What Causes Power SurgesWhat Causes Power Surges in Your Home?

Faulty wiring in your electrical system can cause power surges. Also, an electrical fire, lightning strikes, and other hazards cause power surges. Some other common causes of surges that you may come across include:

  • Lightning
  • Power Grid Switching
  • Overloaded Outlets/Circuits
  • Exposed or Damaged Wiring
  • High-Power Electrical Devices

Many of these will happen with a short power outage in older homes or those directly struck by lightning.

Power surges cause voltage spikes and change the flow of electricity through your electrical system. They cause a spike in the power supply tripping the circuit breaker, which turns off the power to protect your large appliances, electrical panel, and small appliances.

How Common Are Power Surges?
Power surges happen more often for some than others, depending on the cause. The National Electrical Manufacturer's Association (NEMA) estimates that between 60 and 80 percent of power surges are caused by powerful devices, like air conditioning units, when they turn off or on.

Signs of a Power Surge
Signs of a power surge
include clocks or lights flashing, devices turning off and not working, burnt odors around a device, and the need to reset a power strip or surge protector.

surge power pole GIF by South Park

What is a Power Surge Protector?
A power surge protector is a small device or appliance that other appliances may plug into as a single outlet. Its second purpose is to protect those items against high-voltage surges of power.

A surge protector passes electricity on through its outlets to the devices plugged into it. Then, if the voltage gets too high, the protector diverts that electricity into its grounding wires.

Will a Surge Protector Keep a Breaker from Tripping?
No. Surge protectors, extension cords, and other devices may provide a level of protection against surges but do not prevent breakers from tripping. Instead, they reduce the likelihood of damages plugged into them when a surge occurs.

What to Do After a Power Surge?
After a power surge, do not panic:

  1. Reset and repower your home.
     
  2. Assess your home for damage by inspecting your electronics and appliances.
     
  3. Check the HVAC system.

Get a professional inspection if the HVAC system needs to be reset and there is no manual available.

How to Fix a Power Surge?
To fix a power surge, unplug all your devices. Then, reset your circuit breakers. When you plug your devices back in, assess the damage and see if any appliances or electronics suffered damage.

If there is a fire from the surge or damage to appliances like a hot water heater, furnace, or boiler, contact the fire department and your utility company to prevent further damage and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Who Pays for Power Surge Damage?
Standard Homeowners insurance policies usually cover damage to appliances and electronics due to surges. There will be limits and deductibles to consider, so if the damage is less than the deductible, it may be better to pay out-of-pocket.

In some cases, the utility company or power company may allow you to file a claim with them if the power spike source results from a problem on the grid. In that case, damage from artificially generated surges harms your equipment. Your insurance company will accept a claim as well.

Does Home Insurance Cover Power Surge Damage?
Yes. Most insurance policies offer protection against accidental damage from power surge damages. Some policies will not cover damage to the components inside electronics, however.

If you have met the deductible and have a policy covering power surge damage, your insurance should cover major appliances and electronics at their replacement cost. It may cover losses from a full freezer that has thawed and damaged food. It may also cover damaged devices around your home.

Voltage spikes are not uncommon, but they may lead to damage starting a fire or a broken wall outlet. To get electricity flowing again, you need to reset your system.

Mechanical Breakdown Endorsement
An insurance add-on that will help if your hair dryers, computer equipment, air conditioners, or refrigerator get damaged because of an electrical surge is the mechanical breakdown endorsement.

Equipment breakdown insurance will cover the cost of repairing damaged equipment, including the cost of both time and labor. You may also receive coverage for spoiled food supplies.

Mechanical breakdown endorsements cover motors, generators, elevators, water pumps, engines, and other specialized parts.

How to Prevent Power Surges?
To prevent power surges, use point-of-use surge protection devices and a good grounding system. Surge protectors will protect your electrical appliances and electronic devices. With this kind of surge protection device, the device will not stop the surge, but the surge will get diverted into the ground.

Another option is to use a particular electrical outlet with built-in surge protection. These outlets are best in rooms where other plug-in surge protectors will not fit, like in a bathroom or kitchen.

How to Test for Power Surges?
To test for power surges, professionals use a surge tester to send an increase in voltage and trip the system. You would see if a surge happened by looking at the circuit breaker or safety switches at home.

A DIY method is to examine if the circuit breaker tripped or a safety switch popped out, such as an electrical device or bathroom outlet, a surge occurred.

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Hope that helps!

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At your service,
Young Alfred