Everything You Need To Know About Power Surges

What Is A Power Surge

Power surges, also called transient voltages, are simply unexpected increases in voltage. When powerful enough, it can damage or even destroy electronic devices in your home. Whenever an electrical device’s operating range is exceeded, an electrical arc and heat can occur. Over time, even small electrical surges may damage electronic equipment. These effects may not appear immediately, but they will develop over time if left unchecked and untreated.

What Causes Power Surge

Following your understanding of power surges, let’s look at their most common causes. Understanding what causes power surges can help you prevent them as you maintain your electrical system. Below are some of the causes of power surges.

Internal Sources Within Your Home 

Up to 80% of power surges are caused by sources within your home, making them the most common cause of power surges. By turning on and off electronic devices with motors and compressors, they hinder the flow of electricity to and from other electrical appliances. This overload is usually caused by hairdryers, space heaters, power tools, air conditioners, and HVAC units. In most cases, these are smaller-scale power surges occurring regularly that cause electronic rust or intermittent damage to products. 

Using Outdated Electrical Systems

An outdated electrical system and faulty wiring can also cause power surges to be generated within a home, particularly in older homes without updated wiring. Many homes built before the 1980s have cheaper aluminum wiring rather than today’s standard copper wiring. We now know that the aluminum connections deteriorate quickly and cause power surges. 


Because your electrical system is designed to channel electricity, a lightning strike can easily compromise it. Whenever lightning strikes your electrical system, it is forced to accept the overwhelmingly excessive current. This generates an overwhelming power surge. Therefore, it’s a good idea to unplug unused gadgets and appliances during severe storms if you are not using surge protection.

Power Outage/Blackout

A power outage can be expected during a storm or failure of the power grid. Although it’s expected, it doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. When power is restored after an outage, the sudden jump in current can cause a power surge, causing damage to any powered appliances that had been unplugged.

Why Worry About Power Surges

There are many items in your home that are susceptible to power surges. Everything containing a microprocessor is particularly vulnerable since the tiny digital components are so sensitive that even a 10-volt fluctuation can disrupt normal operation. Microprocessors can be found in hundreds of consumer items, including TVs, cordless phones, computers, microwaves, and even large appliances we may not think of as high-tech, like dishwashers, washing machines, and refrigerators. Large power surges, as with a lightning strike, can cause instantaneous damage, frying circuits and melting plastic and metal parts. These surges are rare, however. Furthermore, low-level surges won’t blow fuses or melt parts, but they can cause electronic rust, slowly degrading internal circuitry until it eventually fails.

How To Tell If You Had Power Surge

When you experience a power surge in your home, don’t panic. It’s fairly common and rarely causes damage. A large surge of electricity, such as that caused by a lightning strike, can, however, destroy circuitry and wiring in an instant. Here are some other signs that you may just have experienced a power surge: 
  • Electrical appliances and devices with flashing clocks are fairly obvious signs that there has been an electrical surge in a power strip or wall outlet. 
  • A power surge can cause burning, so you may catch a whiff. Whenever you suspect a power surge, you should smell the wall outlets or power strips for burnt aromas. 
  • Reset buttons are available on some power strips and wall outlets. If the outlet has experienced an electrical fluctuation, these buttons will move to the reset position. You may have experienced a power surge if the button has to be reset manually. 

What Are The Effects Of Power Surges On Your Home And Electronics

There are several types of surges. Typical voltage spikes last only 1-2 nanoseconds, while actual surges last for 3 nanoseconds or more. Most powerful surges are obvious right away when your air conditioning or Wi-Fi suddenly stops working. It has been hit with high voltage electricity strong enough to melt its wiring. Additionally, these intense surges can damage your entire electrical system and even cause a fire. Less obvious are the results of electrical spikes. At first, the damage they cause is less severe, but repeated small spikes can reduce your electronic appliances’ performance until they are damaged.

What To Do After a Power Surge 

After a power surge, it is important to do these three things:
  1. Reboot, unplug and repower all electronic devices. You can do this before resetting circuit breakers if a power outage has occurred after the surge. 
  1. Check your appliances, electronics, and power outlets in your home to determine if there are any damages. 
  1. Check your HVAC system for damage and functionality. A professional may be required for this.

How to Deal with Frequent Power Surges

There are many problems that can arise with electricity and one of the most common is a power surge. An unexpected increase in voltage can damage or even destroy electronic devices and appliances, and a power surge can originate both inside and outside of the home. If you are exposed to such risks, you might wonder what you can do when power surges occur frequently. 

Devices And Appliances That Are Not In Use Should Be Unplugged

This is a free and effective way to reduce the risk of power surge damage. Unplug unused appliances and devices, especially during a storm. Walk around your house. You may see multiple devices plugged in but not in use. The toaster, coffee maker, hairdryer, phone charger, and more are among these items. Unplugging these devices can prevent damage from power surges, but it can also reduce their energy consumption and electricity costs. That’s bringing down two birds with one stone.

Inspect Your Wiring

If you live in an old home, the wiring is probably old and outdated. These wiring systems can fall into disrepair and become vulnerable to power surges. This can happen even to newer homes. Make sure that your wiring is in good working order by scheduling an annual or bi-annual electrical inspection. Also, it is a good idea to arrange for an urgent inspection if you encounter frequent electrical problems such as flickering lights, noise from wiring, and power surges.

Use Surge Protectors

If you have expensive and sensitive electronics, such as computers and televisions, you can plug them into power surge protectors. There are even appliance-grade surge protectors for refrigerators, washers and dryers, air conditioners, and more. Products such as these allow multiple devices and appliances to be plugged into one outlet, saving outlet space and protecting against power surges at the same time.

Install High-Efficiency Appliances

We have already mentioned that power surges can occur from inside as well as outside the home. A lightning strike can flood your electrical system with extreme voltage, as can appliances. A more efficient air conditioner will reduce the risk of voltage spikes while saving money on energy bills.

What Type of Surge Protectors Are There 

There are several types of surge protectors that can help protect your home from power surges. These include whole-house surge protectors; plug-in power strips with surge protection; and transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSS).  Whole house surge protectors, also known as panel-mounted surge suppressors.  Located where the electricity enters your home, by the fuse box or electrical panel, these provide a point of entry protection. Your home’s appliances are protected from lightning and power surges from the power grid by these devices, preventing electrical surges from flowing through all the wires and cables in your home.  Surge protectors for the whole house usually come in joule ratings and range from $70 upwards with the average costing $400 plus installation. Make sure the whole house surge protector you buy covers the joules and amps your home needs. If you’re not sure what your home needs, consult a fully qualified electrician Power strips with surge protection are commonplace in homes.  These plug-in surge protectors also have joule ratings. You need to ensure that the power strip can meet the electrical needs of the appliances you will connect to it. Price varies with quality and joule, as higher-quality models tend to be more expensive. Not all power strips offer surge protection, so do your homework before buying.  Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor (TVSS), also known as an SPD, or surge protective device.  They are hardwired directly into your home’s wall outlets. In case of a surge in power, TVSSs or SPDs protect any device plugged into them. In some models, a power surge will be indicated by flashing or noise. 

Surge Protector Safety Tips 

Make sure your surge protectors work and your home stays protected by following these simple steps.
  • Make sure your surge protector is uncovered. 
  • Before using surge protectors, unwind the cords. 
  • Keep your surge protectors in a dry place. 
  • Aquariums shouldn’t be connected to surge protectors. 
  • Be sure not to exceed the surge protector’s electrical rating. 
  • It is a good idea to periodically check your surge protector to be sure it isn’t too hot. 
  • Never connect your surge protectors to extension cords or other surge protectors. 
  • Make regular inspections to ensure there are no frayed wires or worn outlets.


Your home and electronic devices can suffer a lot of damage from power surges. Your property can be protected from both short-term and long-term damage by installing surge protection measures. The right surge protection system can help you save money, keep your electrical devices running safely, and give you peace of mind. It only takes a fraction of a second for electricity to potentially wreak havoc on appliances big and small, bringing expense and hassle in its aftermath. It’s worth spending a little time protecting your home against power surges so that you can save money and time in the long run.

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