Most homes in the United States operate on 120-volt electricity. Manufacturers of electrical and electronic appliances design their products to operate with this voltage, with a small allowance for temporary increases or decreases in voltage.
Sometimes, however, the electricity voltage spikes up to a dangerous level and causes serious damage to plugged-in appliances. Electricians refer to such a temporary spike in electricity supply as a power surge. Here are the common causes of a power surge.
Downed Power Lines
Damage to overhead power lines can cause a power surge if different electrical conductors or cables come into contact. When a power line goes down, the attached power lines sag and might come into contact. If the different lines come into contact, the houses connected to that line may experience a dangerous power surge.
Lightning is a discharge of electricity between the sky and the ground or objects on the ground. A bolt of lightning is a discharge of high electrical voltage that may even be in the range of millions of volts. If the discharge strikes an electrical system in your house, the electricity may travel through your electrical wiring as a power surge.
For example, lightning may strike a satellite antenna and channel its voltage to your electrical system. The risk of a power surge during a storm is the main reason you should unplug your electrical devices and appliances during a thunderstorm, particularly if lightning strikes accompany the storm.
Fluctuations in Demand
Fluctuations in electricity demand may also trigger a power surge. When demand for electricity in a neighborhood rises, particularly during peak hours, the power lines may experience a spike in voltage as supply tries to keep up with demand. Unfortunately, the increase in voltage may be too much for some appliances on the affected line.
A power surge may also originate from the utility company that supplies you with electricity. For example, powerful generators or other equipment at the electricity company may trigger a power surge when the utility company switches them on or off. Even fault — for example, calibration fault with voltage monitors — may trigger a power surge.
A power surge doesn't always originate outside the home; a power surge may also originate inside your house and cause damage. For example, large appliances in your home may cause a temporary spike in electricity when they cycle on and off.
The risk of an appliance-related power surge is particularly high with appliances that have motors, such as refrigerators and heating systems, since motors consume a lot of electricity at startup. The more of these appliances you have, the more your house is likely to experience a power surge.
Lastly, faulty wiring in your house may also trigger a power surge. An example is if a high-voltage line loses its protective insulation and creates a short circuit when it comes into contact with another line. Such a short circuit can send a spike of voltage down the lines connected to the affected circuit.
The best ways to prevent a power surge and its related damages is to prevent and deal with electrical faults and install a surge protector. Ideally, you need a whole house surge protector to protect your house from external power surges. You also need individual surge protectors to prevent damage from internal power surges.
At Motor Shop Electrical Construction Company, we have the tools and equipment to help you prevent damages from power surges. We can also help you diagnose the cause and extent of the damage if you have already experienced a power surge. Contact us any time of the day and we will help you deal with any of your electrical needs.