A power surge is defined as “an unexpected, temporary increase in the current or voltage of an electrical circuit.” This current increase can be compared to the rush of water that occurs when a dam breaks, and it can be just as damaging. But instead of destroying buildings or trees, it can wipe out anything that uses electricity. So, what causes power surges in a home?
Causes of Home Electrical Power Surges
Lightning – A lightning strike is by far the most spectacular cause of power surges. It is also one of the most predictable. If you hear thunder or know a storm is approaching, you can take precautions to protect your electronics.
Blackout or intentional power outage – Blackouts occur when too much power is being used at the same time and the grid shuts down. Utility companies occasionally turn off the electricity to entire areas to do maintenance. These two situations don’t actually cause a power surge. It’s the return of electricity afterward that can cause a surge.
Downed utility lines or switching grids – A utility line being damaged or destroyed can send power surges through other operational lines and into your home. If the electric company has to change grids to accommodate usage in a certain area, an electric surge may occur.
Large appliances – This type of surge is minimal and limited to your home. When an appliance that requires a larger amount of electricity shuts off, a small surge may occur and affect more sensitive components.
How to Prevent Damage from Power Surges
The best way to protect yourself from home electrical power surges is with surge protection devices. Two types are available. The first one is a surge protector that plugs into your outlet and protects only the devices plugged into it. While effective against some surges, this type will not hold up against extremely strong currents, leaving your electronics susceptible to damage. A quality plug-in surge protector can cost anywhere from $20 to over $100, so don’t use them on items that are inexpensive to replace.
The second type is a whole-house surge protector that is installed at the electric panel. It senses electrical spikes and sends them to the ground instead of allowing them into your home. Whole-house surge protectors are hard-wired into your electric panel and should be installed by a licensed electrician. Many surge protection companies offer warranties against damage when their products are used.
Because larger appliances can cause electrical surges when they power down, avoid plugging sensitive electronics – like a TV or DVD player – into the same circuit as a refrigerator, washer and dryer, dishwasher, or air-conditioner.
When you hear thunder or know a storm is on the way, unplug computers, home entertainment systems, and small appliances before lightning strikes. If your power goes out, turn off or unplug electronics and wait a few minutes after the power comes back on before using them.
Rose Brothers & Sons provides electric repairs and installation in Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati and the surrounding areas, and is qualified to install surge protection in your home. Call today, if you need more information about what causes power surges in a home.