5 Things Homeowners Need To Know About Power Surges

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You've probably heard the phrase "power surge" before, but if you're not an electrician, you may not know what it means. Here are five things that all homeowners need to know about power surges.

What are power surges?

Power surges, also known as voltage spikes, occur when the amount of voltage in your electrical system briefly increases above its normal level. If this increase lasts for more than three nanoseconds, it's officially classified as a power surge, while increases that last for only one or two nanoseconds are considered power spikes.

The increased voltage associated with power surges or spikes can damage any of the components of your electrical system, like your wires or your breaker, and it can also damage anything that is plugged in at the time of the surge.

What causes power surges?

Many different things can lead to power surges, and this makes them very hard to predict. Here are some possible causes of power surges:

  • Lightning striking utility equipment such as transformers
  • Power outages, especially when the power turns back on
  • Tree limbs touching power lines
  • Small animals like squirrels entering transformers
  • Large appliances, like fridges and air conditioners, turning on and diverting power
  • Tripped circuit breakers
  • Short circuits

For the most part, the potential causes of power surges are out of your control, so trying to predict them is futile. Instead, you need to always be prepared for power surges, since sooner or later, you'll experience one. Small power surges can happen dozens or even hundreds of times each day, while large power surges are rare.

Is it true that power surges ruin electronics?

You've probably heard that you should unplug your computer during a thunderstorm, and that's because power surges can ruin appliances. Anything that is plugged in to an outlet during a power surge can be damaged, including your fridge, television, computer, or cell phone. This damage occurs because power surges transmit heat through the wires and into your appliances; this is why appliances that are ruined by power surges are referred to as "fried."

Can they damage your home?

Power surges can do a lot more than just ruin your computer; they can also ruin your house. In some cases, power surges can lead to house fires. This can happen during major power surges that create a lot of heat inside your electrical wiring. This heat can start a fire, but it doesn't necessarily happen right away. Electrical fires can smolder for some time before the flames are noticeable.

After a power surge, stay alert for clues that your wires are smoldering, such as a burning plastic or vinyl smell. If you can't find the source of the smell, it may be because it's coming from inside your walls. If you smell anything, you need to call an electrician immediately, and make sure to mention that you recently had a power surge.

How can you protect yourself?

Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to protect yourself, your appliances, and your home. The easiest thing to do is to buy and use surge protectors. Surge protectors are power strips that ground the excess voltage before it can travel into your electronics and appliances. Surge protectors aren't able to handle massive surges like the type caused by lightning strikes, so it's still a good idea to unplug any expensive electronics during thunderstorms.

You can also get whole-house surge protectors installed by your electrician. These protect your entire house from power surges and will protect your wiring, not just the devices that are plugged into your outlets. 

Power surges can be very serious, but it's easy to protect yourself with surge protectors and whole-house surge protectors.

Click here to find out more, or contact a local electrician. 

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3 August 2015

Electricity: Designs, Troubleshooting and Hacks for Novices

Hi, my name is Joan, and I am glad you found my blog. This blog is for new homeowners, novices to the world of DIY and anyone who has a general question about electrical work. In this blog, I am going to include posts on how to spot issues, how to hack or troubleshoot challenges and even how to design the electrical systems for a new home or office. I am also going to include posts on when to call for professional help and how to choose an electrician. I hope that you enjoy reading and that these posts "electrify" you figuratively, but definitely not literally. Thanks for stopping by!