The most basic level of a power surge is when the voltage in an electrical circuit spikes to a higher level than the circuit was designed to handle. These surges are a hazard. For mains power, the United States uses 120v AC (alternating current). The AC indicates the electricity moves in a sine wave pattern. The waves crest at 169 volts as the 120 volt label is actually an average with the assumption that the voltage in the lines will never exceed 169 volts for electrical systems designed. Many older appliances are designed to safely operate within the assumption that the power from a wall outlet won’t exceed 170 volts. The miniature wires and contacts in computers and televisions overheat when a surge of power exceeding the design goes through the system. Since the surge of electricity will exceed what the wires can carry, the large-scale components like wall outlets can’t handle the surge either. The surge can cause arcs to nearby metal surfaces, where it can short-circuit appliances or even start a fire. Bearing all this in mind, we at Sentry Electric would like to list the common causes of power surges.
Lightning Strikes Cause Power Surges
A common and destructive cause of power surges is from electrical storms. The power grid is designed to move electricity as efficiently as possible and when lightening strikes it can surge through easily. An errant lightning bolt can be withstood from a glass insulators and inch-thick wires of an electrical substation. Home appliances are usually affected. Millions of volts will temporarily surge through lines designed to carry 120 in the event lightning bolt strikes the power lines near your house. Unprotected circuits are instantly severely damaged.
Power Outages Can Cause Voltage Surges
Power going out with no warning can be dangerous, however, more damage is done when the power is restored. Power comes back as a jolt before the sine wave evens out again, whether it’s a backup substation or an emergency generator kicking in. Sensitive electronics are a risk especially.
Can an Air Conditioner or Shop Tool Cause a Power Surge?
When you notice the lights dim for a second when the A/C blower kicks in, a power surge is occurring. The sudden demand for power causes a voltage drop and while the system normalizes by a surge after. Like air conditioners, the shop tools like table saws and heavy lathes can cause surges. They can cause a temporary power outage should they trip a circuit breaker.
Whole House Surge Protector
Unplug seldom used devices. Power surges cannot affect a device that is not plugged into the main power. For the easiest solution, avoid plugging in the sensitive electronic equipment and devices that are infrequently used. This prevents them from being exposed to power surges. Invest in surge protectors. Power strips or outlet covers with built-in surge protection functions and circuit breakers. Adding these to every outlet can prove to be a bit expensive and a bit of an eyesore but at the very least, make sure they are used where TVs, computers and other heavy-duty electronics. Whole house surge protection is a great idea!
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Another option is to upgrade old appliances. If you need installation of whole house surge protection, emergency repairs or any other electrical services, call Sentry Electric and let our certified electricians take care of your electrical needs with quality and efficiency.