What is a power surge?
Power surges happen when there’s a spike in an electrical system’s current, which consists of unusually high voltage. A power surge only lasts a fraction of a second but can cause lifelong damage to outlets or plugged-in appliances.
Common signs of a surge and overloaded circuits are:
- Flashing lights or clocks on the device display
- An acrid, burnt odor around a device or power source
- Cords that are warm to the touch
- A surge protector or power strip that requires resetting
- Audible clicking, popping and buzzing sounds coming from the surge protector
- The smell of burning plastic (This means it’s time to replace the surge protector.)
What causes a power surge?
Power surges have the potential to occur from both inside and outside the home. Surges can originate from an interruption followed by restoration of power. Examples include lightning striking or a vehicle colliding with something connected to the electrical grid.
Plugging in too many cords can also create a power surge. This will overload the circuits which can result in fires or damage to the home.
How to prevent a power surge
Power surges can potentially damage sensitive electrical equipment, including speakers, computers, gaming systems and other appliances. If one outlet has a surge, it could impact other outlets. Power surges are often systemic, negatively impacting appliances and outlets across an entire house.
Keep your home safe by following these key tips:
- Use surge protectors or a whole house surge protector.
- Avoid outlet overload. When in doubt, unplug your devices and check your breaker box for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses.
- Avoid using all available outlets on a single surge protector.
- Check for the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) stamp when purchasing electronics. This nationally recognized standard ensures rigorous testing of each component of the product for electrical safety for long-term use.
- Unplug small electronics and appliances when you aren’t using them.
- Follow all wattage ratings for cords. The rating on the cord should be sufficient for the wattage of the item being plugged in. If an item has no wattage rating, multiply the number of amps by 125.
- Never use an extension cord with a high-wattage appliance, such as an air conditioner, portable electric heater or iron.
What do surge protectors do?
Surge protectors help shield equipment in your home from surge damage or any rush of current. Surge protectors are rated in joules; the higher the joules, the higher the surge protection. It is important to ensure that protectors are UL listed and approved and that the protector is used to handle an appropriate amount of power from the equipment plugged into it.
It should also be noted that surge protectors are different from power strips. A power strip plugs into a wall outlet and offers outlets for multiple devices. A power strip is essentially an extension cord with multiple outlets and may not provide much protection. Surge protectors often come in the shape of a power strip but have additional internal components that prevent power surges from damaging connected devices.
Use lighting, appliances and plug-in electronics safely to prevent accidents and save lives.