Ask any local Charlotte, NC electrician about the troubles power surges bring to the table, and he’s likely to enumerate a lot. Also referred to as “voltage surges” or “transient voltages,” power surges are anything but harmless. Even with protective devices such as fuse-protected multi-outlet strips in place, appliances such as PCs and VCRs may still be vulnerable to voltage surges and sustain damage to their electronic circuits as a result.
In the U.S., most homes use 120-volt, 60-Hz, single-phase AC electricity. However, AC isn’t delivered at a constant 120 volts. By its nature, the voltage in an alternating current rises and falls rhythmically, from 0 to a peak of 169 volts. A power surge occurs when the voltage uncharacteristically goes beyond 169 volts.
The most familiar cause of power surge is lightning. As soon as lightning strikes at or near a power line, the contact results into a voltage increase by the millions. Another reason could be a direct interference from electric utility companies (i.e. power grid switching), as well as the operation of power-guzzling electrical devices like elevators, air conditioners, and refrigerators. Their massive power requirements often demand sudden, brief demands for power that can upset the steady flow of current.
Power surges are debilitating, but they can be prevented. Preventive measures can be as simple as unplugging devices when not in use and observing the limits of electrical outlets. Keep in mind that plugging several devices into the same electrical outlet can lead to an overload and cause a sudden, brief power surge to feed everything—much like with high-powered electrical devices mentioned earlier. Unplugging comes in handy more so during a lightning storm.
Another preemptive measure is to update your home’s wiring. If you have an older home, there’s a great chance that its wiring is already obsolete. Electrical systems dating from the ‘80s, for instance cannot handle the predominantly high-capacity appliances of today. Visible signs of outdated or inadequate wiring include frequently blown fuses, tripped circuit breakers, or lights that flicker/dim when a large appliance like the fridge or TV powers on.
Lastly, never underestimate the capabilities of whole-house surge protection equipment that dissipates any extra current from a surge into the ground to protect your appliances. If these things all sound gibberish to you, better call on pros from a nearby Charlotte, NC electrical service provider like Douthit Electrical to help you out.
(Source: Suppressing the Surge, This Old House)
Written by: Chuck Douthit+