Signs of a power surge and what you can do to prevent one

Power surges can be a serious problem for any home or business, damaging appliances and even running the risk of electrical fires. The main voltage rating in Australia is 240v and 50Hz, and if the flow of electricity exceeds this limit, it leads to what is known as an electrical surge.

These surges are not always very obvious. They do not always manifest in the form of smoking electronics and fires; sometimes, electrical surges are not even noticeable unless a problem with a residential or commercial electrical system is detected.

These surges don’t always damage your appliances immediately either. They may cause damage over time and shorten the lifespan of the devices in your space.

To ensure the electrical integrity of your property and the safety of everyone in it, take a look at some of the telltale signs of an electrical surge and what can be done to prevent them.

Why do power surges occur?

Internal surges may be caused by faulty electronics, poor wiring or damaged wall sockets. Plugging in a high powered device, for example, could create an electrical surge.

External surges, on the other hand, tend to be more serious. These are usually caused by lightning strikes or when power returns after an outage. Surges caused by lightning strikes can cause major damage and may, in worst-case scenarios, start a fire.

What signs should I look out for?

Power surges can be very subtle but there are a few signs that you can rely on to find out if you’re experiencing one.

  • Flickering lights or lights making a buzzing noise
  • Electrical clocks needing to be reconfigured
  • Wall sockets getting hot or electrical devices emitting burning smells
  • Devices not turning on after being plugged in

How can surges be prevented?

The good news for homeowners and property managers is that there are a few ways to prevent this kind of outcome and protect your appliances from getting damaged or placing people in these spaces at risk.

Invest in a whole-house surge protector

Whole-house surge protectors are handy devices that can be fixed to a home’s or business’ main fuse box.

These setups detect excess electricity and divert it through an earth wire into the ground. Once the voltage returns to normal, the surge protector will allow electricity to flow normally once more.

Whole-house surge protectors can be expensive, so it’s important to pick one that has the right specifications. The ideal surge protector should be able to stop a surge of about 40,000 amps and should include extra features like thermal fuses and alarms to warn of a surge.

It’s also important to keep in mind that these protectors aren’t foolproof, and may allow around 15% of excess electricity to leak. As an added precaution, using individual plug-in surge protectors could help you protect your more sensitive or expensive devices.

Installing a whole-house surge protector is a complex task and should only be done by a professional electrician.

Install a lightning rod

Electrical surges caused by lightning can be so severe that they may destroy electrical equipment almost instantly. Lightning rods need to be installed on the highest points of homes and buildings, therefore, to prevent strikes from affecting your electrical systems.

These rods conduct lightning directly and redirect the electrical surge to the ground. That said, the rod does not attract the lightning itself, contrary to popular belief; it simply provides an alternate, low-resistance path for it to travel without damaging electrical infrastructure.

Lightning rods are usually made of copper and are relatively cheap to install. The rod must be fitted properly to prevent any sparking, however, which could otherwise lead to a fire.

Prevent power surges for a safer living or working environment

The electrical infrastructure of a home or workplace is like a nervous system—surges and other electrical issues in one part of the system can affect everything else connected to it.

That’s why it’s important to be mindful of any signs that could point to a major electrical mishap.

Working with a reliable local electrician can go a long way in helping you keep your home’s or workplace’s electrical infrastructure safe and sound from surges in the future.

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