Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
4 minute read
17 Nov 2021
5:51 pm

Load shedding can destroy your appliances – here’s how to avoid it

Ina Opperman

Load shedding affects different appliances and devices in your home in different ways, so it's good to know how to protect them.

Image: iStock

Looad shedding isn’t just an inconvenience, but surges when power is switched back on can damage appliances and devices, such as fridges and washing machines, as well as your battery powered devices’ batteries.

Load shedding has become a dreaded part of many South Africans’ days over the past 14 years and although many consumers have lost appliances and devices due to load shedding, they are unsure about which of them are actually vulnerable and prone to damage.

“There have many questions about how load shedding affects and possibly even damages cell phones, geysers, decoders, modems, gate motors and other devices, as well as how you can safeguard your appliances and devices against this,” says Anneli Retief, head of Dialdirect.

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Load shedding affects these appliances

The good news is that consumers can do something if they know enough and plan smart.

Energy experts say the effects of load shedding differ significantly depending on the kind of appliance or device. They say these appliances and devices are most vulnerable:

  • If they operate with batteries used in anything from cell phones and gate motors to alarms and backup systems. When a battery runs down completely, its lifespan is significantly shortened. Manufacturers usually guarantee batteries for a certain amount of charging cycles and more charging cycles caused by load shedding reduces battery life.
  • Those carrying reactive loads, such as fridges, tumble dryers, lawnmowers, dishwashers, washing machines, hair dryers and gate motors, are usually operated by an electric motor exposed to surges when the power is interrupted. Older models are usually not protected and can be damaged by surges, but protective measures are normally built in to protect electronic components against surges in newer models.
  • Devices, such as cell phone chargers, decoders, computers, radios and modems, use relatively little energy and usually use a power source that converts the high supply current to a lower, direct current voltage. These devices are mostly very robust and block surges. Batteries also tend to provide an extra protective layer against surges. Damage due to power fluctuations is usually restricted to the power source.
  • Cooling appliances, such as fridges, freezers, and air conditioners mostly work with compressors which makes them susceptible because pressurised gas could provide resistance and cause damage to the appliance’s motor when the power is turned back on.
  • 3-phase power systems are also vulnerable to load shedding because one or more of the phases could be lost when power is restored, causing the 3-phase motors to run unbalanced and burn out and also cause damage to single phase devices.
  • Pure resistance devices, such as stoves, geysers, kettles and heaters, are not affected when the power is switched on and off.

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How to protect your appliances and devices from load shedding damage

Dialdirect recommends that you do following to protect your appliances and devices, property and yourself during load shedding:

  • Switch off fridges and air conditioners during load shedding and only switch them on one by one, once power has been restored and is stable.
  • Switch off any devices that could cause a fire risk if power is restored.
  • A UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) is a good way to protect your devices and keep them powered long enough to shut them down safely.
  • Keep fridges and freezers closed to keep them cooler for longer.
  • Keep an updated load shedding schedule on hand so that you have enough time to prepare for the power outage.
  • Get a few high-wattage solar powered lights for your garden and a few LED lights for inside, to deter would-be burglars.
  • Keep your cell phone charged or invest in a portable phone charger to ensure you can still call for help if you need to.
  • If you have to open and close your gates manually when you get home, try to have someone come and meet you at your entrance, or arrange for an escort from your security company.
  • Use padlocks, burglar bars, and deadbolts to provide an extra level of home security that does not depend on power.
  • Ensure that alarm systems, garage doors and electric gates all have good back-up batteries.
  • Keep a torch or a solar or battery powered light that is charged beforehand in multiple, easily accessible locations around your home with spare batteries.