Preparing for Storm Season

March 22, 2019
Five ways to protect your clients’ homes against power surges

For most of us, spring is right around the corner. The warmer weather and sunshine are a welcome change from the cold, dreary days of winter. However, warmer weather often brings an increased risk of severe weather. As we all know, when severe weather strikes, so does lightning.

A nearby lightning strike may cause the power to go out. When it comes back on, sometimes the TV or computer doesn’t. Uh oh. What happened?

Most likely, they’ve been affected by a power surge. Electrical surges can instantly overload and short out the circuitry of a home. A surge can affect anything plugged into the wall and destroy items (undetected) over time. As an electrical professional, it’s your responsibility to educate your clients about surges and how basic efforts against such occurrences can help save them money and their property.

During a power surge, the voltage level can rise well above its normal limit. Any level of voltage above an appliance’s normal operating voltage can cause an arc of electrical current within the appliance. The heat generated in the arc can cause damage to the electronic circuit boards and other electrical components. A series of smaller power surges could be the reason your TV stops working. These smaller surges may not immediately kill the equipment, so your DVD player or TV may continue to function until the integrity of the electronic components erode completely.

Power surges can enter a home through several paths. They can come from inside a home when large appliances, like air conditioners, are turned on and off. They can also come from the electric utility distribution system during power grid switching. However, the most common source of a power surge tends to be lightning. Lightning can take the path of the cable TV or satellite dish cable, through the telephone lines, or through the electrical service line.

Here are some tips to share with your clients regarding residential surge protection:

1. Use point-of-use surge protection devices (SPDs). The use of an SPD combined with a good grounding system will protect electronics and appliances from most surges. An SPD doesn’t suppress or arrest a surge; it diverts the surge to the ground.

2. The grounding of an electrical system is the first place to establish a safe space for extra voltage to go. Remind your client it’s important to have you, a professional, ensure the grounding system is up to code before offering any surge protection on the home.

3. Present panel SPDs as an option. These usually mount in or on the client’s main electrical panel. Using a panel SPD provides protection for your entire electrical system. They protect items such as motors, lights, outlets, light switches, and other hard-wired objects in the house that don’t plug into an electrical outlet and can’t be connected to a point-of-use SPD. If a power surge is created by a lightning strike or power fluctuation on the utility lines, the service entrance SPD can reduce the power surge to a lower level before it gets to the point-of-use SPD.

4. Another form of protection is point-of-use surge devices (e.g., a surge strip). Easy to acquire and install, point-of-use devices can protect some appliances.

5. For more in-depth surge protection, combine point-of-use devices with another device. A service entrance surge protector or an electrical panel surge protector will work. By installing two tiers of surge protection, you’ll be able to protect your clients’ homes from all but the most powerful surges.

I’ll leave you with the adage: “If you have one hour to cut down a tree, spend 30 minutes sharpening your axe.” Sharpen your axe by making sure you, your team, and your client are prepared for the upcoming storm season.

Talbot is a licensed, master electrician in Georgia, where he was born and raised. He has been in the industry for 17 years and is currently the operations manager for Mister Sparky Atlanta, where he manages a team of technicians. In his spare time, he plays with his kids, volunteers, and is flipping his fourth house. He can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author

Gerald Talbot | Operations Manager

Gerald is a licensed, master electrician in Georgia, where he was born and raised. He has been in the industry for 17 years and is currently the operations manager for Mister Sparky Atlanta, where he manages a team of technicians.

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