Do You Need a Surge Protector With a Whole House Generator?

Whole house generators are a lifesaver when you have a power outage in your area. Unlike smaller generators, a whole house generator will supply backup power to your entire electrical system. However, with direct connections to your electrical system, there could be risks of power surging in your home. 

While surge protectors aren’t necessary for all whole house generators, they help safeguard your home’s appliances and electronics. When you have a surge protector between your whole house generator and your home’s electrical system, your electronics won’t sustain damage if there is a malfunction.

This article will cover the importance of surge protectors and what may happen if your whole house generator is not protected. 

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Does a Generator Need a Surge Protector?

When you install a whole house generator for your home, it will typically run on either natural gas or propane. If you experience a power outage, a standby home generator will automatically turn on and supply power to your home. When generators work, they are priceless appliances that keep you and your family comfortable. 

However, as with all machines, there is a risk that the machine can malfunction. Whether it’s poor fuel quality or broken components, there is a risk of power surging from a whole house generator. Generator malfunctions are never normal but could happen to your system unexpectedly. 

Installation of a surge protector when a whole house generator supplies to a home power is often unnecessary. However, a surge protector can give you peace of mind and ensure you and your electronics are safe. Fortunately, many generators today come with surge protectors to safeguard the system’s inner components. 

These surge protectors divert the spikes of electricity away from your home and into the ground. In most cases, the surge protector will be a metal oxide varistor, proven in studies for its incredible voltage suppression qualities. If you are looking for protection from the unexpected, it’s never a bad idea to install surge protection. 

How Do You Protect Electronics From a Generator?

One of the most significant risks to your home’s electronics is a power surge. When there is a sudden increase in electricity, the voltage can rise to levels so high that it damages your electronics permanently. These power surges are typically associated with lightning strikes but can also occur from generators.

To protect your electronics from a generator, you want to put surge protection between your electronics and the generator. This surge protection can be through a whole house surge protector or with a surge protector power strip. Additionally, you can unplug electronics when they are not in use. 

If you want a cost-effective way of protecting your electronics from a generator, a surge-protecting power strip is a good choice. These power strips have a built-in feature that shuts off the flow of electricity if it senses a spike. Plug in all of your valuable electronics in these power strips to keep them protected from a generator. 

It’s important to note that surge protection does not last forever, and you should replace your surge protectors every 3-5 years. If you live in an area that experiences frequent blackouts, it’s better to be safe and replace them more often. The consistent surges of power degrade the metal oxide varistor until it breaks.  

Unlike a traditional power supply in your home, a generator’s power can fluctuate when it’s running. These fluctuations can cause tiny drops and surges in power that affect your home’s electronics. Add surge protection or opt for an inverter generator to protect your home’s electronics. 

Inverter generators convert AC power to DC power, resulting in a steady flow of electricity to your home’s electronics. These generators have a more complex electronic mechanism, which will likely be more costly. However, if you want to keep your electronics safe, an inverter generator is an excellent choice. 

Do Generators Have Power Surges?

Power surges or transients are when your electrical system receives a sudden spike in voltage. Many people solely relate power surges with lightning strikes, but several things can cause these spikes. Some of the most common causes of power surges in people’s homes are:

  • Lightning Strikes
  • Outdated Electrical Systems
  • Tree Limbs Touching Power Lines
  • Internal Sources Overloading Circuits

It’s not common for a generator to have power surges, but it can happen with a malfunctioning system. When a generator’s engine is not running efficiently, the power will fluctuate up and down in your home. The lights will dim or brighten, and your electronics are at risk of sustaining damage. 

The likelihood of a generator power surging will increase the older your system is for your home. Aging generator components can become clogged or not work, leading to potential power surges. Keeping your generator maintained is a crucial step in ensuring your system lasts for a long time.

What Happens If You Experience a Power Surge? 

If you have never experienced a power surge before in your home, it can be startling for many people. Depending on the severity of the power surge, you will likely have flickering lights and hear an audible buzzing noise. The sudden increase in electricity will heat the components of your home’s electronics. 

In the United States, most outlets are 120-volts and are used to power all of your home’s appliances. When there is a power surge, the 120-volts can rise to 170-volts or more in your home. While these rises are only a split second, it’s enough to damage your valuable electronics severely. 

When homeowners get severe power surges, some electronics even reveal burn marks and lots of damage. If your generator is causing power surges, you should unplug your electronics entirely until you resolve the problem. A licensed electrician or generator technician can help you prevent power surges from coming from your system.

Are Generac Generators Safe for Electronics?

Founded in 1959, Generac is one of the leading backup generator manufacturers in the United States. Generac has standby generators for applications of all sizes, starting from 7.5kw generators to 150kw. With such a strong reputation, many homeowners trust Generac to keep their electronics safe. 

Having a Generac generator power your electronics is generally safe. These generators supply steady power and will power most electronics when installed correctly by an electrician. Generac has developed its own surge protector for added protection that will protect sensitive electronics. 

Generac generators have built-in features that help regulate the flow of electricity to your electronics. However, there is still a chance of small fluctuations of power directed towards your home without additional surge protection. These power surges happen in a fraction of a second but can still cause permanent damage. 

If you want to protect your valuable electronics, purchase Generac’s 7300 Surge Protector. This surge protector provides whole-house protection, keeping your mobile phones, laptops, and other electronics safe. With some estimates of power surge damage being $4,245 per event, the surge protector is an inexpensive fix. 

Common Reasons for Generac Generator Surges

When you install a Generac generator for your home, it must be installed correctly by a qualified installer. Generac offers a generous 5-year limited warranty for their products, but this warranty only covers defects in the product. Warranties will not cover an incorrectly installed whole-house generator

If you are experiencing surging from your generator, it’s essential to check if your generator is installed correctly. Have an experienced electrician or generator technician inspect it.

There are a few common reasons that a Generac generator will surge. 3 of the most common problems of these generators are: 

  1. Bad Fuel Quality 
  2. Low Fuel Levels 
  3. Improper Fuel Type

A Generac generator that runs correctly will not have any power surges, and the engine will run smoothly. Check the quality of your propane or natural gas to ensure it’s supplying your generator efficiently. The problem may lie in your home’s propane or natural gas supply, not the generator itself.

How Do You Fix a Surging Whole House Generator? 

If you notice that your whole-house generator is surging or causing fluctuations in power, you should address the problem. Generator surging is a serious issue and can result in thousands of dollars in damage. You can try a few things for homeowners with limited knowledge of generators before calling in the professionals. 

  1. One of the first places to start when addressing any generator problem is inspecting the fuel lines. If there is a crack or leak in a fuel line, the whole-house generator will have trouble receiving the ideal amount of fuel it needs. Check to see if there are any holes in the fuel line connecting to the generator. 
  1. If the fuel lines look good, you can move on to the next step. Most whole-house generators have a fuel filter that will trap any sediments or debris in the fuel, keeping the engine running smoothly. However, you will need to replace these filters once they lose their effectiveness. 
  1. A damaged fuel filter can also cause clogging in the generator that will cause erratic jumps in power. The fuel filter in generators is a small component, typically only costing a few dollars to replace. If you suspect that the fuel filter is the problem, replace it before moving to the last option. 
  1. The last thing you can do if the power surging problem persists is to call a professional to take a look at it. Consistent power surges are not normal and need to be addressed before it becomes dangerous. A qualified generator technician can spot the problem with your generator and stop the surging. 

What Type of Surge Protector Should You Use for a Generator? 

If you want adequate surge protection, you must install the proper surge protection for your home’s generator. Purchasing a surge protector from a reputable business will save you from headaches and stress from broken electronics. Whole-house generators are linked directly to your home’s electrical system so that the surge protector will be linked to your entire system. 

There are two lines of defense that homeowners use to protect their homes from surges in electricity.

Surge Protection TypeLocation
Surge ArrestersOn the main electrical panel of your home
Surge SuppressorsAt outlets or power strips where you plug-in electronic devices

Surge arrestors are mounted inside the main electrical panel of your home and defend against voltage spikes. These surge arrestors are critical in stopping power surges from generators in their tracks. 

Some of the best surge protection brands are:

  • Siemens
  • Eaton
  • Leviton 

These brands offer surge arresters for your electrical panel to stop power surges of all types. Whether it’s lightning strikes or your generator, you can relax knowing these effective surge arresters protect you. If you want more protection for your home, you can also include surge suppressors. 

A surge suppressor is something you put in the interior of your home and will act as a barrier between electricity and electronics. You should set up these surge suppressors in areas with electronics that are sensitive to power surges. You should plug items like laptops, mobile phones, gaming consoles, or TVs into a surge suppressor. 

By taking a two-phase approach, you can improve the surge protection for your home. When there are surges from your generator, you will not notice the effects on your home’s electronics. Instead, the excess voltage will dissipate, and you will be protected for when the generator is on or when your standard power is on. 

Conclusion

Whole-house generators are a critical appliance when there are power outages or blackouts. You will likely use a whole-house generator sparingly, but you must be prepared to use it. When a generator is running, there is a chance it will experience fluctuations in power, which can result in power surges.

Adding a surge protector to your generator is unnecessary, but it will help protect your home’s electronics in the rare instance there is a power surge. Some top standby generator companies like Generac have developed surge protectors that work perfectly with their whole-house generators. 

So, if you are looking to play it safe and possibly prevent thousands of dollars in damages—install a surge protector for your home. 

Sources

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and an FHA 203k Consultant. I started PickGenerators.com to help people better understand whole-house and portable generators.

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