Power surges are responsible for millions of dollars of property damage each year, and, over time, they can cause cumulative damage while decreasing the lifespan of TVs, computers, stereo equipment, and anything else plugged into a wall outlet. Being educated is the key to choosing the best surge protection for your home.

What is a surge?

“A surge is a boost in the electrical charge over a power line,” explains Don Roach, Director of Operations at Access Energy Cooperative.  “This can be caused by lightning, but it’s more commonly caused by motor-driven electrical devices, such as air conditioners and refrigerators, that require a lot of energy for starting and stopping compressors. Some surges can also be caused by faulty wiring.”

How does a power surge cause damage?

Frequent, small power surges tend to shorten the life of home appliances and electronics. Power surges come in all shapes and sizes—the most extreme case being a lightning strike because it can destroy equipment and sometimes set your house on fire.

The severity of a surge depends not only on the voltage and current involved but how long the event lasts. Most surges are very short in duration. It’s important for people to realize that surges can happen through any connection on your equipment. If there is a wire connected to your equipment, then it provides a path for a surge.

How can I protect my property?

A surge protection device mounted at your home’s main electrical panel or the base of your electric meter protects equipment inside your house or business from surges coming through “ports of entry,” such as outside electric, telephone, and cable TV or satellite dish line.  

Point-of-use surge protection devices do not suppress or arrest a surge but divert it to ground. They’re designed to protect your sensitive electronic appliances, like a computer, and resemble a regular plug strip. However, don’t assume your plug strip offers surge protection unless it specifically says so. You can also install special electrical outlets that offer surge protection, which can be helpful in places like kitchen countertops.      

One of the most effective ways to protect your property is a two-tiered approach. A service entrance surge protection device reduces power surges to a lower level that protects large appliances, such as your stove or clothes dryer, while point-of-use surge protectors defend your sensitive electronics.

Remember to be cautious when shopping for surge protection equipment. Some items claim that they can save energy, and these claims are generally false. Surge protection is a valuable tool for protecting your home or business but not for saving energy.

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