The #1 Item Missing from High-Efficient HVAC Installations

     Imagine this: you go out to your local entertainment big-box store and purchase the top of the line “HUMONGOUS” television.  When you get home, you don’t think anything about it and just go ahead plugging it directly into the wall socket, right?  What’s that you say, ludicrous?  Of course, we would only plug that piece of beautiful technology into a UL rated surge protector!

     So, I gave it away in the first paragraph: a UL rated surge protector.  But, don’t you want to know why?  Or what happens if you don’t?  Anyone that knows me has heard me say that I usually ‘learn the hard way – at least once!’  So, when a top-end ductless installation went wrong after months of perfect operation, I had to ask the question, why this one?

     You see, poor Mr. Jones’ house lost power during an electrical storm.  The fact his cable box and other minor electronics failed should have been a giveaway as to what happened.  Everyone knows when these electronic boards are put together in the factory they come with little canisters attached.  In these canisters is a specific amount of smoke, and power fluctuations have a way of letting this smoke out.  No smokey = No worky.

     Unfortunately (depending on the view here), this high end ductless system was resilient.  The unit would turn on, operate for about a minute or two, and then shut down with no error codes or reason.  Frustrating, right? So, we call the tech support line from the house and they determine I must replace the main control board – parts and labor (my generosity as part of the install) warrantied.

     Two days later, yes it snows in New England and it would have been longer if this was in 2015, I return with the part.  Install the latest and greatest control board, smearing white heat sink paste all over anything within eyesight, and…no luck!  Another call determines a combination of control boards should be replaced together.  Thanks for that one OEM Rep!  Another few days later, replace the boards, and once again the same symptoms.  This time, I have to offer the customer a new condenser.

My Preference: The Intermatic AG3000
So I start to think, what could I have done differently to avoid an act of god?  Boy, if I had a solution to all of those questions.  But then it hit me, a surge protector!  In order to pass the electrical inspection, and my anal electrician, said surge protector must be UL listed (this adds to the price).  There are many models that attach to either the outdoor disconnect (weather tight casing) or into the main panel.  I prefer the models that have an indicator light, telling the homeowner if they are still protected.  Either way, this would take the surge and not your new high-efficient HVAC equipment.  This is not a code requirement, so often gets overlooked.  Besides, your equipment that just cost you at least three times your big screen television is not sexy and tucked away in some basement or behind the overgrown shrubs.  Spend the extra few dollars and protect the investment in your comfort!  I think I may start tying my labor warranties to the installation of a surge protector, or just make it part of the installation price.  Just like condensate traps on furnaces, or liquid line filter driers in condensers, if this becomes commonplace why would an OEM not just install these at the factory?  Imagine how many ECM or condenser control boards they warranty over the years?!


  1. Here in Florida summer storms are real bad and for many years I've always installed surge protectors on both the condenser and air handler. I like the Supco brand and to this day I have not lost one unit to a surge. I've had the surge protectors blown to pieces from a surge, but the unit was fine.

  2. It's zero degree here in CT for the past few days. I've been turning heat pump off and to emergency oil burner heat. Doesn't that make sense? Great article again.

  3. Maybe I missed something? No smokey = No worky. ?? It's see the smoke and no worky. We say that the systems have a little Genie in them and when a situation goes bad he magically appears. In my market we advise clients to install whole home surge suppression. In fact, today with the thousands of dollars in electronics in a home today it should be mandatory. I have also the individual surge protection as a second line of defense.

  4. The story goes.

    All electronic must work because they contain magic smoke.
    If you allow the smoke to escape from the electronic they no longer function.


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  7. Wow, this was really interesting to read. I think it is worth it to spend the extra money to protect my comfort. I am sure most people feel the same way. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Thanks for sharing a great article!

    Keep up sharing..

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  9. Surge protectors are definitely worth the investment! My neighbor and I lost a combined total of two flat screen TV's, a lap top computer, and a smart phone during a lightening storm. I always new to unplug all of my electronics during storms, but was not home during this one :'(. Now that I have purchased some surge protectors, I don't have to worry about my electronics being plugged in while I'm at home or on the go!

    Lane Pemberton @ Metcalfe Heating & Air Conditioning

  10. This was informative and helpful. I am in the process of building a new house for my family and it is not easy. I am somewhat of a handyman but I am just so afraid that I would for get about something essential like smoke detectors or whatever it may be and then one of my loved ones gets hurt.

    Henrietta Fuller @ Bri-Tech HVAC

  11. Thank you for the reminder. However, I feel that unless you have felt the pain of losing expensive electronic devices, it never seems to make the shopping list. I have felt that pain. I remember about 10 years ago in a big hurricane, I lost so many of my devices and it took me about a year to replace it.

    Rosa Nelson @ HVAC Philadelphia