Selection of Surge Protective Device (SPD)- (Part 1)


  • A device which diverts or limits surge current is called Surge protective devices (SPD).
  • SPD protect electrical equipment against over voltages caused by lightning or Switching. It is wired in parallel to the equipment which is needed to be protected.
  • Once the surge voltage exceeds SPD’s rating it starts to conduct energy directly to the electrical grounding system. An SPD has a very low resistance during this time and give low resistance path the energy to ground. Once the surge is over it gives high resistance path to current.
  • SPD is previously known as Transient Voltage Surge Suppressors (TVS) or Secondary Surge Arresters.
  • Underwriter laboratories ,UL 1449 Listed SPDs are now designated as either Type 1, Type 2 or Type 3 and intended for use on AC power systems rated Less than 1000vrms


  • SPD is used to limit transient over voltages of atmospheric or Switching Surge and gives path to the excessive current to earth hence limit the overvoltage to a value that is not hazardous for the electrical installation.

Causes of Surges:

  • (1) External Surge:
  • lightning strikes :Direct Stroke , Indirect Stroke
  • (2) Internal Surge:
  • Switching Surge:
  • Switching on/off of inductive loads.
  • Tripped circuit breakers and fuses.
  • Short circuits.
  • Malfunctions caused by the power company.
  • Insulation Failures:
  • Arcing Ground:
  • Ignition and interruption to electric arc.

Difference between Surge arrestor (Lighting Arrestor) and Surge Suppressor:

  • Surge arresters and Surge Suppressor both are used to protect equipment from surges. But, there is confusion between the application of surge arrestors / Lighting arrestor and surge suppressors.
  • The main differences between a lightning arrester and a surge arrester are its fault clearing time and it’s position
  • Both are doing the same job, but still both are not same.

Lighting Arrestor / Surge Arrestor:

  •  Surge Arresters are widely also known Lightning arresters.
  • Surge arresters are devices installed on Over head lines, substations etc to avoid a Lighting surge and other Surges of an additional current/ voltage/charge due to various faults occurring.
  • In the past year when nonlinear / solid-state devices (computers, PLC and drives) were not used. The Electrical Load is mostly Linear Load. Utility companies and end users were concerned with how to protect electrical distribution systems from lightning surges to ensure that voltage surges did not exceed the basic insulation level (BIL) of the conductor wires, transformers and other equipment.
  • Hence Surge arrestors / Lighting arrestors were developed for use in low, medium and high voltage applications at various points in the transmission and distribution system.
  • Surge Arrestor provide low resistance path between the phase conductor and ground. LA did not concern with the loads if it cleared within a few cycles.
  • Arrestors are still used in the electrical industry primarily along the transmission lines and upstream of a facility’s service entrance.
  • Arrestors are available in various classes depending upon their withstand capability (e.g., station vs. distribution class). At the service entrance location on low voltage systems (600V and below), Lightning arrestors were designed to protect the electrical distribution system and not the sensitive solid-state equipment.
  • Economically, surge arresters are better than surge Different surge arresters are available based on their withstanding capability. The main problem with them is that they are designed for protecting large electrical distribution systems from lightning surges, and not for sensitive solid state equipment.
  • Applications: The surge arrester is best to protect insulation of transformers, panel boards, and wirings. However, it doesn’t work well for solid state components.

 Surge Suppressor / Surge Protector (called TVSS):

  •  In today’s we mostly use solid-state (nonlinear) loads like electronic equipment, drives, PLCs, computers, electronic ballasts, telecommunication equipment. Non Linear is about 70% of utility loads. The solid-state components will be damaged by the surges.
  • Using Surge suppressors at the service entrance and key branch panels, the surge will be effectively reduced to under 100V.
  • If a TVSS and lightning arrestor are both used at a service entrance switchboard, the TVSS will “turn on” earlier and shunt most of the surge current. Many water-treatment plants, telecommunication facilities, hospitals, schools and heavy industrial plants utilize TVSSs instead of surge arrestors to provide protection against the effects of lightning, utility switching, switching electric motors.
  • Applications: They are used in water treatment plants, hospitals, schools, and telecommunication facilities.

 Size of Surge Protection Device (SPD) does not depend on Panel Size:

  • The kA rating of an SPD (surge rating) is one of the most misleading terms. We normally use 50KA SPD to protect 50KA panel.
  • The kA rating of the surge arresters has nothing to do with the fault current rating of electrical distribution board. We can fit a 40kA surge arrester in a domestic board with a fault current rating of less than 5kA
  • When a surge enters a panel, it does not know the size of the panel. So It is totally miscalculation for use 50KA SPD for 50KA Panel
  • There is a normal Practice that larger panels need larger SPD, but surges are indifferent to panel size.
  • The largest surge that can enter a building’s wiring is 10kA, as explained in the IEEE C62.41 standard. So why would we need a SPD rated for 100KA or 200kA.

About Jignesh.Parmar
Jignesh Parmar has completed M.Tech (Power System Control), B.E(Electrical) from Gujarat University. He has more than 13 years experience in Power Transmission-Power Distribution-Electrical energy theft detection-Electrical Maintenance-Electrical Projects(Planning-Designing-coordination-Execution). He is Presently associate with one of the leading business group as a Deputy Manager at Ahmedabad,India. He is Freelancer Programmer of Advance Excel and design useful Excel Sheets of Electrical Engineering as per IS,NEC,IEC,IEEE codes. He is technical Author for "Electrical Mirror" and "Electrical India" Magazines. He is Technical Blogger and Familiar with English, Hindi, Gujarati, French languages. He wants to Share his experience & knowledge and help technical enthusiasts to find suitable solutions and updating themselves on various Engineering Topics.

12 Responses to Selection of Surge Protective Device (SPD)- (Part 1)

  1. Satinder says:

    Thanku Sir
    It’s valuable notes for me

  2. basdenleco says:

    Highly Informative, Great article containing a wealth of pertinent information in an easy to digest succinct style

  3. Shrikanth YE says:

    Dear Sir
    This is really am Important Article As per i Know, I have searched for the Info about TVSS and LA in many websites but i couldn’t find any proper detail, this article is very understanding, and i need some more information about classification of Type-1, Type-2, Type-3 TVSS devices, If you can explain this I will be greatly thankful to you

  4. Darwin Guimay says:

    I very much appreciate your efforts and being generous for sharing your brilliant knowledge Sir. Thanks and regards;

    Darwin R. Guimay AES – Electrical Engineer 09268743746

  5. Viral says:

    Hi Jignesh, I read your example where you explained that we can use 40KA SPD when the Panel / DB’s KA level is 5 KA; i agree with that, but what about the other way; using say 10KA SPD for a 50KA panel?
    Since at the time of designing the system, if we know that maximum 50KA can be at the point of the panel during the fault condition, isn’t it safe to keep the KA rating of SPD same as it connects the panel incomer in parallel? Correct me if I’m wrong on the concept above.

  6. Peter Nena says:

    Thank you for this. It is very convenient. Just last month I had to advice a client on Type 1 and Type 2 SPDs and I asked the Shneider Electric guys for their catalogue in vain. They didn’t even respond to my request both on Twitter and FB and I couldn’t get the catalogue online.



  8. raja sen says:

    Very Good and vital information

  9. Pankaj Chavan says:

    Really very very good information…

  10. akram says:

    i am doubt about this (intended for use on AC power systems rated Less than 1000vrms)

  11. akram says:

    how comw that ( Non Linear is about 70% of utility loads) , lighting and AC equipments are 90 % of any home , then how come that Non Linear is about 70% of utility loads

  12. rosalin says:

    this site is very much helpful for me

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