Power Surges FAQ

More than likely, you have surge protectors in your home with multiple electrical devices plugged into them. Whether on the floor, behind a desk or couch, or placed into the wall, we all understand the need to protect appliances and electronics from power surges.

What are electrical surges?

Source: The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) 

According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, an “electrical surge is a sudden and unwanted increase in voltage that can damage, degrade, or destroy sensitive electronic equipment in a home or business.”

Two main sources of electrical surges are lightning surges and overvoltage generated by the equipment. Lighting surges are the most familiar source for electrical surges; however, they are one of the least common causes. NEMA states, “When lightning strikes near a power line, the electrical energy can boost electrical pressure by millions of volts.”

NEMA estimates that 60% to 80% of surges are created within a facility, such as when large appliances (e.g., air conditioners) turn on and off. This switching creates sudden, brief demands for power, which upset the steady voltage flow in the electrical system and causes repetitive surges. While these surges are nowhere near the intensity of a lightning surge, they can be severe enough to damage components, immediately or gradually, and they occur regularly in most building’s electrical systems.

What can we do about it?

A common misconception is surge protection strips completely protect a home or business from power surges. Surge strips are useful, but they offer only a limited layer of protection . While they  offer protection for devices connected to it, most of the heavy-duty electronic appliances in a home (e.g., television, cooktop, microwave, washer, dryer, and dishwasher) are connected to the mainline, which remains vulnerable during power surges. A surge protective device (SPD) is an appliance or device designed to protect from voltage spikes or surges transmitted from the power distribution line into the home. A SPD, typically, is mounted on a home’s circuit breaker panel. A surge, which lasts a few microseconds, can destroy computer memory, processors, capacitors, and screens. SPDs help to reduce the voltage spike to a value compatible with connected appliances. By layering cord-connected surge protectors and panel-mounted SPDs, we can achieve a more reliable protection scheme for our homes and appliances and electronics.

If you are interested in placing an SPD on your home’s panel, make sure you contact a licensed electrician and request pricing and installation information.

For additional information about electrical surges, go to www.nemasurge.org.