In an age where we rely heavily on appliances, electronics, and electricity-powered HVAC systems, it can be worrying to think about the kind of damage a power surge can cause. A lot of homeowners aren’t even sure what a power surge actually is or what can lead to one.
In this blog post, we’ll explain the things that every homeowner should know about power surges, including:
what they are
what causes them
what damage they can cause
how to prevent them
What Is a Power Surge?
A power surge is an extremely intense and rapid power spike in a building’s electrical current, supplying voltage far above what is safe.
As a point of reference, wall outlets generally supply 120 volts AC power, which is what most appliances and electronics use. Though the voltage level fluctuates at times between 0 to 169 volts, this is still considered to be in the “safe zone.” Now consider that thousands or even tens of thousands of volts can enter your home’s wiring during a power surge. It’s no wonder that even just one power surge can cause significant damage to your electronics, appliances, and HVAC equipment.
What Causes Power Surges?
Power surges can result from a number of situations. These 5 causes are among the most common.
1. A Lightning Strike
You may have heard to turn off and unplug your expensive electronics during bad storms. This is not terrible advice. A power surge can occur when lightning strikes on or even near your power line. The resulting voltage spike from a lightning strike can be in the millions of volts, which is capable of wiping out any electronics not plugged into a surge protector.
2. A Power Outage
To clarify, it is not the power outage per se that can cause the power surge. The trouble can happen when the power suddenly returns, usually in a huge burst of energy through the lines that is sometimes accompanied by excess power.
3. Overloaded Circuits and Outlets
This is often an issue in older homes with fewer electrical outlets in which to connect electronics and appliances. When too many things are plugged into the same socket, it can eventually cause a power surge or even an electrical fire. A power surge can also occur if too many appliances or electronics are plugged in along the same circuit.
4. High-Energy Appliances and Equipment
Equipment and appliances that require a lot of power, such as your HVAC equipment, sometimes cause power surges due to their tendency to draw so much electricity through the circuit. Occasionally when this happens, excess electricity travels through the circuit on the way to the high-energy equipment, unfortunately overpowering the rest of the equipment on the circuit along the way. Flickering lights are an indicator that this is occurring.
5. Exposed or Damaged Electrical Wires
When wires are damaged or exposed, they lack the needed insulation to direct electricity properly. This can lead to a power surge. In some cases, damaged wires might be caused by pets or varmints chewing on your wiring. Never attempt to handle an exposed wire because you definitely risk getting electrocuted without the proper training and equipment.
What Kind of Damage Can Surges Cause?
Imagine suddenly being without an air conditioner in the middle of summer or a furnace in the middle of winter. Imagine not being able to power on your computer or your big screen TV. Imagine having to replace all of the major appliances in your kitchen, including the refrigerator that’s already starting to rise in temperature with all of your perishable groceries inside it.
The potential damage from even one power surge can set you back tens of thousands of dollars. From one severe power surge, you might lose all of your appliances and electronics that were plugged in at the time, along with your expensive HVAC equipment. You might even lose your entire home if a power surge were to start an electrical fire.
How Do I Prevent Damage from a Surge?
There are a few ways you can protect your home and belongings from the devastation of a power surge. A smart, long-term option is to get a whole-home surge protector professionally installed. You can also purchase individual surge protectors to use at each of your outlets, particularly any outlets where you’ve plugged in expensive equipment. Just make sure that you are never “daisy-chaining” one surge protector into another surge protector.
If you are experiencing flickering lights or frequently tripping breakers, the licensed electricians at Hutton Power & Light can perform an inspection on your electrical system to pinpoint exactly what’s causing the trouble. Not only will you have the convenience of a properly functioning electrical system, but you’ll also have the peace of mind knowing that it was carefully inspected by experienced professionals who guarantee 100% customer satisfaction.