How to choose the right surge protector?

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How to choose the right surge arresters ?

Choosing the right surge protective device (SPD) and protective circuit breakers involves considering a wide range of parameters related to types of SPDs, circuit breaker arrangements, and risk assessment.

Three rules of thumb for choosing surge protection

Now that we’ve established that SPDs should be at the heart of a lightning protection system, it’s time to think about how to choose the right surge protection. Easier said than done. Here are some rules of thumb for installing a surge protection device (SPD):

  1. Familiarize yourself with types, or categories, of SPDs.
  2. Assess the risk of lightning strikes and discharge capacities.
  3. Use the right devices to protect the surge protection itself.

3 types of SPD

To protect a distribution switchboard, you need only install a Type 2 SPD with discharge capacity In>5kA.(8/20).

Risk assessment

Assessing risk is generally a complex, painstaking process. A good starting point is to think about what kinds of areas are most and least at risk. You can then consider the type of SPD best suited to the kind of building you’re planning to protect – if it has a single service entry switchboard.

Lightning strikes 90% of the earth. The high lightning areas are on land located in the tropics. Areas with almost no lightning are the Arctic and Antarctic, closely followed by the oceans which have only 0.1 to 1 strikes/km2/yr.

Figure 1 NASA – Global map of lightning frequency–strikes/km2/yr. Image credit: NSSTC Lightning Team

However, even if the density of strikes (Ng) doesn’t look risky, many countries like France, for example, include Ng in its national standard NF C 15-100. Indeed lightning can be dangerous for your electrical installation and is taken into account by global standards.

One or two tips for risk assessment

Use European HD 60364-5-53, for example. Some countries make it compulsory to use this standard when considering surge protection for big and/or highly sensitive buildings like industrial facilities, hospitals, and data centers.

Otherwise, bear this rule of thumb in mind: always install a Type 2 surge protection. If the distance between the surge protector and the equipment to be protected is greater than 10 meters, then add a Type 2 or Type 3 SPD, close to the load to be protected.

Protect your surge protection devices

Although SPDs don’t trip, the following end-of-life scenarios are possible:

  1. Thermal runaway caused by the constant excessive constraints of an SPD not exceeding its lightning attributes could lead to the slow destruction of internal components.
    The disconnection of the SPD is provided by a thermal fuse associated with the electronic components (MOVs) inside the SPD.
  2. A short-circuit due to exceeding the maximum flow capacity or due to a fault under 50hz from the electrical distribution network (e.g., break of neutral, phase-neutral inversion). The disconnection of the SPD is provided by an external or integrated short circuit protection device like a circuit breaker, for example.

Although you may have to choose an external circuit breaker, more and more manufacturers incorporate them in the same enclosure.

You should choose a circuit breaker according to the short circuit current of the building where the SPD is installed. For example, a disconnection circuit breaker with a short-circuit breaking current lower than 6kA is suitable for a residential building. For an office, it is usually 15kA or 20kA.

But determining matches is a delicate business, many parameters need to be considered while selecting the external short-circuit protection (Breaking capacity, Lightning current withstand, Coordination with upstream protection)

That’s why we suggest you reference our Design Guide which will allow you to more easily select the right disconnection circuit breaker.

Choosing the right SPD and protective circuit breaker – at a glance

The schematic below gives you an idea of the basic parameters you should factor into your choice of surge protection.

How to Choose a Surge Protector

Better still – make an informed, comprehensive choice of surge protection

Check out our Surge Protection Device Selector to better know about choosing the right surge protection devices and circuit breakers for the right application.

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  • hello didier,
    can you explain a bit more why it’s better to protect your SPD with circuit breaker instead of fuse ?
    thanks for your clarification

  • mark rehert

    10 years ago

    The email invite for the survey said that I would be entered into a raffle but I was never asked for my contact information.

    • Jennifer Wendt

      10 years ago

      Hi Mark,
      We apologize for this issue. Your name is submitted into the list of potential winners and we appreciate your patience and response to this matter. Good luck!

  • Thanks for the timely advice as we approach the summer season.

  • Marilyn Savela

    10 years ago

    Thank you for the survey and helping us understand…..We do have power surges, and the power shuts off for ten minutes, sometimes only on and off
    or longer….then reset everything.

  • Aubyn Freed

    10 years ago

    We underestimate our vulnerability !

  • Abdul Whab

    10 years ago

    what is the difference between class 1 and class 2 surge arrestor?


    9 years ago

    Is Class-II SPD is suitable for Home System. If yes, which SPD we use like model, power etc. we have 220v 3 phase system in our region.

  • David Li

    7 years ago

    Hi Didier,
    In a building, we have main LVSB, floor main DB, and terminal DB’s, is it required to install SPD in all switchboards, distribution boards, IT power distribution boards?

  • Kalifa Howard

    7 years ago

    How many strikes can a Type 2 surge protection device take?

  • Engr Kamran

    6 years ago

    i use NW800A TP ACB (Masterpack ) Schneider make for my main L.T panel . please suggest me Is NW800A ACB required for separate SPD for our system safety protection?

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