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As electric utilities consider offering a residential surge protection program, questions often arise as to where to place the surge protector. This blog is intended to help the reader better understand the logic behind the placement of the surge protection device at the meter enclosure.

Surge protectors for main electrical services have been available to residential homeowners for many decades. These devices were installed by the customer (not recommended) or by a qualified electrician at the customer's circuit breaker panel.

Depending on available space, the surge protector was installed at the circuit breaker panel on a separate circuit breaker or, if there was limited space, connections were piggy-backed behind larger conductors on an existing double pole circuit breaker in the customer's panel.

Most early panel-based surge protectors were "spark gap" devices that required the transient surge to jump across a gap to send the transient surge to earth ground. While these devices were somewhat effective in reducing the intensity of the transient surge event, they were not very effective in protecting sensitive electronics.

As the need for protection of sensitive electronics grew, manufacturers transitioned to using the metal oxide Varistor™ for panel-based surge protection. This transition significantly improved the panel-based device's performance by creating a smaller gap to allow the transient surge to jump across to earth ground.

In the mid-1980s, utility engineers in Saint Petersburg, Florida started experimenting with designs that moved the surge protection MOVs outside to the customer's meter enclosure. (One of the founders of KENICK was actively involved with the development of early meter base surge protection devices.) Early surge designs were installed inside of a meter adapter that plugged into the meter socket and allowed the meter to be plugged into the meter adapter.

As the meter base surge protector continued to evolve, many improvements were made to maximize performance while maintaining safety. Most recently (about 15 years ago), KENICK engineers worked to help design the present-day "low profile" meter base surge protector.

One of the significant benefits of the meter base surge protector design is its ability to capture and send transient surges to earth ground outside before they can enter the home. Panel-based surge protectors were found to be at a disadvantage (versus meter base) due to the need for the transient surge to enter the home, travel to the electrical panel, which was often far into the home; then turn around and proceed back to the electrical ground. (Transient surges do not like to turn around…)

Lab and field testing further confirmed the significant benefits of capturing and redirecting transient surges to earth ground outside via a meter base protection device. Since the development of the meter base surge protector, hundreds of electric utilities around the country have offered this unique device to help their customers protect their homes from transient surge events.

While having a surge protector at the customer panel will help capture transient surges and redirect them to earth ground, the meter base surge protector is a much better option in creating "peace of mind" as thunderstorms rumble through the area.