A power surge or electrical surge is a relatively rare, but potentially damaging phenomenon that can occur in any electrical power system.
Before you can protect your home and appliances from this danger, it helps to know exactly what is a power surge and what causes power surges.
A power surge is a sudden increase in voltage in an electrical system. A power surge in a house may fry your delicate electronic devices and damage appliances when too much power surges into their circuits.
Most homes are wired for 120 volt service. Some appliances, like water heaters, clothes dryers, HVAC systems, induction stoves, and EV chargers use 240 volts. The general threshold for what is a power surge is 170 volts over normal.
Our modern power grid provides reliable and even power most of the time, however, disruptions that lead to power surges can happen. It is important to know the signs of a power surge in a home and how to protect your belongings from them. Here are the key things to know about an electrical surge:
The sudden flow of excess volts that define what is a power surge can be caused in many ways:
Power surges can damage anything plugged into the electrical system of your house, even when it isn’t turned on. An electrical surge can flow through the wiring of your home and into the circuits of everything from televisions, computers and refrigerators, overpowering and melting connections.
Depending on the device, a power surge will likely result in a hefty repair bill or possibly destroy it altogether–particularly sensitive electronics. In severe cases, a power surge can cause a fire or harm people or pets. Power surges caused by lightning can be very dangerous, so stay away from electronics and be vigilant.
Preventing power surge damage is worth the investment. Here are the best ways to protect your home from a power surge:
How to prove a power surge happened isn’t easy. Look for these signs that something has gone wrong:
Power surges are rare but can be expensive. Rather than worry, be prepared and protected. Do report a power outage or any damage to electrical infrastructure when you see it.
Power surges are typically brief. For most power surges at home, they last just milliseconds.
When large amounts of power surge through your home’s electrical system, it destroys circuits in appliances and electronics and can potentially spark a fire.
Minor power surges occur multiple times a day. Generally, they happen when you plug in or unplug a device and divert electricity to and from other appliances. Most of these power surges are too quick and small to be detected and are not strong enough to cause disruptions to your service.
In many cases, a power surge will trip your circuit breakers. Surges happen faster than a circuit breaker can react, so your breaker may not provide enough protection.
How a power surge affects your house varies depending on its cause. An overloaded circuit will have a local effect in the section of your house served by that circuit, whereas lightning will likely harm devices throughout your home.
Reset your large appliances first, checking each one by one. Have a professional inspect your HVAC and water heater to make sure they haven’t been damaged.
If the power surge is strong enough or if your wiring is faulty, fire is a real possibility. The surge can heat your wiring extremely fast, causing combustion.
While power surges are rare, the damage they can cause to your appliances and electronics is considerable. Protecting yourself, now that you are armed with this information is neither difficult nor expensive. We invite you to explore more energy tips here and to compare energy rates.
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