In this modern age, we are dependent on the use of electricity in different aspects of our lives – from our day-to-day living, entertainment, jobs, and increasingly in other ways (think about electric cars).
The use of electric devices, appliances, and the likes has become one of the pillars of our daily living, so protecting them is paramount.
One of the most damaging electrical issues that we have is the power surge.
First, let us define what is a power surge.
A power surge happens when there is an unexpected spike in the electricity, which is higher than the standard capacity of your electrical system.
In the United States, we operate typically on 120 volts, while in other countries, appliances could be between 110-220 volts. When a power surge happens, more voltage will come through the wires into our appliances/devices. This fraction of a second surge could range from small surges to big power surges or as little as one volt to the maximum threshold to thousands of excess volts), This could lead to damaged appliances, reduced performance on devices, or even house fires.
With this, homeowners should not take power surges lightly and take the necessary steps to protect their appliances/household.
What are the signs that you are having a power surge?
These are some of the signs indicating that your device or appliances have experienced power surge:
• Device suddenly stopped working
• Device unexpectedly resetting
• Circuit breaker tripping with the power surge overloading the circuit
• The light or clock of your device is flashing
• Burnt smell around the power source or even around the device
• If you have a power strip or surge protector, it may require you to reset
• Warm to touch outlets
What causes a power surge? How do they happen?
There are basically 5 ways how a power surge could happen.
As soon as you hear the thunder roaring, you know that lightning could strike anytime. Many homeowners will surely flinch thinking about how it will affect their appliances. And you should really worry, as a lightning strike can compromise your electrical system.
Our electrical system is actually designed to channel electricity, so its nature will be to accept the electricity even if it’s excessive (like the energy from the lightning) resulting in a massive electrical surge.
An electric surge due to lightning would obviously result in a high voltage spike, so home appliances plugged into the main electrical panel will not be able to accommodate its voltage intensity. This is why it is recommended to always unplug unused appliances during storms especially for houses with no surge protectors.
2. Damaged or Faulty Wiring
The electrical wirings in our home are important to keep things running, as its main role is to distribute electricity. Damaged wiring could create havoc in your home, one of which is through power surges. Why? Damaged or faulty wiring will not have the electrical resistance needed, meaning any conductive material could propel the wire’s current to dangerous levels. Adding to the danger is that is not easy to see damaged wiring especially since they are hidden behind the walls. However, there are tell-tale signs to indicate faulty wiring, like frequent tripping of circuit breakers, odd burning smell from the outlets, burn marks on outlets, and vibration or buzzing sound from outlets.
Once you suspect damaged wiring, make sure to unplug all electrical devices immediately and contact a licensed electrician near you.
3. Blackout or Power Outage
In an event of a power grid failure or storm, a power outage is a normal occurrence. The lack of electricity is not the issue, problems will kick in once the power is restored. The sudden jump in the current once power is restored can create a power surge and potentially damage any device or appliances that are plugged in, which do not have surge protectors.
4. Electrical Overload
If you are using too many extension cords and plugging several devices into one circuit, just stop immediately. An electrical overload is waiting to happen, which will be followed by power surges due to the excess power that is being drawn from your usage.
5. External Factors
There are a number of external factors that can result in electrical surges. Some of which are sweltering temperatures, snowstorms, thunderstorms, tree limbs (branches touching power lines), and animals (e.g., squirrels nibbling away cables and exposing wires)
How to Prevent a Power Surge from Damaging Your Appliances and Electronics?
There are several ways that homeowners can prevent power surges. Here are some tips that you can practice at home:
1. Consult a licensed electrician near you
This is the number one way on how homeowners can protect their homes from any electrical issues, not only power surges. Your trusty electrician will be able to assess your home, do preventive repairs and replacement, thus lowering the risk of surges.
2. Make it a habit to unplug unused devices
Not only will this help lower your electric bills (learn about vampire appliances), but it can also help deter power surges. Always make it a habit to unplug all unused devices or appliances for safety. Besides, the more items that you leave plugged in, the greater number of appliances will be damaged when a power surge happens.
3. Invest in upgrading your older wiring
This is especially true when you live in older houses. The usual wear and tears happen and we also have better home wiring technology with the capacity to handle modern appliances.
4. Avoid overloading your circuit
It is best to ask an electrician to install dedicated circuits for larger, high-powered appliances.
Avoid plugging in too many devices in one circuit and use extension cords properly (they are meant to be temporary fixes and should not be a permanent fixture)
5. Use surge protectors
A surge protector (can also be called surge diverter, surge suppressor) will safely divert the voltage spikes into the ground, so they will not reach your appliances or devices. Make sure to purchase high-quality surge protectors and choose the right kind. You can also ask your electrician to discuss and recommend the right type to you.
All essential information on power surges is here. Don’t wait for a power outage, lightning or other power surge triggers to happen, take the necessary precaution and protect your home.