Low Voltage Home Pre-Wire Guide:

Surge Protection and Bridges


Discuss surge protection and X-10 bridging with your electrician before he designs and installs the circuit breaker box. X-10 bridges, which bridge X-10 signals across the two legs of the 220 volt service so devices on one half can talk reliably to the other half, take up two circuit breaker locations (one on each leg). This started to cramp the circuit breaker panel for us. Also, some whole-house surge proctectors (see below) also take up two breaker locations.

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We have been bitten by close lightning strikes that took out one of our audio amplifiers once. Therefore, and to protect X-10 and other devices throughout the house, we purchased a whole-house surge protector. A consultant ("Mr. Lightning", a local firm that installs lightning protection on houses) recommended a unit, but it cost almost $400. I found a surge protector (called Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor, or TVSS) with the same specifications (680 Joules surge current, 50,000 amps, instantaneous response time) made by Leviton, available from Home Automation Systems for $172.80. From the enclosed installation instructions for this Leviton unit, it connects across two circuit breakers, but these two circuit breakers can be shared with circuits. I plan on sharing the two dedicated circuit breakers reserved for the X-10 bridge. However, the lightning consultant said his unit required dedicated circuit breakers, so check on this before filling up your circuit breaker panel.

The lightning consultant also recommended multiple surge suppressors as secondary backups and to catch anything that gets through the whole-house TVSS, so we will install additional high-quality surge suppressors (in multiple-outlet power strip format) on the A/V equipment stack and the computer systems. These suppressors have a guarantee to replace the protected equipment itself, as well as the suppressor, if the suppressor allows it to be destroyed, so it is good insurance. Shop around for these to ensure adequate protection, since there are many cheap ones on the market that are really just extension power strips with very little protection. I use one called IsoBar from a company called TrippLite, who has been in this business for quite a while. I have an 8-outlet noise filter and surge suppressor (model IB-8) for which I paid over $100, but I recently saw a 4-outlet IsoBar for $39.95 from Computer City; it seemed to have the same equipment replacement guarantee.

BTW, the lightning consultant says that it commonly costs $1200 to $3000 for good lightning protection for a house (to protect against direct strikes), and heavy-duty ground wiring and multiple rods should be designed and installed about the same time as the electrical wiring is being done (before drywall).

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