels (either in one or multiple buildings), (b) provide an outdoor convenience receptacle, (c) help with generator and/or solar hookup (those can get tricky) and yes, (d) can handle a whole house surge protector. Note that technically this is the main panel (whether it has additional breakers or not) in terms of neutral/ground bonding.

But this panel simply isn't designed that way. While a surge protector would function in this location, I really wouldn't recommend it. There are some real safety issues, and the bottom line is that the box simply isn't built to take anything extra.

Just put the surge protector in the main subpanel (i.e., wherever these big wires end). The good news is that since you have an outside disconnect (the main breaker here) you can work on the inside panel in complete safety. Depending on the surge protector and the panel, it may be designed to go in the top breaker spaces (assuming feed comes in the top) of the panel, or possibly even connect to the main lugs - follow the directions carefully.

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    So the whole main box next to the meter would have to be changed ( by a top electrician, with power off from company probably too) is the only scenario other than the inside panel ( which already has a smaller capacity SPD in the top position. I realize you could have more than one SPD in the top breaker spots ( each on its own breaker) …more of the SPD elements soaking up the surge the better. I know one company makes surge breakers and they give you chart saying if you put more than one it shows you how much total surge absorption you can get.
    – hometech99
    Aug 23, 2021 at 18:08
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    @hometech99: FYI for fun, the power companies often don't shut off power for meter changes. Competent electricians deal with the changeover while it's live the whole time. Aug 23, 2021 at 23:00
  • Understood… But I agree the competent electrician is the most important part and whatever they need to do they do… Appreciate those guys a lot
    – hometech99
    Aug 25, 2021 at 13:32
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The entire gray thing needs to be changed.

Right now you have a "Meter-Main" which has only a meter and main breaker. It has no space for any other circuit breaker.

What you need is a Ranch Panel, which has all of these:

  • A meter
  • A main breaker typ. 200A
  • 8 spaces for surge suppressors, breakers, generator interlocks, solar etc.
  • Thru Lugs to carry the entire 200A through to the interior "master panel" (the one with all your breakers).

Or, you can put a 200A panel with Thru-Lugs here.

To avoid having to replace the meter box, you could obtain a standalone main-lug panel which has thru lugs. Come off the main breaker over to this main-lug panel. Then go from its thru-lugs, via the meter-main, to your master panel indoors.

Normally you could just "tee" off the 200A main feeder wires, but your goal here is surge suppression.

Or, you could relax about surge suppressor location.

Because I'm only advising this stuff because you want it. I would never go to all the trouble, I would just the surge suppressor(s) into the master panel (the one with all your breakers) and be done with it.

Your aspirations about seamless, protected power

I hear a dizzying array of ever more complicated products - transfer switch, industrial tier UPS, etc. etc. And you don't want to deal with short term power interrupts while these things switch.

And you're going to have a large battery anyway.

Well heck... rather than mess around with all that complexity that will just add complications... why not do a permanent ("Online" this is called in the UPS trade) AC-DC-AC conversion?

  • Dirty utility AC power operates a large battery charger, large enough to both carry your loads and recharge the battery if depleted.
  • The battery is kept topped up at all times, except when power is out obviously.
  • The battery feeds a plain inverter which makes local 120/240VAC for your equipment.
  • It's always on battery backup. There is no switching.

When AC power is on, the charger's DC output is both topping up the battery faster than the inverter draws it down. In other words, the charger is "gaining on it".

When AC power fails, the only thing that happens is the battery stops being topped up.

External surges inherently cannot pass through the DC side. Surges are extremely easy to suppress on DC - capacitors will suffice, and the battery is a huge capacitor.

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  • Good stuff! I was looking at systems like you said when I started doing my research… I was just keeping cost by utilizing good equipment I actually already have. Be a shame to let that go to waste when it would do the job. But Im on board with you to keep complexity down when possible to minimize fail points.
    – hometech99
    Aug 25, 2021 at 13:28
  • Also, the relaxing about surge protection isn’t an option where we live. Storms form overhead that weren’t on radar minutes ago with lightning and breakers tripped and thinks get damage. This is the worst I’ve ever seen or heard about. So I’ll just have both SPD units installed at the main panel.. I just wanted to see if there was a simple way to put one outside more is a type one positioned device , but it’ll still absorb inside too..that’s what matters
    – hometech99
    Aug 25, 2021 at 13:31

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