How to Protect Electronics and Appliances from Power Surges

Every year countless homeowners across the U.S. cannot figure out why their television, alarm clocks, DVD players, and other electrical devices will not turn on. One of the largest causes of this phenomena is a power surge. Power surges occur when the voltage in your electrical circuit exceed its maximum safety level. This spike in voltage can be harmful to appliances and electrical devices in your home, such as:

  • Computers, servers, or modems
  • DVD players and home theaters
  • Televisions
  • Security systems
  • Garage doors
  • Digital clocks
  • Any other equipment needing constant, uninterrupted power

Power surges can damage the electrical devices in your home with one large, powerful surge or over an extended period of time via smaller, more frequent surges.

What Causes a Power Surge?

There are a variety of sources of power surges. From time to time your power surge may be a result of your utility company switching power grids. Some power surges are caused by lightning striking utility equipment, a small animal in a transformer, or a tree limb landing on a power line. Most commonly caused by lightning, a power surge can enter your home many different ways. It can follow the path of cable TV, telephone lines, the electrical service line, and more.

Most U.S. homes operate using a 120 volt, 60 Hz, single phase, alternating current. Modern electrical devices and appliances are programmed to use this type of current. When operating correctly, electrical circuits will oscillate between 0 and 169 volts of electricity. In a power surge, voltage spikes above 169 volts, disrupting the current and damaging any electrical devices in its path.

How to Protect Against a Power Surge

There are many solutions to protect household appliances and other electrical devices from a power surge. Ultimately, it is best to use one or more of these methods to protect your home from damaged property, electrical shock, and an electrical fire.

Whole-House Surge Protector

A whole-house surge protection device (SPD), also known as a service entrance SPD, is built to protect major home appliances (refrigerators, air conditioners, etc.) from significant spikes in voltage often caused by a lightning strike. A whole-house SPD is installed in the main breaker panel in your home and generally costs around $500.

Plug-In (Outlet) Surge Protector

These devices simply plug into your outlet and look similar to a regular multi-plug strip. However, do not assume your multi-plug strip doubles as a surge protector. We recommend purchasing strips marked with a UL Standard 1449 seal of approval. This is a national benchmark and means the product was thoroughly tested before being approved for retail.

Some surge protectors come with a light to indicate when it needs to be replaced. This is also a good feature to have on your surge protectors so you know when to replace your old SPD. Some surge protection devices include a warranty that could potentially save you money. Read the warranty thoroughly, as some SPD warranties cover only the SPD, while others may cover the SPD and the appliances it’s meant to protect.

Virginia Beach Electricians You Can Trust

If you want to protect your home and its electrical devices, using a combination of a whole-house SPD and plug-in SPDs are the best solution for you. If you live in the Virginia Beach area and would like to learn more, contact the professional electricians at American Mechanical. Our staff is trained to answer all of your electrical questions. Contact us today!


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