How to Install a Whole-House Surge Protector

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Whole-house surge protectors are wired into the main service panel.
Whole-house surge protectors are wired into the main service panel. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Whole-house surge protectors work by stopping voltage spikes before they reach sensitive equipment. The protector is mounted near the breaker or fuse panel and is wired into the home's electrical circuits. Installing the whole-house surge protector requires considerable electrical knowledge and abilities. Only basic hand tools are required, but you should be confident of your ability to work in a circuit panel with dangerous voltages present.

Things You'll Need

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Wire strippers
  • Conduit
  • 12-gauge 3-conductor wire
  • 2, 20-amp circuit breakers

Choose a mounting location for the whole-house surge protector as close to the breaker panel as possible. Remove the cover from the surge protector. Mount the surge protector on the wall next to the breaker panel or in a 6-inch-square cutout for flush mount applications. Use the included hardware and follow the manufacturer's instructions for mounting the surge protector.

Disconnect power to the breaker panel by turning off the main breakers or having the meter disconnected from the service entrance outside your home. Ensure that the panel is de-energized before proceeding with installation of the surge protector. Remove the cover from the breaker panel. Run a piece of conduit from the surge protector box to the closest cable entry point on the breaker panel.

Run a piece of 12-gauge, 3-conductor wire from the surge protector box, through the conduit and into the breaker panel. Leave enough excess wire to reach the top breaker slots on the panel. Strip 1/2 inch of insulation from both ends of each conductor in the wire.

Slide the stripped ends of the black and red conductors under the terminals marked "phases" in the surge protector box. Slide the stripped end of the white conductor under the terminal marked "neutral" in the surge protector box. Slide the end of the green or bare copper wire under the terminal marked "ground" in the surge protector box. Tighten the terminal screws with a Phillips screwdriver. Place the cover on the surge protector box and tighten the retaining screws.

Slide the end of the green or bare copper conductor into a terminal hole in the grounding bar in the breaker panel. Slide the stripped end of the white conductor into a terminal hole in the neutral bar in the breaker panel. Tighten the terminal screws with a Phillips screwdriver.

Slide the stripped end of the black conductor into the terminal on a 20-amp circuit breaker. Slide the stripped end of the red conductor into the terminal on a 20-amp circuit breaker. Tighten the terminal screws with a Phillips screwdriver.

Snap each circuit breaker into an empty slot in the breaker panel as close to the main breakers as possible. Place the cover on the breaker panel and tighten the retaining screws.

Turn on the main breakers or have the meter reconnected to restore power to the breaker panel. Test the surge protector according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Test your surge protector regularly to ensure proper operation.
  • Even with the main breakers turned off, the breaker panel still contains lethal voltages. Exercise extreme caution when working in or around the breaker panel. If in doubt, call a professional electrician.

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