One of the things we take for granted and simply don’t think about all that often is the safety, stability, and security of our electrical grid. Despite the fact that its age is starting to show and the number of flaws in it are starting to add up, the truth is we here in California are privileged to enjoy public electrical power that’s both reliable and safe to use. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t or won’t ever experience problems, and the aforementioned signs of aging are making the threat of a power surge a more and more realistic possibility. How can you protect yourself from one of these potentially catastrophic disasters in your home? The answer is simple.
What Is a Power Surge?
A power surge is a sudden, sharp spike in either voltage or current (or both) in your electrical lines. When too much power flows through your lines, sensitive or delicate electronics can’t handle the amount of energy flowing through them. As a result, things melt, parts blow out or catch fire, and in some cases, and plenty of other types of damage can occur.
Depending on the strength and severity of the power surge, it’s possible for nearly any unprotected electronic device that’s plugged in at the time of the surge to sustain irreparable damage. Televisions have broken down, air conditioning and heating systems have failed, and data centers have lost the entirety of their contents as a result of one of these sudden spikes. It’s even possible for the copper wires spread throughout your home to become so hot that they melt completely, causing serious injuries or a fire.
Power surges often happen when electrical generating or management equipment like transformers or substations fail and blow out. This usually happens as a result of a component or part of the system failing, but can also be spurred on by high demand, inclement weather, or strong storms.
Protecting Your Home with Surge Protection
Unfortunately, while surges are rare, there is no way to avoid one, nor is there nearly enough time to react and save your stuff when one happens. Surges can have a huge impact on your home in a mere fraction of a second, so proactive defense is really your only option. This is done through quality surge protection systems.
Surge protection is sort of like a fuse—when a surge protector detects too much power flowing through a circuit, the protector severs the connection and stops the current flow immediately. By doing this quickly enough, a surge protector can actually stop a surge from proliferating its way through your home and wiping out anything that might have been plugged in at the time when the surge hit. In some cases, a surge protector can be reset after tripping and go back to functioning normally. However, in other cases the surge protector will need to be completely replaced in order to restore electrical functionality.
Two Types of Surge Protection
There are two common types of surge protection that are frequently seen in homes: surge strips and whole-home surge protectors. Surge strips are far more common in an average home due to their lower cost and lack of need for professional installation. In fact, you probably have some of them in your home already. Surge strips are basically power strips that have a built-in surge protection circuit. Not only do these devices provide protection from unexpected power surges, but they can also give you several more electrical outlets to use from a single plug in your wall. These devices are extremely common and preferred for plugging in things like entertainment centers, desktop computers, data hubs and servers, and so much more. They’re generally more expensive than a regular power strip, but the added cost comes with added protection.
However, we do need to make one thing abundantly clear: not all power strips are surge protectors. In fact, the overwhelming majority of power strips are not protected against surges. Most surge protecting strips will have some sort of an indication light on them to show that the surge protection function is working properly. If your strip doesn’t have this light or any other indicator of surge protection, then that strip is probably not a surge protected one.
Whole-home surge protection isn’t nearly as common, but we cannot understate how much we recommend having it professionally installed in your home. Whole-home surge protection is installed in your main electrical panel and acts as a surge protector for your entire home. When a surge from the public utility grid reaches your home, this device will trip and cut off the electrical flow, preventing the surge from spreading throughout your electrical system.
There are two major downsides to these systems. First, many of these systems need to be professionally repaired or replaced when they trip and shut off to stop a power surge. It’s far too difficult for the average person to do this themselves, so you may be without power for a little while until you can have a professional come to address the issue at your home. Second, these systems generally can’t stop surges from happening inside your home. For example, if your air conditioner surges on a hot afternoon, then your home could still be at risk, even with whole-home surge protection. However, these surges are generally far more minor than a surge in the public grid, and can be protected against in other ways.
For more information about installing whole-home surge protection, contact All Pro Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical today.