Power outages are a fact of life, but losing important (and expensive) electronics due to surges doesn’t have to be. When your power goes out, you can take some simple steps to ensure your electronics will not be harmed by a potential surge when your power is restored.
Electrical surges don’t only occur when lightning strikes, but can also occur at the end of an outage when your power comes back on. During an outage, the affected power lines are empty of electrical current. Due to the nature of electricity, those lines are rapidly filled with electrical current upon restoration, and that current can exceed the amount your electronics are designed for.
External surges are less common and occur when the power supply to your home is flooded with more voltage than your home is designed to receive. Typically, this is caused by lightning striking a power line or a broken utility line.
While restoration surges are a possibility, the most common surges are internal. These generally occur when a large appliance turns on, like the compressor in your air conditioner. When this happens, a sudden increase in demand on the power supply can result in a small, but potentially harmful surge throughout your home.
What you can do
The best protection against an unexpected surge is a good surge protector, and it’s important to understand that surge protectors and power strips are not the same thing. Power strips provide you with additional outlets, but no protection against a power surge.
Surge protectors are designed to die in the event of a surge to protect your things. In the event of any extended outage, it is safest to unplug all electronics. Surge protectors are also a convenient way to disconnect several devices at once. When the power comes back on, wait a few minutes for the electricity to stabilize before plugging your things back in.