The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Surge Protection

Brett Brenner, President, Electrical Safety Foundation International

The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Surge Protection

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) conducted a 2017 survey of electrical designers, planners, and engineers who worked in designing or renovating electrical systems in industrial, Healthcare, and IT Center Facilities. Because the survey results demonstrated a lack of, or limited understanding of Surge Protection Devices (SPDs), ESFI has created educational resources to spread awareness of the purpose and effectiveness of SPDs.

  1. SPDs are not Accessories
    SPDs have been required by the National Electrical Code since 2014, and 94% of those surveyed found surge protection to be very or extremely important to building owners and tenants. Unfortunately, the general public is on not on the same page, with ESFI’s survey results revealing that approximately one-third of clients who declined surge protection for their facilities did so due to a lack of concern about surges. When working with valuable equipment or data, it is vital to have it protected by an SPD.
  2. Surges are Fairly Common Just how common are surges? According to surveyed professionals, voltage surges significant enough to cause equipment damage occur with monthly or greater frequency in 69% of healthcare centers, 76% of industrial facilities, and 80% of IT centers. Surges significant enough to cause injury or death seem to be less of an issue, occurring once a year or less in Healthcare, IT centers, and other industrial facilities.
  3. SPDs are not Overcurrent Devices Many of the survey respondents were unable to distinguish surge protection devices from overcurrent devices (such as a GFCI breaker).  SPDs are designed to handle fast transients or surges, rather than excess voltage or current. While some Type 1 SPDs may be equipped with external overcurrent protection, it should be noted that this is not the case with all variations of SPDs, and that it is not the preliminary function.
  4. SPDs are not Lightning Protection Systems (LPS)
    According to surveyed professionals, about 21% of surges are caused by lightning strikes, so it’s understandable that surge protection devices might be confused with lightning protection systems. The important difference between the two is that only an LPS can provide protection against a direct lightning strike.
  5. Point-of-Use Surge Protection versus SPDs
    Consumers are generally aware of point-of-use surge protection typically used for computers and printers. This type of surge protection is temporary. Type 1 and Type 2 SPDs provide permanent protection from surges for more sensitive or larger equipment. These devices are either hard-wired to the service equipment, the service transformer, or the service equipment overcurrent protection device. These types of SPDs are typically used in hospitals, factories, and IT Centers.

If you’re purchasing valuable equipment, renovating, or considering surge protection, consider that professionals find surge protection to be a necessity. For the complete results of the 2017 Surge Damage Survey, visit ESFI’s website.

About ESFI:
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety in the home and workplace. Our mission is to reduce electrically related fires, injuries and fatalities by providing the resources necessary to aid in the prevention of deadly electrical accidents at home and in the workplace. To learn more about ESFI and electrical safety, visit