As the brownouts and blackouts in California suggest - and the major blackout in the northeast portion of the United States last year attests - the electrical grid is not highly reliable at this time. Utility reports note that power quality is at its lowest in history, and it's getting worse. The utilities thus recommend protection against power quality problems.
A surge is a high-amplitude, short-duration electrical fluctuation that can cause harm to electrical, electromechanical, and electronic equipment. Surges are caused by lightning, utility events, and internal events.
Lightning is the most obvious and most sensational type of surge. Lightning can travel up to half mile from where it strikes. Nothing can prevent a direct strike.
Utility events consist of cross-over of phases, capacitor switching, grid shifting, inductive loads, and open neutrals.
Internal events in the home, however, are the most likely source of a surge. A General Electric (GE) and National Power Labs (NPL) study shows that 65 percent to 80 percent of transient surges are caused internally from pumps (well or pool), A/C condenser motors, refrigeration motors, dishwasher motors, and washer/dryer motors.
These events can result in the three D's of surge problems:
A surge protector works by shunting the voltage surge to ground. A good ground is imperative. The National Electrical Code (NEC) maximum resistance at ground is 25 ohms.
By informing customers of the potential damage of an electrical surge and the solution a contractor can provide, you differentiate your contracting company from the competition and identify it as a quality service company concerned about the long-term operation of their equipment. This can result not only in the sale of a surge protector, but also repeat customers, referral business, and increased profits.
For a five-truck contracting company that does five calls per day, there are 25 opportunities to offer a surge solution. If you close 40 percent of those offers, you sell 10 surge protector units. With a price of $100 installed and your cost at $25, you earn $75 of revenue for each sale, which equals a total of $750 more revenue per day. With 240 workdays per year, that equals $180,000 in add-on equipment revenue.
By getting this protection from an HVAC contractor, they get professional installation and reliable operation. In addition, some surge solutions handle up to 100,000 amps of surge current, offer a lifetime warranty, and include a $1,000 connected equipment warranty.
As the sidebar below indicates, installing a surge protector is not complicated and can be readily accomplished by a technician. The tech can advise the customer of the potential problem and solution, and provide a custom flyer on the subject. After other service work is done, the customer can decide yes or no. If yes, install. If no, ask the customer to sign an acknowledgement and refusal form.
Many of your customers already have surge protection for their personal computers. With the proven instability of the national electrical grid, the addition of surge protection for an HVAC system is a logical, low-cost solution that benefits the customer and the contractor.
Gary Lampasona is with Sealed Units Parts Co. Inc. (SUPCO), Allenwood, N.J. For more information, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.supco.com. Contractors can obtain a surge protection marketing kit from SUPCO by e-mailing Lampasona.
The surge arrestor is a simple three-wire installation:
1. Turn off the main power to the service disconnect and meter test for safety.
2. Remove a knockout from the disconnect.
3. Remove the retaining ring from the nipple on the surge protector.
4. Feed the nipple and wire into the service disconnect.
5. Re-secure with the retaining ring.
6. Route the green wire to the grounding lug and secure.
7. Securely "piggyback" the two black wires to the disconnect power terminals.
8. Replace cover on disconnect.
Here are the steps for electrical panel installation:
1. Turn off main breaker.
2. Remove the front cover from the panel.
3. Remove 3/4-inch knockout on side of panel box.
4. Mount unit through the knockout to the side of the panel.
5. Secure green wire to the grounding bus.
6. Connect the black wires to the load side of the closest two-pole breaker.
7. Connected wiring must be kept short.
8. Replace front cover of panel box.
- By Gary Lampasona
Publication date: 06/14/2004