What are power surges?

February 5, 2014

You keep trying to get one of your appliances to work, but the current doesn’t seem to be getting through. Could power surges be the culprit?

What are power surges?

Most modern electric appliances contain microprocessors—tiny computers—that are sensitive to, and can be damaged by, power surges.

  • Power surges are produced when an electric connection receives two signals with a higher level of tension than the circuit can handle.

What are the causes of power surges?

There are both internal and external issues that can result in power surges.

  • Internal issues can arise from other appliances in the home. During the day, household appliances such as the refrigerator, freezer, air conditioner, computer, and microwave oven start and stop, creating tiny power surges. It is estimated that the average home experiences about 20 small power surges per day.
  • External issues arise outside of the home. It could be outdoor lightning, nearby businesses, power outages, or fluctuations in the network tension.

What are the effects of power surges?

While internal low-intensity power surges can damage your electric circuits slowly over time, external power surges can be absolutely brutal on your electric infrastructure.

  • Internal power surges are far more frequent and usually manifest themselves in relatively minor ways, such as the toaster taking longer to toast your bread the next morning.

On the other hand, external power surges can destroy electronic equipment or devices instantly. Fortunately, they are far more rare then internal surges.

How can I protect my appliances?

For general protection, a surge suppressor can be installed by an electrician on the entry point of most public-service wires.

  • That generally protects against extreme exterior power surges.
  • This is a good-value move for the homeowner wanting peace of mind.
  • You’ll reduce the risk of needing a major repair or having to replace an appliance, which is a longterm saving.

In addition to general protection, using a surge-protection bar will protect your electronics against internal surges and offer a second line of defence against exterior surges. Your local electrician can be a valuable source of advice on preventing power surges in your home. Do not hesitate to give him or her a call.

Appliances that benefit from surge protection

  • TV sets
  • Computers
  • Sound systems
  • Air conditioners
  • Heating system
  • Electronic thermostats
  • Microwave ovens
  • Refrigerators
  • Freezers
  • Telephones

Talk to your electrician

If you protect your appliances against power surges, you're likely extending their lifespan by about 30 per cent. Talk to your electrician. The use of surge suppressors is a small step that can pay off with big peace of mind.

*Not only is it dangerous, it may even be illegal in some provinces, such as Québec, to do your own electrical wiring. The solution: consider hiring a master electrician.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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