Surge Protection Primer!
With the extreme heat Maryland has been experiencing, increased electronics in home offices, and thunderstorm season upon us, power surges are inevitable. Modern homes have more electronic devices and appliances plugged in now than ever before. While modern electrical grids have become very good at supplying power evenly and safely, power surges are increasingly more common. Surges can damage the electrical components and major appliances connected to your home, including your air conditioner.
Power surges are just another reality of owning a home. Every homeowner should know at least the basics about power surges, so they know how to prevent them. Here’s a quick primer on everything you should know about power surges, and what you can do to prevent them.
What is a Power Surge?
A power surge is a very fast, very intense power spike in your home’s electrical current. When a surge travels into your home’s electrical current, the voltage supplied spikes way beyond the safe limit. Home appliances, including air conditioning and heating, and electronic devices are not built to tolerate that much power, which is why power surges can be damaging and dangerous.
Why Do Surges Happen?
Most people associate power surges with lightning, and they are one cause. When lightning strikes near a power line, its energy discharge can boost the line’s electrical pressure by millions of volts. That electrical boost runs through the power line and into your house, and BOOM!
Fortunately, lightning is one of the rarest causes of power surges. Most surges are a bit more mundane. High-powered home appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators require a lot of power to switch on. When these appliances request this power, they can inadvertently create a spike. These “switching surges” can do a lot of damage. Finally, sometimes your electrical company accidentally creates surges during maintenance or operation due to heavy demands.
Why Are Surges a Problem?
Simply put, power surges are an issue because they can be damaging or dangerous. Surges can damage or destroy plugged-in electrical devices. When too much electricity flows through an appliance at once, the appliance could overheat, break down, or even catch fire.
Instead, the power will escape, forming an arc of electricity with the device. This uncontained arc generates heat, which could melt or erode appliance components. A severe enough surge could even start a fire!
How Can I Prevent Surges?
The easiest and best way a homeowner can protect against power surges is to use a whole-house surge protector. The difference between a power strip and a surge protector is surge protectors absorb any excess energy running through them. During a surge, the protector redirects excess voltage toward the grounding wire to neutralize it. Whole house surge protectors work the same way but protect your entire home’s electronics and appliances and they fit directly onto your circuit breaker.