Put simply, a power surge occurs when the voltage in an electrical circuit increases to a level higher than what the circuit was designed to handle. This can present a hazardous situation for several reasons.
In the U.S., 120v AC is used for mains power. The AC actually means “alternating current.” What this means is that the electricity will move in a sine wave pattern. The label of “120 volts” is the average, and the waves will crest at 169 volts.
As a result, electrical systems are built with the assumption that the voltage present in the lines is never going to exceed that 169-volt mark. This includes everything from the miniscule printed circuits found in computers to the 20th century electromechanical parts that are found in older appliances. They are all designed with the assumption that the power that comes from a wall outlet will never exceed 17 volts.
If a surge of power exceeding this design is sent through the system, the miniature wires and the contacts in your computer or television may overheat. This can cause the chips to literally be “fried,” and it may even result in a puff of acrid smelling smoke.
Larger components, such as a wall outlet, can’t handle this type of surge, either, because it carries more electricity than what the wires are designed to carry. This results in the electricity following the path of least resistance, which means that arcs to metal surfaces nearby may occur, which could short circuit appliances or start a fire.
What Causes a Power Surge?
There are several potential causes of power surges. Learn about the most common here.
Electrical storms are considered a common and very destructive cause of modern power surges. Lightning is going to follow an easy path, which is usually through the power grid, which is designed for moving electricity effectively and efficiently.
While the glass insulators and inch-thick wires found at electrical substations can withstand this surge of energy, your appliances aren’t that lucky. If lightning hits the power lines close to your home, millions of volts will surge through the lines that are designed to carry just 120 volts. If your circuits aren’t protected, they are going to be fried – instantly.
If your power goes out without any warning, it’s dangerous for digital devices. However, what causes the most damage is when it comes back on. Regardless of if it is an emergency generator or backup substation kicking on, the power will come back on as a jolt before the sine wave is able to even out again. When this happens, your electronics are vulnerable to damage.
If you want to protect your home from power surges, be sure to unplug items you aren’t using and install more surge protectors. A great option is to contact an electrician to have whole home surge protection installed. This is going to ensure all your expensive appliances and electronics are protected.
If you’re looking for a professional electrician in Kansas City to install surge protection for your home, contact Fusion Electric today.