A power surge can hurt or even ruin electronic devices, computers and appliances. It’s probably happened to you or your family. There’s a storm, with lightning in the area, and the power goes out. Once it’s back on, you try turning on the TVs, computers and electronics again, but it’s out. It is fried. Just how dangerous are power surges for electronics in your home?
An electric surge can overload and short wiring or devices. There could be a total failure or damage that’s partial or it can place over time. Finding out more about power surges can save expenses and how to safeguard expensive electronics and other property.
What Creates a Power Surge?
Power surges can be caused naturally or be man-made. Work on the electric grid, systems or components can cause expected or accidental outages or surges. The most frequent and powerful power surge is from nature – lightning. Heavy rain, wind, snow or ice, or more weather disasters like tornados or hurricanes, can knock out power or create surges or spikes.
Electric surges or malfunctions can also come from inside a home or building, from large appliances or energy-using devices. Power surges can enter a building by several paths. When it comes to lightning, it can take the path of the cable or satellite dish cables, incoming telephone lines, or with an incoming electric service line.
What Do Power Surges Cause?
In the United States, most electric systems use electricity which is 120 volt, 60 hertz, single phase and alternating current. It’s 120 volts, but electric currents don’t run at a continuous 120 volts. It’s an alternating current. The voltage is a cycling, predetermined current going from 0-169 volts. The majority of home appliances and electronic devices in the U.S. run using this current.
When there’s a power surge, the voltage is topping over 169 volts. This spike may well be damaging to devices. It can be hazardous to people. A surge in electricity can damage appliances, devices, wiring, circuit boards, chips and components.
Smaller, repeated power surges can lead to electronics not working, cutting their lifespans short, being quirky or less effective over time. These smaller power surges can cause damage, so a computer or phone may not fail immediately, but could have less battery life, or have partial issues which get worse faster than a normal lifespan of the device.
SPDs, or point of use surge protection devices, and a proper grounding system for your electrical system, should guard electric devices and appliances from most power surges. A surge protection device doesn’t stop an electric surge. It redirects and diverts the sudden spiked current to the ground.
One typical SPD device looks like a normal plug strip. However, unless it particularly says so, don’t think your plug strip provides surge protection.
You can also use a specific type of electric outlet that gives surge protection. Surge protection outlets are good to use in places where there isn’t a lot of space, such as kitchen counters.
Surges and Computers
A power outage or surge can do major damage to your computer or other high power-using tech devices. Securing them can be a big help. The main cause for damage or failure is a power outage, then a surge or multiple sudden bursts or changes of power either during a storm or once the electricity returns.
The first part of a computer struck by a power surge is usually the power supply. High-end power supplies may be able to withstand power rises and keep wiring and components safe from abnormal voltages and currents. A good system with proper protection and devices can and should shut down during an outage. Then, it’ll have controlled, delayed restarts or functions to keep computers and systems safe once power is back on. Having a poor or no system, though, leaves computers and expensive electronics at greater risk. A power surge can fry chips, boards or other components of a CPU or other device.
The components and chips inside a computer, and lots of other appliances and devices these days, are highly sensitive and fragile. If electricity is cut or surges, it can damage them. It can easily create a computer crash. The operating system, software and hardware can be damaged or destroyed. Power surges can destroy or erase a hard drive or even just small components of a computer leading to big issues.
You shouldn’t rely just on the power supply and basic protections for computers and other high-tech, power-heavy devices in your home or office. The most common option is using a surge protector. This goes especially for computers, or where there are often many devices plugged in at or right around a desk.
Surge protectors absorb currents above a particular voltage. This, though, does not protect against a system crash which could be caused by a power surge or interruption. A UPS, uninterruptable power supply, is a good option. This emergency power supply device gives power for a short period of time, enough for you to save important work and shut down a computer properly during a power outage.
The Two-Tiered Technique
- Point-of-use tools can secure specific appliances or electronic devices. However, a more comprehensive approach to power surge protection is to use point-of-use tools combined with a more specific, effective device, such as a service entrance surge protector or a panel surge protector. By using two tiers of electric protection, you’ve set up a better security system.
- Service entrance surge protectors generally go on a main electric panel or at an electric meter. A service entrance surge protector protects a whole electric system. It protects items like electric motors, lights, outlets, light switches and all the other hardwired things in your house that do not connect into an outlet or connect to a point-of-use protector. If the power surge is from a lightning strike or power change on the utility lines, the service entrance device can cut the power spike to a reduced level before it gets to other devices.
Your best bet? Hire an expert to do the job. South End Electric has the background and understanding to ensure a safe and smooth installation. We can provide electrical safety inspections and installation, inspections and work with GFCI outlets. In addition, our professionals provide whole-house generator sales and installation to meet your needs. See everything South End Electric can do for you. Call us direct at 704-368-4694.