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What can cause a power surge?

Oct 15, 2019

Two large electrical power lines with wires extending from the base based in a field.

No matter the season or time of year, sudden storms happen and can wreak havoc on your home, particularly your electrical system. A power surge occurs when some factor enhances the charge in the power lines, increasing the current that flows to the wall outlets in your home.

Let’s explore what happens to your electrical system during a power surge and the effects this surge can have on your devices and appliances.

What happens during a power surge?

Most American homes use 120-volt electrical power with alternating current. This means that voltage is not delivered steadily at 120 volts, but rather at a range between 0 and 169 volts. During a power surge, however, voltage exceeds 169 volts, which can seriously damage your home’s electrical system and appliances.

Since common electrical devices are built to meet the standard voltage maximum of 169 volts, increased current from a power surge can short out circuit boards and other internal electrical components of many home devices and appliances including TVs, phones, and more. Over time, small, repeated power surges can shorten the lifespan of your devices, while large power surges could burn them out altogether — which could lead to significant costs to repair or replace parts.

Power Surge Causes

One common cause of power surges is lightning. As lightning strikes near a power line, it sends millions of volts of electricity into the ground, which can increase voltage within nearby power lines exponentially. Power surges caused by storms are often large and widespread, likely affecting many homes within your neighborhood. Luckily, these types of power surges are not very common.

Read More: Do I Need a Home Backup Generator?

Man-made power surges, however, are much more typical. The most common cause of power surges is using too many high-power electrical devices at once.  Appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, space heaters, etc. draw a lot of electricity to power components like compressors and motors, which can impact voltage within your home’s electrical system. These types of power surges can cause incremental damage over time, shortening the lifespan of appliances and devices throughout your home.

Other potential causes of a power surge include:

  • Downed power lines
  • Faulty home electrical wiring
  • Utility company equipment malfunction

How to Prevent Power Surges

Most smaller power surges are internal, which means they can usually be avoided by following best practices. Here are some tips to help homeowners prevent power surges:

1. Unplug Devices

Look around any room in your home and you’re bound to find at least one or two devices or cords plugged into an outlet for no reason. When devices are not in use, it’s best to unplug them to avoid damage in the event of a power surge.

2. Replace Old Wiring

If you live in an older home and have not updated your electrical system, it’s possible that faulty wiring is to blame for power surges in your home. Outdated electrical systems are not able to adequately handle modern electrical needs, which can lead to frequently blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers, or lights that flicker or dim when high-powered appliances are running.

Read More: When should you replace old wiring in a house?

3. Fix Overloaded Circuits

If you live in a newer home or have recently upgraded your home’s wiring, the cause of power surges could be overloaded circuits. This typically happens when multiple high-powered appliances are drawing power from the same circuit. If you’re experiencing frequent power surges, contact an electrician to establish dedicated circuits for high-power appliances like the HVAC, refrigerator, and dryer.

Trust CroppMetcalfe’s Surge Protection Services

Power surges can permanently damage your electrical devices or home wiring. Protect your appliances and devices with CroppMetcalfe’s expert surge protection services. Our 5-Star Technicians are trained to tackle any electrical issue and provide a solution that works for you and your family. With CroppMetcalfe, you can trust your home is in good hands.

Call 1-877-740-6657 to speak with one of our licensed electricians or request service online today.


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