What Causes a Power Surge?
Living where we do in southwestern Ontario, we’ve all been there before: storm clouds gathering; a crack of thunder in the distance; then, a bolt of lightning blazes through the sky. The lights in your home flicker. That flicker may seem like nothing to worry about, but it’s actually a sign of an unseen threat: power surges. Your lights may come back on without a problem, but that’s often accompanied by a surge in energy that has the potential to damage home electronics.
While thunderstorms are the easiest culprit to pin a power surge on, surges can happen even when the weather is perfect. A power surge can occur when the power company switches from running on one grid to another. You can cause a surge if you plug too many devices into a power bar. Your own appliances, especially high-powered ones like your refrigerator, may even cause a surge when they switch on and off.
In each of these situations, one of two things is happening:
- The flow of electricity has been momentarily interrupted and then started again.
- Something caused electricity to run back into the system.
It’s this sudden flow of electricity back through the circuit that causes a power surge.
Power surges can affect home appliances and electronics. As electricity surges over the acceptable voltage range, it causes an arc of current. This arc generates heat and causes the circuit boards and other electrical components to overheat, and that can lead to degradation and damage.
The damage caused by power surges is cumulative. This means that your television might work today but suddenly stop tomorrow if your home is experiencing a lot of electrical surges. But massive surges like those caused by lightning strikes can fry a system immediately.
Anything with a microprocessor is particularly vulnerable to power surges. Microprocessors aren’t just found in your computers and microwaves, either. Your dishwasher, refrigerator, and other appliances may all have microprocessors that make them susceptible to damage from power surges.
There are a couple of common ways to keep power surges from damaging your appliances and electronics. The easiest is to unplug items when the power goes out. Unplugging everything that runs on electricity prevents a huge current from flowing into these items when the power turns back on. Most experts recommend just leaving one lamp plugged in so you know when the power returns. Once it’s back on, you can plug your electronics back in one by one.
Other ways to protect your home from power surges involve additional equipment, such as:
- Point-of-use surge protectors: Point-of-use surge protectors look like power strips that you plug into a wall outlet. You then plug your appliance or electronic device into the point-of-use unit. Not all power strips are surge protectors, so make sure you find the right type.
- Special electrical outlets: These are designed to cut power to the unit if there is a surge and are commonly used in areas where power strips are not convenient but there is a need to manage the voltage used when appliances are plugged in. For example, you might want one for the microwave in your kitchen.
- A service entrance device: This is a type of surge protector that mounts to your electrical panel or meter and protects all the devices plugged into outlets throughout your home. Service entrance devices are installed by electricians and may require a permit for installation depending on the municipal codes where you live.
Preventing claims is probably one of the most important things you can do as a homeowner. Doing so not only makes your home safer, but it can also help you lower your home insurance premiums.
If you’re unsure whether or not your home is adequately covered, one of DPM Insurance Group’s brokers or CSRs would be happy to review your current policy, and ensure your belongings are adequately protected. Click here to contact one of our six offices in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent: https://dpmins.com/locations/