Electrical currents are delivered from Calgary’s electrical grid, and enter buildings through underground or overhead line services to your service point. Your breaker box – or electrical panel – is then provided power from the service point through service entrance conductors.
An electrical power surge occurs when there is a sharp spike in your home or business’s electrical current, or when the current is stopped and then started again. They can happen for several reasons and can severely damage appliances and electronics.
Electrical power surges are classified as either internal or external. Causes of external power surges include:
- Lightning striking a power line.
- A power outage. When the current is “turned back on,” power lines will experience a large surge. It’s a very good idea to unplug all your appliances and electronics during a blackout to prepare for when the power comes back on.
- An animal getting into a transformer.
- A downed power line.
More than half of power surges originate from inside buildings. Causes of internal power surges include:
- When an electrical device requiring a lot of power, such as a large appliance – is turned on.
- Faulty or inadequate wiring.
- An older or insufficient electrical panel.
An electrical safety inspection can pinpoint if you are at risk of a harmful surge.
Damage Caused By an Electrical Surge
A surge can be relatively small, such as five or ten volts when you turn on a smaller appliance such as a fan or a hair dryer, and can go up to thousands of volts from an event such as a lightning strike. Small electrical surges can happen dozens, or even hundreds, of times a day in a home or business, and slowly wear away at your electronics.
The items most susceptible to damage from a power surge are those that contain microprocessors, which are found in numerous objects in homes and businesses. Computers, smart phones, sound systems, cordless phones, televisions, microwaves —even your newer dishwashers, washers and dryers — all contain microprocessors, which can disrupted by a surge of only ten volts. The increased voltage causes an electrical arc within the item, which then creates heat that is harmful to circuit boards. This can eventually result in what is called “electronic rust,” which will slowly degrade internal circuitry until it stops working.
If your mobile phone is not charging properly, if your television suddenly decides not to turn on, and if your microwave is failing to heat food properly, the culprit could be continuous power surges. Internal power surges can shorten the life of your electronics and appliances by 30%.
Far less common, but much more dangerous, is an external power surge caused by a lightning strike, tree branch or fallen power line. These can generate thousands of additional volts, which will cause instantaneous damage to anything connected to your electrical system. Circuits will “fry,” and plastic and metal parts will melt. Fortunately, these types of power surges are rare, and can be mitigated with a comprehensive surge protection device.
How Do Surge Protectors Work?
Surge protectors come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, but complete building protectors are usually located beneath your electrical panel or outdoors. Take a look at your electrical panel to ensure you have one installed. These will stop external power surges from entering your home or business. They work by “trapping” the extra voltage and dissipating it through ground wires. The more advanced surge protectors will easily handle surges of up to 20,000 volts.
Excess voltage can also enter your home or business through phone and cable TV lines. Ask your Calgary electrician about surge protectors that incorporate your telephone and coaxial cables in your house. Larger and more sensitive appliances should also come with built-in, point-of-use surge protection.
Protection Against Internal Power Surges
Internal power surges are undetectable, which means most people don’t even think about them. They are, however, the most common type of power surge by far. Ways to diminish the affects of internal power surges include:
- Unplugging appliances and electronics when not in use. This will also help reduce your electricity use and save on your power bills.
- Upgrading older or inadequate wiring. Buildings erected before the 1980s may have aluminum wiring, which is no longer used due to its inability to handle loads and propensity to spark and start fires.
- Using power bars with surge protection.
- Ensuring large appliances have point-of-use surge protectors installed.
Contact A-Star Electric of Calgary
A-Star’s certified journeymen electricians can help keep your appliances and electronics as safe as the rest of your Calgary home. We always work to not only meet, but also exceed electrical codes. Your electrical system is vital to both the functionality and comfort of your Calgary home or business, and we treat your property the same way we would treat our own. Contact us today!