This Month’s Newsletter.

 

Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners — money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc.
Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.

HMW

FEATURE REPORT

Fixing Up Your Home: Protect Your Housing Investment

Your home is an investment in living as well as in savings. If neglected, fixer it will pay no dividends. If properly maintained and improved, it will pay a high yield in comfort and usefulness for your family and in avoidance of costly repair bills. Home improvements also tend to raise neighborhood standards and, as a result, property values. From an economic standpoint, home improvements mean higher employment, increased markets for materials and home products–and therefore a more flourishing community.

For the complete story, click here…

Also This Month…

27 Tips You Should Know To Get Your Home Sold Fast and For Top Dollar

Because your home may well be your largest asset, selling it is probably one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. Through these 27 tips you will discover how to protect and capitalize on your most important investment, reduce stress, be in control of your situation, and make the most profit possible.

More…

Surges Happen! How To Protect the Appliances In Your Home

Your appliances are designed to run on the normal 120 volts AC supply, with some tolerance for more or less, but they can be damaged, or their controls can be upset by surges. The result is then frustration and repair bills, and even a fire in rare cases. Learn how you can prevent this from happening to you.

More…

.

Fixing Up Your Home: Protect Your Housing Investment

Your home is an investment in living as well as in savings. If neglected, it will pay no dividends. If properly maintained and improved, it will pay a high yield in comfort and usefulness for your family and in avoidance of costly repair bills. Home improvements also tend to raise neighborhood standards and, as a result, property values. From an economic standpoint, home improvements mean higher employment, increased markets for materials and home products–and therefore a more flourishing community.

If You Do It Yourself

If you are handy with tools and have the experience, you can save money by doing many jobs yourself. But unless you are skilled in wiring, plumbing, installing heat systems, and cutting through walls, you should rely on professionals for such work.

When you buy the required materials, it pays not to skimp. Good materials are not necessarily the most expensive. What you need are products that look good, are easy to maintain, and last a long time. Buy only from reliable dealers.

If You Use a Contractor

If you plan to use the services of a dealer or contractor, take care to choose one with a reputation for honesty and good workmanship. There are several ways to check on a contractor:

  • Consult your local Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, or Local Consumer Protection Agency.
  • Talk with people for whom he has done work.
  • Ask your lender about him, if you plan to finance the project with a loan.
  • Check his place of business to see that he is not a fly-by-night operator.
  • Find out, if you can, how he rates with known building-product distributors and wholesale suppliers.
  • Ask friends and relatives for names of firms that they could recommend.
Compare Contractor Offers

Before deciding on a contractor, you may want to get bids from two or three different firms. Make sure that each bid is based on the same specifications and the same grade of materials. If these bids vary widely, find out why.

Many contractors offer package plans that cover the whole transaction. Under such a plan the contractor provides all materials used, takes care of all work involved, and arranges for your loan.

Your contractor can make the loan application for you, but you are the one who must repay the loan, so you should see that the work is done correctly.

Understand What You Sign

The contract that both you and the contractor sign should state clearly the type and extent of improvements to be made and the materials to be used. Before you sign, get the contractor to spell out for you in exact terms:

  • How much the entire job will cost you. 
  • How much interest you will pay on the loan. 
  • How much you will pay in service charges.
  • How many payments you must make to pay off the loan, and how much each of these payments will be.

After the entire job is finished in the manner set forth in your contract, you sign a completion certificate. By signing this paper you certify that you approve the work and materials and you authorize the lender to pay the contractor the money you borrowed.

Beware of Fraud

Most dealers and contractors conscientiously try to give their customers service equivalent to the full value of their money. Unfortunately, home improvement rackets do exist. Here are a few common sense rules to follow:

  • Read and understand every word of any contract or other paper before you sign it.
  • Never sign a contract with anyone who makes fantastic promises. Reputable dealers are not running give-away businesses.
  • Avoid wild bargains. The best bargain is a good job.
  • Never consolidate existing loans through a home improvement contractor.
  • Do not let salespeople high-pressure you into signing up to buy their materials or services.
  • Be wary of salespeople who try to scare you into signing for repairs that they say are urgent. Seek the advice of an expert as to how urgent such repairs are. High-pressure and scare tactics are often the mark of a phony deal.
  • Avoid salespeople who offer you trial purchases or some form of bonus, such as cash, for allowing them to use your house as a model for any purpose. Such offers are well-known gimmicks of swindlers.
  • Never sign a completion certificate until all the work called for in the contract has been completed to your satisfaction. Be careful not to sign a completion certificate along with a sales order.
  • Proceed cautiously when the lender or contractor demands a lien on your property.

.

27 Tips You Should Know To Get Your Home Sold Fast and For Top Dollar

 


“…..you have to sell your present home at exactly the right time in order to avoid either the financial burden of owning two homes or, just as bad, the dilemma of having no place to live during the gap between closings.”


Because your home may well be your largest asset, selling it is probably one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. To better understand the homeselling process, a guide has been prepared from current industry insider reports. Through these 27 tips you will discover how to protect and capitalize on your most important investment, reduce stress, be in control of your situation, and make the most profit possible.

1. Understand Why You Are Selling Your Home

Your motivation to sell is the determining factor as to how you will approach the process. It affects everything from what you set your asking price at to how much time, money and effort you’re willing to invest in order to prepare your home for sale. For example, if your goal is for a quick sale, this would determine one approach. If you want to maximize your profit, the sales process might take longer thus determining a different approach.

2. Keep the Reason(s) You are Selling to Yourself

The reason(s) you are selling your home will affect the way you negotiate its sale. By keeping this to yourself you don’t provide ammunition to your prospective buyers. For example, should they learn that you must move quickly, you could be placed at a disadvantage in the negotiation process. When asked, simply say that your housing needs have changed. Remember, the reason( s) you are selling is only for you to know .

3. Before Setting a Price – Do Your Homework

When you set your price, you make buyers aware of the absolute maximum they have to pay for your home. As a seller, you will want to get a selling price as close to the list price as possible. If you start out by pricing too high you run the risk of not being taken seriously by buyers and their agents and pricing too low can result in selling for much less than you were hoping for.

Setting Your Home’s Sale Price

If You Live in a Subdivision – If your home is comprised of similar or identical floor plans, built in the same period, simply look at recent sales in your neighborhood subdivision to give you a good idea of what your home is worth.

If You Live in An Older Neighborhood – As neighborhoods change over time each home may be different in minor or substantial ways. Because of this you will probably find that there aren’t many homes truly comparable to your own. In this case you may want to consider seeking a Realtor ® to help you with the pricing process.

If You Decide to Sell On Your Own – A good way to establish a value is to look at homes that have sold in your neighborhood within the past 6 months, including those now on the market. This is how prospective buyers will assess the worth of your home. Also a trip to City Hall can provide you with home sale information in its public records, for most communities.

4. Do Some “Home Shopping” Yourself

The best way to learn about your competition and discover what turns buyers off is to check out other open houses. Note floor plans, condition, appearance, size of lot, location and other features. Particularly note, not only the asking prices but what they are actually selling for. Remember, if you’re serious about getting your home sold fast, don’t price it higher than your neighbor’s.

5. When Getting an Appraisal is a Benefit

Sometimes a good appraisal can be a benefit in marketing your home. Getting an appraisal is a good way to let prospective buyers know that your home can be financed. However, an appraisal does cost money, has a limited life, and there’s no guarantee you’ll like the figure you hear.

6. Tax Assessments – What They Really Mean

Some people think that tax assessments are a way of evaluating a home. The difficulty here is that assessments are based on a number of criteria that may not be related to property values, so they may not necessarily reflect your home’s true value.

7. Deciding Upon a Realtor ®

According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly two-thirds of the people surveyed who sell their own homes say they wouldn’t do it again themselves. Primary reasons included setting a price, marketing handicaps, liability concerns, and time constraints. When deciding upon a Realtor ® , consider two or three. Be as wary of quotes that are too low as those that are too high.

All Realtors ® are not the same! A professional Realtor ® knows the market and has information on past sales, current listings, a marketing plan, and will provide their background and references. Evaluate each candidate carefully on the basis of their experience, qualifications, enthusiasm and personality. Be sure you choose someone that you trust and feel confident that they will do a good job on your behalf.

If you choose to sell on your own, you can still talk to a Realtor ® . Many are more than willing to help do-it-your-selfers with paperwork, contracts, etc. and should problems arise, you now have someone you can readily call upon.

8. Ensure You Have Room to Negotiate

Before settling on your asking price make sure you leave yourself enough room in which to bargain. For example, set your lowest and highest selling price. Then check your priorities to know if you’ll price high to maximize your profit or price closer to market value if you want sell quickly.

9. Appearances Do Matter – Make them Count!

Appearance is so critical that it would be unwise to ignore this when selling your home. The look and “feel” of your home will generate a greater emotional response than any other factor. Prospective buyers react to what they see, hear, feel, and smell even though you may have priced your home to sell.

10. Invite the Honest Opinions of Others

The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to rely solely on your own judgment. Don’t be shy about seeking the honest opinions of others. You need to be objective about your home’s good points as well as bad. Fortunately, your Realtor ® will be unabashed about discussing what should be done to make your home more marketable.

11. Get it Spic n’ Span Clean and Fix Everything, Even If It Seems Insignificant

Scrub, scour, tidy up, straighten, get rid of the clutter, declare war on dust, repair squeaks, the light switch that doesn’t work, and the tiny crack in the bathroom mirror because these can be deal-killers and you’ll never know what turns buyers off. Remember, you’re not just competing with other resale homes, but brand-new ones as well.

12. Allow Prospective Buyers to Visualize Themselves in Your Home

The last thing you want prospective buyers to feel when viewing your home is that they may be intruding into someone’s life. Avoid clutter such as too many knick-knacks, etc. Decorate in neutral colors, like white or beige and place a few carefully chosen items to add warmth and character. You can enhance the attractiveness of your home with a well-placed vase of flowers or potpourri in the bathroom. Home-decor magazines are great for tips.

13. Deal Killer Odors – Must Go!

You may not realize but odd smells like traces of food, pets and smoking odors can kill deals quickly. If prospective buyers know you have a dog, or that you smoke, they’ll start being aware of odors and seeing stains that may not even exist. Don’t leave any clues.

14. Be a Smart Seller – Disclose Everything

Smart sellers are proactive in disclosing all known defects to their buyers in writing. This can reduce liability and prevent law suits later on.

15. It’s Better With More Prospects

When you maximize your home’s marketability, you will most likely attract more than one prospective buyer. It is much better to have several buyers because they will compete with each other; a single buyer will end up competing with you.

16. Keep Emotions in Check During Negotiations

Let go of the emotion you’ve invested in your home. Be detached, using a business-like manner in your negotiations. You’ll definitely have an advantage over those who get caught up emotionally in the situation.

17. Learn Why Your Buyer is Motivated

The better you know your buyers the better you can use the negotiation process to your advantage. This allows you to control the pace and duration of the process.

As a rule, buyers are looking to purchase the best affordable property for the least amount of money. Knowing what motivates them enables you to negotiate more effectively. For example, does your buyer need to move quickly. Armed with this information you are in a better position to bargain.

18. What the Buyer Can Really Pay

As soon as possible, try to learn the amount of mortgage the buyer is qualified to carry and how much his/her down payment is. If their offer is low, ask their Realtor ® about the buyer’s ability to pay what your home is worth.

19. When the Buyer Would Like to Close

Quite often, when buyers would “like” to close is when they need to close. Knowledge of their deadlines for completing negotiations again creates a negotiating advantage for you.

20. Never Sign a Deal on Your Next Home Until You Sell Your Current Home

Beware of closing on your new home while you’re still making mortgage payments on the old one or you might end up becoming a seller who is eager (even desperate) for the first deal that comes along.

21. Moving Out Before You Sell Can Put You at a Disadvantage

It has been proven that it’s more difficult to sell a home that is vacant because it becomes forlorn looking, forgotten, no longer an appealing sight. Buyers start getting the message that you have another home and are probably motivated to sell. This could cost you thousands of dollars.

22. Deadlines Create A Serious Disadvantage

Don’t try to sell by a certain date. This adds unnecessary pressure and is a serious disadvantage in negotiations.

23. A Low Offer – Don’t Take It Personally

Invariably the initial offer is below what both you and the buyer knows he’ll pay for your property. Don’t be upset, evaluate the offer objectively. Ensure it spells out the offering price, sufficient deposit, amount of down payment, mortgage amount, a closing date and any special requests. This can simply provide a starting point from which you can negotiate.

24. Turn That Low Offer Around

You can counter a low offer or even an offer that’s just under your asking price. This lets the buyer know that the first offer isn’t seen as being a serious one. Now you’ll be negotiating only with buyers with serious offers.

25. Maybe the Buyer’s Not Qualified

If you feel an offer is inadequate, now is the time to make sure the buyer is qualified to carry the size of mortgage the deal requires. Inquire how they arrived at their figure, and suggest they compare your price to the prices of homes for sale in your neighborhood.

26. Ensure the Contract is Complete

To avoid problems, ensure that all terms, costs and responsibilities are spelled out in the contract of sale. It should include such items as the date it was made, names of parties involved, address of property being sold, purchase price, where deposit monies will be held, date for loan approval, date and place of closing, type of deed, including any contingencies that remain to be settled and what personal property is included (or not) in the sale.

27. Resist Deviating From the Contract

For example, if the buyer requests a move-in prior to closing, just say no. That you’ve been advised against it. Now is not the time to take any chances of the deal falling through.

.

Surges Happen! How To Protect the Appliances In Your Home

The power you get from the wall outlet is known as “120 volts AC power.” The power companies try to keep that voltage uniform. Lightning, short-circuits, poles knocked down by cars, or some other accident can make the voltage jump to hundreds, even thousands of volts. This is what engineers call a “surge.” A surge will last only a few millionths of one second (the “blink of an eye” is thousands of times longer than the typical surge). It is enough to destroy or to upset your appliances.

What can a surge do to your appliances?

Your appliances are designed to run on the normal 120 volts AC supply, with some tolerance for more or less, but they can be damaged, or their controls can be upset by surges. The result is then frustration and repair bills, and even a fire in rare cases.

Disturbances

Normal – This is the voltage that we all take for granted, every second of the minute, every minute of the hour, every hour of the day, every day of the year. But occasionally, for a short time…

The voltage falls below normal: a sag. Sags are unlikely to damage most appliances, but they can make a computer crash, confuse some digital clocks and cause VCRs to forget their settings.

The reverse of a sag is called a swell: a short duration increase in the line voltage. This disturbance might upset sensitive appliances, and damage them if it is a very large or very long swell.

Noise is a catch word sometimes used to describe very small and persistent disturbances. These do not have damaging effects but can be a nuisance.

There is, of course, the ultimate disturbance: an outage -no voltage at all!

These disturbances are different from surges, but they should be mentioned because the remedies are generally different. As we will see later, some available devices can help overcome both sensitive appliances in your home.

Your home contains all sorts, types or kinds of appliances. These not only include the traditional household helpers, but also the entertainment electronics, the family’s computer(s), smart telephones, control systems (thermostats, garage door, etc.), and all the new things to come.

More and more, traditional large appliances in your home depend on very sophisticated electronics for their control. This can often make them sensitive to surges (as well as power interruptions).

To help sort out which types of your appliances might be damaged or upset, you can describe them in general terms depending on their connections: power, telephone, cable, or antennas. Each of these connections offers a path for a surge to come in, something that might be overlooked when the cause of damage is explained as a “power surge.”

The first type includes electronics that are connected only to the power, such as a computer with no modem, a TV set with rabbit ears, a VCR not connected to cable TV, a table-top radio, a microwave oven, etc. Surge protection of these is not particularly difficult, and quite often it is already built-in by the manufacturer.

The second type, for which more protection might be needed, includes electronics that are powered, of course, from your power receptacles but also connected to an external communications system: telephone, cable TV, satellite receiver. A slightly different but similar situation, which also needs attention, is that of appliances connected to a household control system such as garage door opener, intrusion or fire alarm, automatic sprinklers, or intercom.

We will see later why the two kinds of appliances face different risks of being damaged and consequently might require different protection methods.

Where do surges come from?

There are two origins for the surges that occur in your power system: lightning surges and switching surges.

Lightning surges, occur when a lightning bolt strikes between a cloud and objects on earth. The effect can be direct –injection of the lightning current into the object, or indirect –inducing a voltage into electrical circuits.

We will look at ways of protecting your appliances against lightning surges that come by way of the wires -power, telephone, cable, etc. Protection of the house against the direct effects of lightning is done by properly grounded lightning rods. Note also that lightning rods are intended to protect the structure of the house and avoid fires. They do not prevent surges from happening in the wiring.

Direct lightning effects are limited to the object being struck and its surroundings, so that the occurrence is considered rare but it is nearly always deadly for persons or for trees. Well-protected electrical systems can survive a direct strike, perhaps with some momentary disturbances from which they recover (blinking lights and computers restarting during a lightning storm). The key word, of course, is “well-protected” and this information will help ensure your home has a well- protected electrical system.

Indirect lightning effects are less dramatic than from a direct strike, but they reach further out, either by radiating around the strike, or by propagating along power lines, telephone system and cable TV. From the point of view of the home dweller, unwanted opening of the garage door, or a surge coming from the power company during a lightning storm, would be seen as indirect effects.

Switching surges occur when electrical loads are turned on or off within your home, as well as by the normal operations of the power company. An analogy often given is the “water hammer” that can occur in your piping if a faucet is turned off too quickly: the electric current flowing in the wires tries to flow for a short time after the switch has been opened, producing a surge in the wiring, just like the surge of pressure in the piping.

How often, how far, how severe?

So, surges can and do happen!

These questions -how often do surges occur, how far do they travel before hitting your appliances, how severe are they – must be answered, as well as possible, so that you can proceed to the next step of taking calculated risks or making a reasonable investment by purchasing some additional protection. There are several ways of getting surge protection, from the simple purchase of a plug-in device from an electronic store, to the installation of protective devices for the whole house, to be done by an electrician or the power company.

How often?

You are probably best placed to answer that question if you have lived in your neighborhood for several years. Lightning is random but can strike more than one time at the same place. There are now sophisticated means to record the occurrence of individual lightning strikes; electric utilities and businesses seek the data to make decisions on the risks and needs for investing in protection schemes. The reason for mentioning “several years in your neighborhood” is that the frequency of lightning strikes varies over the years and the section of the country where you live.

How far, how severe?

The answers to these two questions are linked: a nearby lightning strike has more severe consequences than an equal strike occurring farther away. There is also a wide range in the severity of the strike itself, with the very severe or very mild being rare, the majority being in mid-range (a current of about 20,000 amperes for a short time) -but still much shorter than the blink of an eye.

Calculated risk or insurance?
The trade off:

A large stack of dollar bills and some change to replace your unprotected computer, if and when a lightning or some other surge destroyed it …

… or use a small number of bills to purchase a “surge protector” for peace of mind and effective protection.

If you look at it from that point of view, the choice is probably easy and, most likely, you will be looking for one of those “surge protectors” -or some device with a similar name to do the same job, as explained next.

What’s in a name?

When you walk in the computer store or electronic supply store, you might ask for something to protect your appliances against surges, but what to call it ? The devices that can protect against surges are called “surge-protective devices” by engineers, but that sounds too much like jargon to some people.

One name that seems to stick is “surge suppressor” with a variety of trademark names. The Underwriter’s Laboratories chose to call them “Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor” and you might find that name or the TVSS acronym next to the listing on the product. Always make sure that the product has been tested by a product safety testing organization, such as UL, ETL, or CSA, as indicated by their labels.

You cannot really suppress a surge altogether, nor “arrest” it (although your utility uses devices they call “surge arresters” to protect their systems). What these protective devices do is neither suppress nor arrest a surge, but simply divert it to ground, where it can do no harm.

Decisions, decisions

Surge protectors come in many shapes and forms for many purposes, not just the plug-in kind that you find in the electronic stores. There are several ways to install them on your power supply: plug and play, do-it-yourself, hire a licensed electrician to do it, or even call on your power company to do it. Here is a run down on your options, and who does it:

  • Purchase one or more plug-in surge protectors
  • Install a surge protector at the service entrance panel
  • Have the power company install a surge protector next to the meter
Plug-in surge protectors

This is the easiest solution, and there are a wide variety of brands available in the stores. These come in two forms: a box that plugs directly into a wall receptacle, or a strip with a power cord and multiple outlets. Depending on the appliance, you will look for a simple AC power plug-in, or a more complex combined protector for AC power and telephone or cable. However, before you purchase the right protector for the job, you should think about some details.

There is another decision to make, concerning how a surge protector will power your appliance if the protective element should fail under extreme cases of exposure to a large surge or large swell. Most surge protectors are provided internally with some kind of fuse that will disconnect in case of failure. However, this disconnect can operate in two different ways, depending on the design of the surge protector: some will completely cut off the output power, others will disconnect the failed element but maintain the power output.

Quit and be protected or continue?

For you, it is a matter of choice: would you want to maintain the output power to your appliance -but with no more surge protection? Or would you rather maintain protection for sure -by having the circuit of the protector cut off the power supply to your appliance, if the protective function were to fail? To make an intelligent decision, you must know which of the two possibilities are designed into the surge protector that you will be looking for.

What are the lights telling you?

To help the consumer know what is going on inside the surge protector, many manufacturers provide some form of indication, generally by one or more pilot lights on the device. Unfortunately, these indications are not standardized, and the meaning might be confusing, between one, two – even three or four lights -where it is not always clear what their color means. Read the instructions!

More decisions …

So far, we have looked mostly at the plug-in surge protectors because they are the easiest to install and they do not require the services of an electrician. The two other possible locations for surge protectors are the service panel (breaker panel) and the meter socket.

Service-panel surge protectors

Instead of using several plug in protectors -one for each sensitive appliance is sometimes recommended -you can install a protector at the service panel of the house (also called “service entrance” or “breaker box”). The idea is that with one device, all appliances in the house can be protected, perhaps with a few plug-in protectors next to the most sensitive appliances. There are two types of devices available: incorporated in the panel, or outside the panel.

Some breaker panel manufacturers also offer a snap in surge protector, taking the space of two breakers (assuming that there are blank spaces available on the panel), and easily installed by the home owner or by an electrician. However, there are two limitations or conditions to that approach:

The snap in protectors generally fit only in a breaker panel from the same manufacturer -possibly down to the model or vintage of the panel.

To install the snap in protector, you must remove the front panel (do turn off the main breaker before you do that). Most cities have codes allowing the home owner to do it, under some conditions. Check with your local authorities to find out if they allow you to do that, or hire a licensed electrician to do the installation for you. There are other surge protectors packaged for wiring into the service panel, either within or next to the panel. That kind of installation is best left to a licensed electrician.

At the meter socket

There might be a possibility that the power company in your area offers, as an option, to install a surge protector with a special adapter, fitting it between the meter and its socket (the dark band in the bubble of the picture). But that type of device and installation is out of the question as a do-it-yourself project, and will require cooperation from the power company, if they do offer the program.

Other types of outdoor surge protectors can be installed near the meter. That kind of installation must be done by a licensed electrician.

Check list

Before you decide which way you want to protect your appliances, there are other points to consider.

Where do you live?

This is an important question because the type of dwelling has some effect on how severe your surge problem might be. In a somewhat simplified way, consider three categories according to the arrangement of the utilities:

  • Detached house with power and telephone and/or cable TV drops at opposite ends of the house -the worst possible arrangement of all. But do not fret, there is a way of compensating, even after the fact, for this unfortunate situation, as we will see.
  • Detached house with all services (power, cable TV, phone) entering on the same side of the house.
  • Townhouse or apartment building with services entering the building at one point and fanned out to the different dwellings – about the same as the case of the detached house with all services on the same side.
What appliances are you using?

From the surge protection point of view, there are four kinds of appliances, with examples listed below by order of increasing sensitivity to surges, either because of their nature or because of their exposure:

  • Motor-driven and heating appliances
    Washers (dish and clothes), food processors, power tools, heating and ventilation motors, pumps, etc.
    Water heaters, space heaters, toasters, incandescent light bulbs
  • Free-standing electronic appliances
    Computers without modem, table radios, TV sets with rabbit ears Compact fluorescent and modern tube type fluorescent lamps
  • Communications-connected appliances
    Computers with modem, TV with cable or satellite antenna, fax machines, telephone answering/recording machines
  • Signal systems
    Intruder alarms, garage door openers, sprinklers, intercom

Let’s then take a quick look at each of these and see which might need some form of surge protection.

Motor-driven appliances and heating appliances

For each of these two categories, there can be two or more kinds, depending on the type of control used.

  • Mechanical control (ON-OFF switch, rotary control, etc.), no sophisticated key pad or other electronic control
  • Electronic control (programmable operation, key pad, display, etc.)

Appliances with mechanical controls are generally insensitive to surges and can be expected to withstand the typical surges that occur in a residence. Extreme cases, such as a direct lightning strike to the building, or one to the utility, very close, might cause damage.

Appliances with electronic controls can be more susceptible to damage than those with mechanical controls. Less traumatic but annoying can be upset memory in programmable appliances, although progress is being made in providing more built in protection.

Another difference to be noted is that of appliances permanently connected, as opposed to those in intermittent use. The risk of a damaging surge happening at the time of intermittent use is much smaller than that of an appliance which is on all the time.

What kind of appliances?

Electronic appliances

Power companies sometimes include as bill stuffers the suggestion to disconnect your appliances when a severe lightning storm is approaching. But that is no help if you are not in the house at that time. If, on the other hand, you are in the house, pulling out the power cord of an appliance that remains connected to a telephone line or cable TV might not be the best idea: you would lose the grounding of the appliance normally done by the power cord – possibly a safety problem should a surge come upon the telephone or cable TV.

This information should help you make the choices that fit your needs for surge protection. To make the right choice, it is useful to note that there are two types of electronic appliances. For each of these types, a different type of surge protector might be needed. These types include:

  • Simple, one link connection to power the system
  • Dual connection to both power and communications
One-link connections

Examples of one-link connection of powered electronic appliances include a TV set with “rabbit ears” antenna, a portable radio receiver, a computer with no modem connection or remote printer, a compact fluorescent lamp, etc. In the category of one-link connection we also find an old-fashioned telephone connected only to the telephone system.

Note that most of these have a two prong plug, which is their sole connection to the power system. For the TV set, a simple” AC plug in surge protector on the power cord would be sufficient. For just the Clamp, the cost of a surge protector ” would be greater than the cost of simply replacing the lamp, if damaged by a surge -and therefore not be justified.

Two-link connections

This type of appliance is another matter. Typical of these would be a computer with a modem, a video system with cable or satellite link, a phone system directly powered from a receptacle (those with a large adapter plug and a thin cable with jack which goes to the appliance generally have sufficient internal isolation against surges).

The surge problem with this type of appliance is that a surge coming in from one of the two systems -power or communications -can damage the appliance, because of a difference in the voltage between the two systems when the surge occurs. This can happen even when there are surge protectors on each of the systems. Fortunately, you can find a special type of surge protector against the problem, as described next.

Equalizing differences

A simple solution to the problem of voltage differences for two-link appliances is to install a special surge protector that incorporates, in the same package, a combination of input/output connections for the two systems. Each link, power and communications, is fed through the protector which is then inserted between the wall receptacles and the input of the appliance to be protected. This type of surge protector is readily available in computer and electronics stores, and the electrical section of home building stores.

In addition to words on the package, it can be recognized by the presence of either a pair of telephone jacks or video coax connectors in addition to the power receptacles. Some models might have all three in the same package. Do note a few words of caution: (1) Read carefully the instructions or markings to find which is “in” and which is “out” for the telephone wires. It is important to note, before you buy the product, whether your wall receptacles are wired for three-prong power cords. Some of these combined protectors might not work very well if plugged into a 2-blade receptacle, using a “cheater” plug. (On some, an indicating light will signal that.)

Not just power-line surges

Among other disturbances on the power lines, there was a brief mention of sags and outages. You are certainly and unhappily well- acquainted with outages that can occur for any number of reasons beyond the control of your utility. Sags -a brief decrease of the line voltage -can be more subtle and do occur more often than the complete outage. You will notice these when the lights dim momentarily, digital clocks or VCR controls blink, or your computer shuts down then reboots -possibly losing some data.

Industrial and commercial users, health-care facilities and other critical systems have for many years used a device called “uninterruptible power supply” (UPS) that provides continuous power across a sag, or for the first portion of an extended outage (an independent local power generator set can then kick in).

The aggravation of consumers caused by sags and outages has created a mass market for consumer applications, making them affordable when looked at as protection against these annoying (but not damaging) disturbances -and with built in surge protection as a bonus in many cases. These consumer type UPSs have a small battery which is sufficient to ride through any sag and short outages. Some models even include the software to make a computer shut down in an orderly sequence in case of a long outage.

Surges in other systems

So far, we have looked at surges on the power line alone, or on a combination of power and communications lines. Surges of a slightly different kind can also happen in parts of other electrical systems that do not directly involve a power line. Examples of these are: the antenna for a remote garage door opener, the sensor wiring for an intrusion alarm system, the video signal part of a satellite dish receiver. Surges in these systems are caused by nearby lightning strikes.

These other systems just mentioned have not been the subject of standards on surge protection as much as power and telephone systems. Furthermore, protective devices for these other systems are not as readily available to consumers. It is more difficult to offer well-defined guidance on surge protection for these systems. Applying preventive surge protection schemes to an existing system might be difficult when the sensitivity of such a system to surges is not known. When considering installation of a new system, it would be a good idea to ask specific questions on that subject before signing the contract.

Protection for other systems

Some codes or practices aimed at providing safety for persons, when they are correctly applied, can also provide some equipment protection.

For instance, the general practice of telephone companies is to provide a surge protector as part of their services at the point where the telephone line enters the house (in dense urban environments, the National Electrical Code allows an exception). This protector is known as the “Network Interface Device” (NID) and you will find it on the outside of your house.

Another example of code requirement is that of cable TV systems for which the National Electrical Code requires proper safety-oriented grounding practices. The problem, however, is that in some cases, the video equipment can still be damaged by voltage differences.

With the increasing popularity of small-dish satellite receivers, installation by the user as do-it-yourself has also increased. Typical instructions for installation show how to make the connections, for instance in the figure at right. What the figure does not show is the need to provide a combined protector for power, telephone, and cable.

A well pump installed outside the house presents a double challenge: protection the pump motor itself against surges, and protection the house wiring against surges that might enter the house by the line that powers the pump. The first protection is generally built-in for modern submersible pumps. The second protection should be provided by surge protector installed at the point where the power line to the pump leaves the house, using protectors similar to those applied at the power line service entrance.

Intruder alarm systems using wires between sensors and their central control unit can be disturbed -and damaged in severe cases -by lightning striking close to the house. The wires necessary for this type of installation extend to all points of the house and act as an antenna system that collects energy from the field generated by the lightning strike, and protection should be included in the design of the system, rather than added later by the owner. Wireless systems are less sensitive than wired systems.

.
Back to Top