If you live in an area relatively prone to thunderstorms and other severe weather, like South Jersey, then you’ve probably experienced power surges in your home. They usually happen at the worst moments, like when you’re walking down the stairs or worse – in the bathroom. The lights flicker, sometimes going off for several seconds leaving you unsure if a complete black out will suddenly envelop you.
Besides any temporary annoyance, did you know that a power surge can spark fires? In this edition of our blog, we’ll cover the basics of a power surge and how you can protect your home from it.
What Is A Power Surge?
It helps if you think of electricity in terms of water. Water flows from areas of high pressure to low pressure. In the same sense, so does electricity by moving from one end of a wire (the source) to another (your appliance or electrical device). What happens when too much water flows through a pipe? It bursts. When too much electricity flows through a wire, the wire can catch on fire.
A surge is when the voltage rises above the norm for at least 3 nanoseconds. You can imagine what happens to some of the delicate circuitry in your electronics when the voltage spikes. The extra voltage can literally fry the circuit boards.
A surge protector will detect that excess voltage and divert it to the grounding wire (this is why all surge protectors are 3-pronged plugs). The grounding wire sends that extra voltage into the ground where it harmlessly disperses.
Unless you can control the weather, there’s not much you can do to prevent power surges. However, you can be prepared for them and protect yourself from the damage these surges can cause. Here are some helpful tips:
Unplug Electronic Devices and Appliances
This is the easiest way to protect the stuff in your home from dangerous power surges. It’s also the only guaranteed way that your brand new laptop (for example) won’t fry during the next electrical storm.
If you know severe weather is on its way, unplug the things that don’t need to stay plugged in. For example, you probably shouldn’t be charging your laptop computer or cell phone. Take them off the charger before the storm hits. Small appliances like toasters, coffee makers and microwaves can also be unplugged.
Of course, it’s not possible to unplug everything. Larger appliances like ovens, televisions and others will probably need to remain plugged in.
It’s important to note that there are a wide variety of surge protectors on the market, and not all are created equally.
The first kind are the ones you plug into an outlet. They usually have multiple outlets you can use and their own on/off switch. When looking for a surge protector, find the number of joules it protects against. A joule is simply a unit of energy and the rating tells you how much the protector can absorb. The more joules the surge protector offers, the better.
Don’t confuse surge protectors with power strips. Power strips are just extensions for a wall outlet with multiple plugs. They offer no protection against power surges.
Whole House Surge Protector
These are surge protectors that are wired directly into your home’s electrical box. A licensed electrician should only install them. These offer the most protection from your home and can protect you from large spikes in power; even more than a surge protector strip you plug into the wall.
The trade-off is that they aren’t cheap. A basic whole-house surge protector will run at least $500 or more.
Always Consult A Professional
Before deciding what kind of protection you need, it’s always best to consult an electrician. Older homes might be more prone to power surges than newer ones. An electrician can tell you how safe your particular house is.
Call us for a free in-home consultation and we can help you protect your valuable electronics and appliances.