Did you lose power during a recent thunderstorm? It might have lasted only a few seconds, just long enough to change the clock on the microwave in the kitchen. If so, your home experienced a power surge and it happens more often than you know.
Defining Power Surges
Homes in the U.S. are supplied with 120-volt service and most appliances and devices function on this level: a few devices, such as cooking ranges and HVAC systems use twice as much with two circuits. A power surge happens when more than 120 volts enter the residential service.
Leading Causes of Power Surges
Lightning. The most obvious culprit is lightning strikes. In 2019, lightning struck the ground 47 million times in Texas, a massive number.1 The annual average in Texas is closer to 3.3 million cloud-to-ground strikes. Each strike has the potential of producing power surges along the power grid.
Power Generation Surges. A blown transformer (a common enough occurrence) can cause a power surge in the grid. When the power grid is disrupted and then suddenly restored it will cause a power surge.
Large Appliances. When an appliance that uses significant power, such as the clothes dryer or oven, is turned ON, a power surge commonly occurs.
Short Circuits. Electricity finding an unintended route because of a loose wire, called a short circuit, will lead to a power surge.
The circuit breakers in your service panel are safety devices, designed to interrupt service to prevent damage to wiring. However, since electricity moves at about 186 miles/second through wiring2, circuit breakers do not work fast enough to prevent damage from power surges. The circuit breakers protect your home’s wiring but do little to protect appliances and devices in use throughout the home.
Small Surge Protectors vs Whole Home Surge Protectors
To some degree, you have been aware of the danger of power surges, since you probably use small surge protectors for sensitive electronic devices, such as computers and televisions. However, most people do not understand the limitations of these small surge protectors. After a certain number of power surges (which are more common than we realize) the protection diminishes and leaves false security for valuable equipment.
Whole home surge protectors are hard-wired into your home’s electrical system between the meter and the service panel. When a power surge spikes at your home’s power supply, a ground wire disrupts the surge and prevents it from entering the circuits. They offer protection for the most dangerous surges from lightning, power generation interruption, and transformer shorts. A whole-house surge protector provides additional protection for heavy appliances that use hard-wired circuits, such as the HVAC system, dishwashers, and garage door openers.
While a whole home surge protector offers comprehensive protection from external sources, they do not protect individual circuits within the home. Remember that a large number of power surges result when an appliance starts within the home. These small surges happen several times per day but are minor surges. Small circuit surge protectors still offer protection from these internal sources of power surges for sensitive devices. The two power surge devices work in tandem to avoid damage throughout the home.
To prevent power surges from damaging your home and electrical devices, we recommend installing a hard-wired whole home surge protector and purchasing fresh small surge protectors for delicate or sophisticated electronic devices.
Our four decades of experience as a Houston Commercial Electrician and contractor AirPro Houston provides you with the skill and expertise to help determine which whole home surge protector is right for your home or business.
We have financing options available with great options with up to 72-month terms with approved credit. Call our teams of Commercial Electricians at 281-880-8805 and let us partner with you for all of your electrical repair and installation needs.