How does one select a surge protector for a typical home?

We get surges and slight drops in line voltage. We are the last pole on a small town electric provider, three miles from town. Surge protectors cost from $180 to thousands.

How do I determine what is good but not cheap and not more than I need?

  • 5
    Answerers - Please don't just post links to your "favourite" surge protector. The question is how to decide which one to buy.
    – ChrisF
    Commented May 25, 2013 at 15:45

3 Answers 3


First off: If your lights dim and brighten, that's due to changes in voltage. To solve this requires a "power conditioner", or solving a serious problem known as a "floating neutral".

To protect against lightning or high voltage spikes, you want a "surge protector". These protect equipment from damage (the spikes can be tens of thousands of volts).

To keep computers or TV's running through brief power outages you want an "uninterruptible power supply" or UPS.

And finally you might want a "backup generator".

It's possible you want all four types of device in different places. Some devices combine more than one function. For example a good offline UPS will offer power conditioning and and surge protection, but will be limited in capacity and not suitable for the entire building.

Power does not "flow through" a whole house surge protector. One unit, costing perhaps $100, protects the entire house.

There's typically only one whole house unit made for your particular brand of main electrical service panel. Thus, choosing a whole house surge protector is easy (see a list of them over at my website http://guides.obviously.com/Whole-House-Surge-Protectors/1482 ).

  • Your website would be a whole lot more educational if it explained what Type 1 and 2 mean.
    – wallyk
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 4:57


  1. If you are serious about surge protection then don't think cost: think quality.
  2. Calculate the total amperes of all your circuit breakers and chose a surge protector that is between 10-15% more than what you have calculated.
  3. Do not protect circuits that draw high amounts of power (i.e. pool pumps, electric hot-water systems or air conditioners). These devices often spike when more demand is placed on them and may fry your surge protector.
  4. Avoid surge protectors that offer $250,000 (if you are choosing them for that particular reason) as they will never pay out and those guarantees bump the prices up.

Also look into the brand Schneider Electric (worldwide) range of surge arrestors or any Eaton (worldwide) DIN mounted surge protectors.

Note: I am not affiliated with any of the brands above. I am just listing them due to their reputation and quality.

  • 4
    I'm afraid this answer while well meaning, is completely off base. A whole house surge protector does not operate inline to a circuit, and thus calculating "total amps" does not make sense. Instead there's a clamping voltage and discharge current, which protects the entire panel regardless of amps.
    – Bryce
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 1:52

I looked for a specific recommended model that was known to play nice with X-10 powerline signaling protocol.

I also note that it has status lights visible, so I'll know if it gets "used up".

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