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The Truth About Power Surges and Surge Protection

lightning-boltHomes have more precision electrical equipment in them than ever before. You probably have multiple devices connected to the power supply at any time, with many power charging stations handling your portable devices. What is the best way to protect them in case of a power surge? It’s important to know this, because a voltage spike can cause irreparable damage to complex electrical equipment.

“I’m not worried! I’ve got the power strips in place at the outlets all over the house!”

If this is your answer … well, we have to talk a bit more about power surges and what you have to do protect equipment from them.

What a Power Surge Can Mean

A power surge, aka a voltage spike, is when there is a sudden increase in voltage through an electrical system. A surge is capable of melting wires and causing fuses to blow and circuit breakers to trip. People usually think of lightning strikes as a source of a power surge. A lightning strike can definitely cause one, but there are other sources for voltage spikes. Problems in a local power plant can abruptly cause surges throughout the grid.

Many surges come from inside a home. When a powerful electrical appliance turns on, such as an air conditioning system, it can cause an imbalance in the electrical current creating surges. For example, have you ever noticed the lights in your house suddenly flicker when the AC or the compressor in the refrigerator kick in? That’s the results of a power surge.

A Power Strip Is Only a Lesser Layer of Protection

Power strips are a safer alternative to the older octopus plugs used to allow for more appliances to plug into an outlet. A power strip contains its own circuit breaker, so in case of a voltage surge, the strip will shut off power to prevent damage to appliances plugged into it.

We definitely recommend you use power strips around your home for wherever you have important equipment plugged in. However, these power strips are only one line of defense against surges—and they aren’t the most powerful. A massive voltage spike can easily overcome a power strip, and many of the lesser surges won’t cause them to activate, allowing for cumulative damage to develop.

The best surge protection is a whole-house surge protector. A professional electrician can install this into the electrical panel of the home. The panel is where the electricity from the grid enters the home and divides into individual circuits. A surge protector on the panel sends excess voltage down into the ground rather than into the electrical system. This prevents the voltage spike from reaching the rest of the house, and it’s capable of handling extreme surges from storms and power plant trouble.

You can reach a licensed Chicago, IL electrician any time to handle whole-house surge protection installation, as well as any other electrical repairs or installations, with a call to ServiceMax. We specialize in making upgrades to electrical panels and keeping home electrical systems operating safely and within code.

ServiceMax is open 24/7—all day, every day!—to serve Chicagoland with HVAC and electrical needs. Schedule service with us today.

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