Hurricane Preparedness: Protect Your Electronics from a Surge

 

We’ve shared information on how to protect your home from a surge when using a window air conditioner or surge protector. What about when your entire home is suddenly humming with electricity after days without?

With a record hurricane season in store for the east coast, and power outages sure to follow, how should homeowners prepare? Beyond the usual tips like stocking up on batteries, dropping the temperature in your refrigerator, and making sure you have bottled water, you may want to consider preparing your electronics and appliances for restoration of power after an outage.

When power is restored by the power company after any outage, including storms or hurricanes, it causes voltage transients that can travel for miles. Some of your appliances might be left on from pre-storm conditions, but things like ovens and stoves should be turned off to minimize the chance of being damaged by switching events from the power company. The sudden jump in voltage can wreak havoc on your electronics. Even if you’re using a generator to power parts of your home, other appliances or electrical items not powered by the generator could still be damaged when power is restored.

Losing power doesn’t necessarily affect larger appliances like your air conditioner or refrigerator. When power is restored, their typical voltage surges and transient voltage spikes can damage the electronic controls inside of them. While these voltage surges and voltage transients are normally small in magnitude and duration, the voltages can be much higher, potentially thousands of volts, and last long enough to damage electronics and sometimes even motors.

Any spike or surge in voltage can be harmful to appliances and electrical devices in your home. During these events, if the voltages temporarily increase enough, above an appliance’s normal operating voltage, it will cause a damaging arc of electricity within the appliance. The heat generated by the arc might appear to be small and cause a burnt smell or it might be large enough to cause a fire. Most at-risk are the circuit boards within your appliances and electronics. Smaller, repeated power surges have a cumulative damaging effect, so your computer and other electronics may continue to function with minor glitches until the integrity of the electronic components finally erode and fail altogether. Surges and transients can shorten the life span of appliances and electronics.

Here are a few extra steps to take to mitigate power surges when preparing for storms or hurricanes:

  1. Bigger appliances, like ovens and stoves, should be turned off.
  2. Unplug appliances like coffee pots, televisions, microwaves, and entertainment systems.
  3. Consider installing a whole home surge protector at your electrical panel and use smaller surge protection devices for expensive electronics, like televisions, computers, and printers.

Prepare as much as you can for the unpredictable nature of hurricanes. CED’s experienced electrical engineers can evaluate electrical damage in your home or business to help determine the root cause of the damage.