How Can I Prevent My Home from Being Damaged by Lightning Strikes and Power Surges?
Power surges can be devastating for your home's electrical system. Even relatively low-grade power surges can do damage to your home's devices over time, while a big surge from a lightening strike can instantly destroy your home's devices and appliances. If you've ever had to repair or replace your devices after a surge, you know how upsetting and disruptive an event like this can be.
Knowing what causes power surges and how to protect your home from this kind of problem can save you a lot of time and money. Although they can affect everyone, some areas are more prone to power surges than others. Whether you live in an area where power surges are common, or you simply want to ensure that your home is protected from this kind of problem, this is what you need to know.
What causes power surges during thunderstorms?
Lightening that strikes near a power line can cause the electrical energy inside the power line to increase by millions of volts. During a thunderstorm, lightening can also strike your home itself. In addition, downed power lines and problems with the electrical system - all resulting from the thunderstorm - can also cause a power surge.
Other Causes of Power Surges
Power surges can happen at any time, not just because of thunderstorms. Some other common causes of power surges include:
- Operation of high-powered electrical devices. High-powered pieces of equipment can create a sudden demand for power that can disrupt the usual flow of voltage in the electrical system.
- Problems with the utility company. The electrical system that delivers power to most homes is extraordinarily complex, and there are many potential points of failure in the electrical grid. One problem can lead to a power surge that affects many homes.
- Faulty electrical system. If your home's electrical system has problems within, power surges can be the result.
How to Protect Your Home from Power Surges
There are many possible ways to protect your home from power surges. If you live in a home where power surges are a common problem, taking a layered approach may be best. Implementing multiple types of protection can help ensure that even when one type of protection fails, another will kick in to protect your home's devices. Here's what you can do.
Unplug Appliances and Devices
Unplugging is the simplest and most effective way to protect your devices from a power surge. Unfortunately, it's not realistic to unplug every device or every appliance every time it's not in use. Even just unplugging before a thunderstorm may not be realistic, because you may not be home when thunderstorms occur. However, if you do take this approach, here's what you should focus on unplugging:
- Game consoles
You can also unplug devices that are less expensive, like light fixtures, countertop appliances, hand-held devices like hair dryers, and so on.
Use Surge Protectors
A surge protector can absorb power during a surge, protecting items that are plugged in. Surge protectors can stop surges that occur due to damage to power lines, but are unlikely to be able to stop a surge from a direct lightening strike. There are many styles of surge protectors on the market, so you can find a surge protector that works for you.
How surge protectors work.
Surge protectors are designed to absorb surges up to a certain number of joules - in any combination of surges. For example, if a surge protector is rated up to 500 joules, it can absorb 5 surges of 100 joules each, or one surge of 500 joules, or any combination that equals 500. Once the surge protector has absorbed surges beyond the level of protection it can provide, it needs to be replaced.
Choosing the right surge protector.
Surge protectors come with many features and levels of protection. For best results, choose a surge protector that has an indicator light that shows when the surge protector needs to be replaced. Pay attention to the level of protection that the surge protector offers. Keep in mind that the lower the number of joules it protects against, the faster it will need to be replaced.
Not all power strips are surge protectors.
Surge protectors often come in the form of a power strip, but not all power strips are surge protectors. When you're purchasing a surge protector for your home, be sure that you are, in fact, buying a surge protector.
Install a Whole Home Surge Protector
A whole-home surge protection device connects to your home's electrical panel to block high current from entering your home's electrical system. When there is a surge, your whole home surge protector will block extra current and drive it into the ground via a ground wire.
Of course, even if you have a whole home surge protector in your home, it's important to note that these devices only block surges that meet a certain threshold. Surges that fall below the threshold can still reach your devices, therefore, it's best to protect your home's most sensitive and expensive equipment with layered protection (including power strip surge protectors, whole home surge protectors, and unplugging).
Advantages of a whole home surge protector:
- Protect appliances you don't plug into surge protector strips. Not everything can be plugged into a surge protector strip. The whole home surge protector can protect your air conditioner, dishwasher, washing machine and refrigerator, toaster oven, lights, and so on.
- Always on. Whole home surge protection is a permanent part of your home, and as such, is always on and ready to protect your home's appliances. Even if you're not home to unplug your devices ahead of a thunderstorm, the whole home surge protector is there to prevent damage in the event of an electrical surge.
- Protect your home's electrical system. Power surges can damage more than just your appliances. Your whole home surge protector can protect the electrical system itself, preventing the need for repairs and a potentially large claim against your homeowner's insurance.
Install a Lightening Protection System
A lightening protection system is designed to protect your home from a direct lightening strike by conveying the energy from the lightening to the ground. Whereas a whole home surge protector protects your electrical system from a surge, a lightening protection system is designed to protect your home from direct lightening strikes. This type of system can be paired with a whole home surge protector to ensure the most protection possible.
Signs of a Power Surge
Power surges can happen without incident - and without any obvious damage to your home. However, you may be able to tell if your home has experienced a power surge just from some of the signs that you see around your house.
- Lights on digital clock or digital oven flashing
- Devices shut off and won't turn back on
- Acrid smells around home's devices
Need Whole Home Surge Protection? Speak to a Trusted Electrician
Whole home surge protection can help protect your home's appliances, breaker box, wiring and more. It takes an experienced and knowledgeable electrician to install a whole home surge protector and lightening protection system. Want to find out more about installing a protection system on your home? Do you think your home may have been damaged by a recent power surge? Either way, it's best to talk to an electrician who can help you. Add-All Electric can help you with repairs, upgrades and replacements. Contact us today to make an appointment and learn more.