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Electrical Service: Protecting Household Electronics During Thunderstorms

The US Department of Energy states that thunderstorms and lightning are the most common natural hazard in South Carolina. Storms with lightning occur approximately every 3 days in South Carolina from March to October. This makes electrical services in Florence, SC, extremely important.

Using electronics during thunderstorms is a threat to the electronic devices and appliances and the people in a home. Electrical wires transport power into homes, and they also carry electrical currents from lightning. Excess voltage destroys circuit boards in computers, refrigerators, and HVAC systems.

Internal and External Power Surges

Power surges are internal or external. External surges occur due to something outside the home. It could be a tree limb touching a power line or a lightning strike. Internal power surges are much more common. They happen when multiple devices power on or off and cause more power to hit a home’s electrical system at once.

Modern appliances are often equipped with snubbers to redirect excess voltage. It may be surprising to learn that even small surges during unnoticed daily activity can damage devices over time. Lightning strikes travel through cable TV, electrical utility lines, and telephone lines, but most electrical surges come from sudden increases inside the home.

Power outages also put electronics at risk of power surges. The outage itself does not cause damage, but the transient voltage surges when power is restored. Normally daily on-and-off cycling affecting appliances and air conditioning units can also produce power surges.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, or NEMA, estimates that 60-80% of internal power surges occur when large appliances power on or off. Refrigerators or air conditioners are common causes, but even small devices like hair dryers or power tools can cause voltage surges.

This minor damage to everything from HVAC systems to HD televisions lead to replacing equipment and devices much sooner than necessary if such equipment is properly protected. Sudden increases in power may occur up to a dozen times each day.

High-level power surges are usually noticeable. They can blow fuses or trip power breakers, but low-level internal surges are very hard to detect. Contact professional electrical service providers to evaluate your home’s electrical system and identify possible problems caused by internal surges.

Lightning Damage

Lightning causes damage when it uses a home’s electrical wire system as a primary or secondary path. The power surge can even damage non-electrical appliances. The heat produced by these power surges can start structural fires or electrocute people and animals. Electrical services should be part of a regular home maintenance schedule to reduce these risks.

Unplugging electronics during thunderstorms prevents injury and keeps devices safe. Turning off power at the breaker is the simplest and fastest way to protect household electronics. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to unplug everything in the house during a storm. People may not be home at the correct time, or they may need the important functions provided by electrical appliances and devices.

Oxygen concentrators are essential and they use a large amount of electricity. People with oxygen concentrators and other essential medical devices should consult professional electrical service providers to ensure such devices are protected from power surges. Electricians may also have advice concerning back-up power options in case of an outage.

Research from Underwater Laboratories estimates that a properly installed lightning protection system is approximately 99% effective in preventing damage from lighting. The Lightning Protection Institute describes lighting protection systems as combinations of highly conductive copper and aluminum that provide electrical current with a safe low-resistance path that avoids damaging homes. These systems include lightning rods, main conductors, grounds, bonds, and surge protectors.

Whole-Home Surge Protection

People have more electronics in their homes now than ever before, and this trend increases every year. It’s hard to protect everything in a home from power surges using only point-of-use protection. Point-of-use protection only protects devices plugged into one unit.

Professional electrical services to prevent power surges focus on three locations, the home’s electric meter, the electrical panel, and the point of use. An adapter in the electric meter protects homes against most external surges. Point-of-use devices are a final line of defense for electronics that use large amounts of electric or continuously lose electric.

Most people with a desktop computer have at least one surge protector. Sometimes people confuse devices that simply add additional outlets

with real surge protectors, and most store-bought surge protectors are only rated up to 6,000 volts. A lightning strike can produce up to one

billion volts of electricity.

Whole-house protection keeps everything in the home safe from electrical

surges. Consult professional electrical services to install comprehensive whole-home surge protection that safeguards expensive HVAC systems, appliances, and every other electronic device within a home. This form of protection requires very little maintenance from homeowners.

An electrical panel with a snap-in surge protector stops a spike in voltage before it hits the entire electrical system. Whole-home protection also safeguards appliances that are not compatible with point-of-use protection devices, including refrigerators and air conditioners. It’s best to have professional electrical services to install anything in an electrical panel.

Surge Protection Devices and Specifications

Power strips with surge protection are not all created equally. Surge protectors provided as part of professional electrical services are usually rated for at least 1200 joules and have a VPR less than 400 volts.

Surge protection is quantified in joules, voltage protection rating, or VPR, and

response time. A higher joule rating provides longer protection, while lower VPR numbers minimize the amount of voltage that reaches protected

devices. Most providers of electrical services recommend a response time below 1 nanosecond for most households.

Contact Mister Sparky of Florence, SC for professional services if any electrical systems in your home have been damaged by power surges due to lightning or any other cause. The skilled electricians at Mister Sparky can fix damage to your home’s electronics safely. They can also help homeowners with protection from power surges to avoid damage in the future.