Many of us own electronically-powered gadgets, appliances and computers in our homes. Power surges can result in damage, which are often irreparable for many kinds of electronics or appliances. Computers can even experience data loss from a power surge. There are things you can do to protect your valuables – and it’s simpler than you may think.
What is a power surge?
In South Africa, the standard electrical voltage supply is 220/230 volts at a frequency of 50HZ. Power surges occur when the voltage exceeds the norm and flows at a higher voltage and frequency. When the normal operating voltage is exceeded, an arc of electrical current can occur. This generates heat – and it’s this heat that causes damage to an electronic circuit board, and by extension, an affected appliance or electronic device. Surges can happen during a power grid switching process, or can occur unexpectedly if there’s a malfunction in a nearby transmission line or transformer. Load shedding, and even an instance where a lightning strike occurs during an electrical storm can also result in power surges.
Smaller power surges are also possible if a high-powered electrical appliance switches on and off too often- such as a refrigerator or an air conditioner. The motors and compressors of these appliances typically require a considerable amount of energy in order to switch on and off; and so if they do, the normal voltage flow in the electrical system is disrupted – resulting in a surge. Damage as a result of smaller power surges can be incremental and accumulate over time. A major surge can cause more permanent damage instantly, but smaller disruptions typically tend to shorten the “lifespan” of a particular device or appliance over time.
4 indications your appliances or electronics have experienced a power surge
- The clock or lights of a device or appliance are flashing
- There may be a burning or acrid odour in the vicinity of the device or appliance (especially near the power source)
- The device or appliance is not working or appears off
- A power strip or surge protector may require re-setting
7 ways to prevent the damaging effects of a power surge
Sometimes a utility company may need to perform maintenance which could result in surges. Any other occurrence will likely be unexpected. So, to best protect either small or major surges from damaging your valuables, the below tips can be useful to get into the habit of implementing:
- Disconnect electrical devices and appliances from the plug source when not in use or during an electrical storm. This will help to save your valuables, reduce the likelihood of damage and even conserve valuable energy too.
- Be careful not to overload your power outlets, especially those appliances that use high amounts of electricity. Valuables, such as computers, laptops, widescreen TVs or internet modems or routers should ideally not be plugged into the same power outlet as they typically use a lot of energy and have sensitive circuit boards too. Items such as air conditioners, washing machines and refrigerators should also have its own dedicated plug – in source or power strip.
- Make use of surge protectors for your electric mains board, as well as plug adaptors. These typically divert excess energy into the round when a surge occurs instead of allowing it to flow into the circuit that your valuables may be plugged in to. Surge plug adaptors are a simple solution that you can implement yourself, but any protectors on your DB boards should be installed by a certified electrician.
- Consider purchasing a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). This is useful for protecting your internet or fibre connections and electronics such as a modem and router. It also allows you to be able to continue using your computerised devices even during a round of load shedding.
- Make use of a surge protecting power strip. Such power strips that have a built-in surge protector typically have a fuse that is designed to fail if a voltage spike occurs. When this happens, power supply is prevented from flowing through to your plugged in appliance or device; and thereby preventing damage during a surge.
- Allow an electrician to double check your electrical switchboard or fuse box to ensure that you have an adequate supply for your home and electrical devices and appliances. If you’ve noticed a few flickers or experienced power trips may indicate circuit breaker issues. A certified electrician can help you to ensure that you can sufficiently upgrade if needed.
- Cross check your home insurance plan details. Does your plan cover damage as a result of a power surge? It’s a good idea to ensure that you’re 100% clear as to whether your plan has taken into account the different kinds of risk scenarios your valuables may be exposed to; providing sufficient cover should a power surge happen, resulting in a need for repair or replacement.
On the Discovery Insure home insurance plans, there is varying levels of cover provided for power surge claims that result in damage or a need to have an insured item replaced. Discovery Insure clients can also upgrade their Essential and Classic plans to higher amounts of power surge cover for a small monthly amount. To find out about the power surge cover from discovery insure call us on 086 751 751 or speak to your adviser.