A thunderstorm is an amazing and incredibly powerful force of nature that often sends homeowners scrambling to unplug their computers and televisions, with the hope of protecting them from a potentially damaging power surge caused by a lightning strike. A lightning strike up to two kilometers away can cause irreparable damage to your home’s sensitive electronic equipment. But what about the appliances you are unable to disconnect, such as the range, refrigerator, laundry machines, furnace or air conditioner?
It costs approximately $8,000 to $10,000 to replace the electronic equipment in the average BC home. This amount can more than double if you have invested in a sophisticated entertainment system, newer appliances, or if you work from a home office. Fortunately lightning strikes are relatively uncommon in the Fraser Valley. The bad news is that power surges are not uncommon and every home is susceptible to the damage caused by a surge.
A power surge, sometimes called a voltage surge or a transient voltage fluctuation, is a very brief spike in voltage, usually lasting only millionths of a second and varying from a few hundred volts to several thousand volts. Power surges can also vary in duration and magnitude. If the spike exceeds an appliance’s normal operating voltage requirement, an electrical arc is created inside the appliance which generates heat. This heat will damage the circuit boards and other electrical components in the appliance and could potentially cause a fire.
An electrical storm is certainly a very powerful and destructive source, but surges can also originate directly from your electrical utility supply company. These surges can be quite selective, affecting sometimes only one, or several homes on the grid. On January 5, 2009 a sudden and very destructive power surge, originating from the power grid, left hundreds of homes in Mission, BC without power and major damages to electronic components and appliances. Homeowners were left to battle with insurance companies to replace damaged or destroyed possessions.
Small power surges are also created within your own home when larger appliances turn on and off. This is sometimes evident by lights that go dim, but then brighten up again when the appliance is turned off (although a grow op in the neighborhood might cause the same symptoms, but that is another topic all its own).The average home is hit with over 20 internal energy spikes in a single day. These internal surges are distributed throughout your home and can significantly shorten the life of your electronics and appliances.
Many people have a false sense of security, thinking that their point-of-use surge strips or power bars will provide all the necessary protection they may need. In reality, the common surge suppressor power bar should only be used as a secondary line of defense as many have a one-time use only. After the first spike is absorbed by the surge strip, it becomes nothing more than an extension cord. Unfortunately, some models have no indicator to show that it is no longer effective.
The best line of defense against all types of power surges is a good quality main panel surge suppressor installed directly on the main electrical panel by a knowledgeable and certified electrician. Telephone and cable line protection should also be included as surges can also enter your home by this method. A good quality panel surge protector will repeatedly absorb any incoming spike and reduce it to an acceptable level, thereby protecting the valuable electronics in your home or office. There are many brands of surge protection on the market and some are definitely of better quality than others.
A knowledgeable Blue Crest Electric electrician will be able to offer you valuable advice, as a properly sized surge protector for the whole house can save you thousands of dollars from just one single incident.
Aside from the obvious benefits of whole home surge protection, some experts claim that homeowners will get up to 30% more life out of their appliances, electronic equipment and even light bulbs if proper surge protection is in place. Some insurance companies provide a discount for homes that have full panel surge protection. So, to answer the question of whether you need surge protection, the answer is YES. Every homeowner should seriously consider the installation of this important safety device.