What is an Electrical Power Surge?

Power surges, also called transient voltage, occur when something boosts the electrical charge in the power lines. This causes an increase in the electrical voltage, which can increase the current flowing to your wall outlet. Several things can cause this to happen.  The spike is very brief, usually lasting less than a thousandth of a second, but it can still cause damage to your home and appliances.

What causes a Power Surge?

There are many causes behind a power surge, and it’s difficult to determine exactly what’s gone wrong.  Most power surges come from inside the home. Large appliances and devices, especially those that use a large amount of power, can cause surges. Faulty wiring in your home can also cause power surges. If you experience frequent surges, it could be a good idea to call in an electrician to look at your wiring.  The main cause of outside the home power surges are lightning strikes, you may experience a power surge in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Are power surges dangerous?

A power surge can damage or destroy home appliances, and in a worst-case scenario, start a house fire.

How can I protect my appliances from power surges?

We can suppress surges before reaching your appliances using a surge protector.  A surge protector or surge suppressor is an appliance or device designed to protect electrical devices from voltage spikes. A surge protector attempts to limit the voltage supplied to an electric device by either blocking or shorting to ground any unwanted voltages above a safe threshold.

If you live in a house with faulty wiring or one that is full of powerful electronics, we recommend to still buy a surge protector. In most cases, a surge protector looks like your basic power strip. If an electrical spike occurs, the surge protector should absorb any excess energy, redirecting it toward the grounding wire in your home instead of letting it get to your appliances.

However, the typical surge protector is not strong enough to protect your electronics and appliances from a lightning strike. The best thing you can do if you’re in the middle of a raging electrical storm is to unplug your computer — and maybe other expensive electronics, such as your flat-screen TV.

What should I look for in a good surge protector?

There are a variety of different surge protectors on the market, which each address different scenarios.

The best type of protection you can get is a whole house surge protector.  We also know this as service entrance surge protection. This is a single device that connects to your main electrical panel and protects your whole house against power surges.

The next type of protection are inexpensive power board surge protectors that protect point-of-use appliances.  The bigger the joule rating the better.  For best protection, look for something that lists “600 Joules” or higher. Anything lower than that might not be enough if you have regular power spikes or if you plan on plugging several devices into the power board.

There is no surge protection device or system that can protect against all power surges.  A direct lighting strike may be too great for any surge protectors to handle.  By combining service entrance surge protection with point-of-use surge protectors, it creates a better protection system.

If you are concerned about power surges in your home, AB Electrical can come and assess the causes and recommend the best surge protection system for your home and business.