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Ethernet Surge Protection for Home Networks - What to Buy

Learn how to protect your home networking equipment and computers from surges and lightning. Your routers, modems, switches, computers, storage, and monitors may all be vulnerable.

Lightning Over Houses Scott Osborn / Unsplash

Last Updated: October 27, 2021

Written by Kevin Jones

What Is a Power Surge?

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A power surge is a short spike in voltage, current, or energy. Power surges can destroy or weaken electronic devices and wiring, either all at once or over time.

Common causes for power surges include:

  • Lightning strikes
  • Power outages
  • Turning on or off large appliances, such as those with electric motors or compressors
  • Tripped circuit breakers
  • Short circuits
  • Power company failures

Why Should You Protect Your Network From Power Surges?

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Power surges can destroy your expensive equipment, costing you money and downtime, and possibly cause you to lose important data. For home businesses, lost time can mean lost profits. It's often more cost-effective to invest in protection against power surges, mitigating any disasters.

Home networks include various equipment that can be vulnerable to power surges, including cable modems, routers, computers, switches, TVs, monitors, cameras, and speaker systems.

How Can You Protect Your Network and Computers From Power Surges?

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It's best to begin by assessing the various ways in which your equipment is vulnerable to power surges. Once you've identified the exposed areas, add protection to each potential source of power surges.

For example, lightning surges can enter your network via power lines, coax Internet cables, and Ethernet cables.

Additionally, any cables running outdoors are especially susceptible. These could include coax cables, wired PoE cameras, and Ethernet cables running to additional buildings or devices.

Surge protection systems may fail, so it's best to use a combination of strategies to avoid cascading failures or a single point of failure.

Coax Grounding

Coax Grounding Blocks

  • TV antennas can build up static charges, which need to be dissipated. You can do this with a coax grounding block.
  • You'll additionally need to purchase a grounding wire. High Frequency Ground Block - Coax F Type High Frequency Ground Block - Coax F Type Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Note that grounding blocks do not protect against lightning strikes. For that, you'd need a lightning arrestor (shown below).

Lightning Arrestors

  • Lightning arrestors protect against the high voltage of lightning strikes, compared to grounding blocks, which only dissipate static charges.
  • Gas tube lightning arrestors may need to be replaced after a few years.
  • You'll additionally need to purchase a grounding wire. Lightning Arrestor F Type 3GHz 75 ohm with 90V Gas Tube Lightning Arrestor F Type 3GHz 75 ohm with 90V Gas Tube Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Surge Protectors

  • Surge protectors protect your equipment from both internal and external power surges via power outlets.
  • The following surge protector has a 2160 joule surge suppression rating. Tripp Lite 12 Outlet Surge Protector - $150,000 Insurance Tripp Lite 12 Outlet Surge Protector - $150,000 Insurance Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Network Isolation

As I mentioned above, it's best to protect your equipment from a single point of failure. For example, suppose your coax lightning arrestor fails to function as intended. In that case, you want to prevent a lightning strike from damaging your entire computer network and entertainment system.

Additionally, if you have any Ethernet cables running outdoors, this can introduce a vulnerability to your equipment.

One way to ensure that lightning and surges can't trace a path through your equipment is by electrically isolating them. You can do this by converting a span of your Ethernet cable to a fiber optic cable.

Fiber-optic cable is a thin transparent tube made of silica that guides light waves and is used to transport data.

Electricity from lightning, power surges, and static electricity cannot transmit across a fiber-optic line. Because of this, electrical isolation via fiber networking becomes an excellent form of insurance for this risk.

Fiber to Ethernet media converters adapt between a typical RJ-45 copper Ethernet cable and fiber-optic cable. A pair of fiber to Ethernet media converters can create a beneficial electrical barrier when running Ethernet between buildings or to outdoor Power over Ethernet (PoE) devices such as cameras and Wi-Fi access points.

By decoupling the connection between devices with fiber-optic cable, fiber networking can also prevent electrical interference.

You could create an isolation barrier in various locations, including:

  • Directly after your cable modem, which would create better isolation from the coax cable
  • Between rooms to create protection between components
  • Between indoor-outdoor connections, when running Ethernet cables to outdoor equipment such as PoE cameras

It's important to note that some outdoor fiber cables may use metal protective sheaths, making the line susceptible to lightning strikes. For this reason, it's critical to use fiber-optic cable without metallic elements when attempting to isolate your network. You could, however, use a combination of outdoor and indoor fiber to maintain the electrical isolation.

1 Gbps Ethernet Extension via Fiber

  • Two 1 Gbps media converters Pair of 1.25G Media Converters, SFP Slot and SFP Modules, MMF, 850-nm, 550 meters Pair of 1.25G Media Converters, SFP Slot and SFP Modules, MMF, 850-nm, 550 meters Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • LC to LC OM3 MMF duplex fiber patch cable Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OM3 10Gb/Gigabit Multi-Mode Duplex 50/125 Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OM3 10Gb/Gigabit Multi-Mode Duplex 50/125 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

10 Gbps Ethernet Extension via Fiber

  • Two 10 Gbps media converters 10 Gigabit Fiber to 10G Copper UTP Ethernet Media Converter 10 Gigabit Fiber to 10G Copper UTP Ethernet Media Converter Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Two 10GBASE SFP+ MMF transceivers 10GBase-SR SFP+ Transceiver, 10G 850nm MMF, up to 300 Meters 10GBase-SR SFP+ Transceiver, 10G 850nm MMF, up to 300 Meters Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • LC to LC OM3 MMF duplex fiber patch cable Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OM3 10Gb/Gigabit Multi-Mode Duplex 50/125 Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OM3 10Gb/Gigabit Multi-Mode Duplex 50/125 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Are you interested in learning about more advanced fiber-optic layouts or electrically isolating all of your network equipment? Check out my article Set Up a Fiber-Optic Network in Your Home or Office.

You can also isolate expensive or vulnerable USB devices using USB over fiber.

PoE

  • Suppose you're looking for a more cost-effective solution for protecting outdoor PoE (Power over Ethernet) equipment such as cameras. In that case, PoE surge protectors may provide a good enough middle ground, assuming you don't need the protection levels offered by fiber optics. Ethernet Surge Protector PoE+ Ethernet Surge Protector PoE+ Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)