Almost everyone has had that experience and is well aware of how power surges may damage, degrade, and destroy a wide range of electronic equipment. In the blink of an eye, our household appliances, business equipment, entertainment devices, and other sensitive electronics can be wrecked.
If you want to avoid such mishaps, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of them. Let’s have a look at what power surges are, the indicators of a power surge, the different types of power surges, how to prevent them, surge protectors, and other things to keep an eye on.
What is a Power Surge?
Power surges are excessively high voltage spikes that occur on AC electricity. Their short duration, high energy events indicate that they are very fast and large.
The voltage of power is like the current of a river. Whenever the current gets unusually strong, due to a tsunami or some other reason, it wreaks havoc. The same thing happens for a power surge.
General voltage levels for most countries vary from 110 volts to 220 volts and all the household electrical appliances are made to work in a certain voltage within that range. The typical voltage level of United States is 120 volts ± 6%. Let’s say you live in Charlotte, your voltage can range from 120 to 127.
Typical fluctuations do not harm them. But when a sudden spike of power occurs, home electrical appliances cannot sustain the unusually strong current of power and break down under ‘the excess pressure’.
Types of Power Surge
All power surges follow the same principle: an increase in power beyond what electrical appliances can sustain. There are mainly three types of power surges:
Destructive power surges are typically generated outside of your home and enter through the main power feed; this form of surges is commonly referred to as a sudden burst of power that damages electrical gadgets. This situation mostly calls for experts like 24/7 Charlotte Emergency Electricians.
This type of power surge is caused by malfunctioning equipment or failing of them. They occur most commonly in areas where the local grid line feeds large industrial plants that consume a great amount of ampere of current.
Dissipative surges don’t damage electrical devices directly, but they account for the shortening of their lifespan. They usually affect A/C adapters and transformers used for smaller electronics.
When you use two very different types of equipment on the same breaker you are likely to experience a disruptive surge causing unwanted behavior like rebooting of your local network or unusually changing speed of your washing machine. Disruptive surges are not generally fatal.
What Causes Power Surges?
There are mainly three ways a power surge can occur:
- When a short circuit is preceded by an interruption in the flow of electricity.
- After an interruption of the flow of electricity, there is a suddenly increased flow.
- When the power system throws a burst of electricity from internal or external forces.
Here are the causes of power surges:
Drawing too much power from a single circuit. This can happen if you use several extension cords from a single source and plugin many devices that put a heavy load on the circuit. For example, you are doing home renovations in your house in Charlotte, and a lot of machinery is plugged into the same outlet. This can cause electrical overload.
Faulty wiring (such as damaged or exposed electrical cables), a probable internal cause of the surge, is unstable and difficult transport routes for the power, creating an interrupted flow. Though most defective wiring goes undetected, it can be identified by a buzzing sound emanating from outlets, a burning odor coming from wiring, or circuit breakers tripping regularly. You can correct this during your renovation or inspection by an expert after every 3 to 5 years.
Strike of Lightning
Thunderstorms are common in North Carolina. If you live in Charlotte, you have definitely seen a lot of lightening strikes. The externally generated surges are the most destructive. The most obvious and dramatic of them is lighting. It usually happens when the lightning strikes directly on the power lines pushing in a high-powered voltage, that the local electrical systems find no other option but to accept. Which causes a tremendous spike in voltage.
Power Outage or Blackout
Internally generated power surges can occur from a variety of sources.
Lower-level power surges and electrical line noise can be caused by compressors in air conditioners and refrigerators, pumps and motors going on and off, and even vacuum cleaners.
How to Protect Your Household Appliances from Power Surge
Modern technology has presented us with several ways to protect our home electrical appliances from power surges however mild or strong. Let’s discuss them in detail:
1. Whole House Surge Protectors
Also known as ‘panel-mounted surge suppressors’ they offer a kind of ‘point of entry’ protection where the surge is blocked before it breaks in the house. As the fuse box is the entry point of the external power supply this is where the shield is installed. These protectors come rated in joules. All you need to do is to calculate the joules and amps your house requires and get the one that covers your needs.
2. Power Strips with Surge Protections
Power strips these days have their own fuses that automatically disconnect whenever there is any power spike thus providing ample protection to your appliances from most of the surges. However, all the power strips do not have a protective system installed, and you’ll need to check it before buying.
3. Transient Voltage Surge Suppressors (TVSS)
Also known as SPD (or Surge Protective Device) they are installed directly into the wall outlets and protect anything that is plugged into it. Some of them even indicate a power surge by flashing or giving out certain signals.
Precautions against a power surge
- Keep your electrical appliances and devices disconnected from the plug when you don’t have to use them.
- Don’t overload a single power source (outlet point) with heavy appliances consuming high voltage of electricity together.
- Create at least two layers of protection. The first one should be a ‘whole house surge protection and at the second stage, maybe individual fuse systems for all the power outlets.
- A UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) keeps the power flow stable. You can consider UPS for vulnerable and valuable appliances.
- Surge protecting power strips can act as the third layer of protection for your electrical devices. With the first two layers (described in the 3rd suggestion) in action, this one can fully guard any of your appliances from all types of power surges.
- Have the entire electrical system of your house checked by an expert electrician and ensure a ‘healthy electricity’ flowing across your happy home.
If you can remember the simple facts and information about the power surge and take the necessary measures of protection we’ve described, there should not be any unwanted havoc wreaked by the power surge.