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When It Comes to Surges, It's Time to Splurge

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RALEIGH — Thunderstorms and random power losses can do irreparable damage to your home appliances and equipment, which leads electricians to say that when it comes to a power surge, go ahead and splurge.

"Lightning can get all the way into your home and be doing damage that you don't even know about," says electrician Richard Moore.

The best protection is two-fold. Individual surge protectors can help, but they are not all alike. Individual surge protectors range in price from $5 to $45 and up.

"I think it'd be kind of silly to spend $2,000 on a computer and then fret about the difference in $20," Moore says.

The price range reflects the level of protection provided, as well as special features. The protection is rated in joules.

"The higher the joule, the better the protection. That means it can handle more power for that one second," Moore explains.

Some surge protectors have phone line hook-ups for computer modems, while others have cable jacks for the television.

Even the best surge protector can only handle so much power, so look for one that lets you know when it wears out.

"Some of them have buttons on them, or little lights, that indicate they're no longer working," Moore says. "Some of them just simply won't work any more, and others you have no way of knowing."

The bottom line: when you are choosing a surge protector, pick one that will pay you enough to repair or replace your equipment if it is damaged or destroyed. Some guarantee $1,000 of protection, others $50,000.

Electricians say do not rely on the standard wall plug-in models alone. More protection is available.

A whole-house surge protector stops surges from entering the home to begin with.

It can cost a couple hundred dollars if it is installed by an electrician. Lightning damage can cost a whole lot more.

Some power companies, such as CP&L, offer surge protectors for the outside of your home. In addition to an installation fee, you will pay a monthly fee.