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SURGE ALERT – Home Protection

home protection
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Let’s spend a little time reviewing the ways to protect your home from unexpected electrical power surges. First off, what is a power surge and what causes them? By definition, a power surge is a very brief spike in electrical power that can cause circuits in various electrical equipment throughout your home to burn out. Another name for surges is transients. These transients come from several different places outside and within your home. It is estimated that only 30% of surges come from outside the home with a whopping 70% being caused by things within your home turning on and off.

Let’s start with external surges. These can be caused by lightning strikes, transformers malfunctioning, something having external contact with power lines, or some other failure in the electrical grid somewhere along the way. When you stop and think about it, just as it is with our water system, the electricity that comes to our homes and businesses must travel great distances and many things can happen along the way to disrupt the normal flow of power. This is where surge protection on the outdoor electrical panel and at the indoor panel can really save you thousands of dollars in lost electronics when the inevitable surge occurs.

Internal surges are mostly a product of things with motors starting or stopping in your home. One of the biggest culprits is the outdoor component of your air conditioner. Typically, the outdoor air conditioner also known as the condenser, depending on size, can pull between 12-20 amps when starting up. As outdoor units age the power draw to get them to start becomes greater and greater. In a 12-15 year-old AC unit it is not uncommon to see amp draws up in the 80’s and 90’s at start up. If the lights ever dim when the AC comes on in your home, you have just experienced an internal power surge. These types of surges can also occur with any other item that has a motor such as a vacuum cleaner or even the refrigerator. Typically, you can protect from internal surges caused by appliances with simple outlet surge protection strips, or surge protectors that plug directly into the outlet. As for your outdoor air conditioner, we can install what is called a hard start kit so the compressor pulls amps slowly at start up vs. all at once.

So, we have protected ourselves from indoor and outdoor power surges, however, there is another big thing to remember when it comes to lightning. In the event of a lightning strike anywhere near TV cables, internet cables or phone lines, that electricity can travel down those lines as well and cause electronic failures. I can tell you on my last television, lightning took out my HDMI ports on three different occasions until I had to go buy a new television, with cable surge protection I might add.

Now please do not take it that surge protection is the end-all be-all in protecting your home from lightning. There are also lightning protection systems that prevent direct strikes from traveling through the plumbing causing chaos in the home. But that is a topic for another day.

Until next time my friends, I have rocked down to Electric Avenue, proceeding to take it higher and awaiting further instructions.

House Whisperer out!!

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