Back to The Power Lab

How do power surges affect you?

By Tiffany Reynolds

Electricity is a fantastic invention that currently plays a crucial role in various aspects of daily living. With dependence on electrical appliances at an all-time high in the modern world, life without electricity, like in a power surge, can be hard to imagine.

You often need a reliable and uninterrupted electricity supply to power different electrical devices in your home. Unfortunately, power surges sometimes occur that tend to disrupt the electricity supply.

Let us find you the best plan in seconds and start saving.

Without the proper protective measures, electrical surges can also damage valuable devices. Below is an overview of power surge causes, how to test for them, and preventative measures for your home.

What are power surges?

A power surge is a sudden and abnormal brief rise in electricity supply. The rise can be a transient wave of current, power, or voltage in an electric circuit. There is often an oversupply of electric current from the power source, such as a generator or a mains supply that lasts for a few microseconds.

Although surges last for a short time, they differ in magnitude depending on their cause. The spike can vary from a barely noticeable small-scale rise in voltage to a large-scale catastrophic jump in electricity supply. Two main types of surges occur based on the voltages involved and the power supply.

Internal power surges essentially arise from causes within residential or commercial buildings. The electric surges can occur when internal sources — like motors in industries — start-up and shut down. The sudden switch in power causes high electric currents to flow and reroute some power to and from other devices linked to the circuit. Air conditioners and power carpentry are possible causes of power surges in your home.

External power surges tend to arise and occur outside your premises. Environmental causes like lightning striking utility equipment or swaying tree branches that cause electric lines to touch and short-circuit are common causes. An external electric surge can also occur when you regain electricity after a power outage.

How do these power surges affect electricity?

When power surges occur, the brief spikes can attain amplitudes as high as tens of thousands of volts. Typical electrical devices and household appliances can handle voltage levels between 110V and 220V in most countries. Electrical outlets in the United States averagely, operate on 120V. Utility companies must supply electricity not less or more than 5% of this nominal voltage.

These overvoltage disturbances can damage, degrade, or destroy electrical devices within a home or manufacturing plant. Low-grade power surges often don’t cause instant property damage like melting electrical parts or blowing fuses. However, they do promote the gradual degradation of electronic components until they completely stop working.

These more significant, sudden jumps in power cause instantaneous blowing of semiconductors, capacitors, fuses, and resistors. Power surges effectively end up shortening the lifespan of electrical devices.

Common causes of power surges

A few of the most common causes include:

Severe weather or a lightning strike and power surges

Severe weather, such as thunderstorms, snowstorms, and heatwaves, can cause power surges. Strong winds can fling branches, cause tree limbs to sway against high voltage power lines, and disrupt the current flow. Wild animals like squirrels, monkeys, birds, and snakes can also cause power surges when they fall onto electric lines during extreme weather.

Lightning strikes are a common cause of fires, large-scale power surges, and blackouts. The electric current from a lightning strike can enter your power supply through satellite dish TV cables, electric service lines, or incoming telephone wires.

Electrical appliances that are unprotected, directly plugged into an electric socket, or hard wired into the main electric panel are at risk of being damaged during lightning storms. Even appliances that are switched off but still plugged in can meet a similar fate.

Overload of electrical power and power surges

An electric power overload can occur when you draw an excessive amount of electricity into a single circuit. Overloads may occur after overwhelming an extension cord by plugging too many electrical devices into the unit.

Electric surges tend to happen after power overloads when the overused circuit receives a massive current boost. A subsequent brief spike in voltage occurs, resulting in a power surge.

Spike in normal operating voltage for appliances

Spikes may occur in residential and commercial buildings when electric devices consume more electricity than expected, disrupting the circuit. Hairdryers, refrigerators, and blenders can cause sudden spikes in electric current use at home. Multiple air conditioning units and elevators can momentarily fluctuate power use in commercial space and cause power surges.

Faulty electrical wiring

Exposed or damaged electric wiring is a common cause of power surges. Although you may be unable to detect faulty electric wiring behind walls, there are a few warning signs you may notice. These signs include burn marks on electric outlets, buzzing from power ports, the smell of burning rubber from wiring, and frequently tripping circuit breakers.

Measures to prevent internal surges

There are a few other measures you can take to protect your home.

Invest in surge protectors or power strips

Surge protection devices can help safeguard your valuable electric devices against unexpected surges. When the electric voltage spikes above an acceptable level, the device reroutes the excess electricity to the power outlet’s grounding wires. There are different types of surge protection devices that you can use.

Whole house or point-of-entry surge protectors are installed in the main power panel to redirect external electric instabilities to the ground. You can combine it with a backup surge protector that continues to supply electricity to connected devices during power blackouts.

Let us find you the best plan in seconds and start saving.

Most people may be more familiar with the surge suppressor power strip or surge protector. After plugging this surge protector into a power outlet, you can proceed to connect different appliances to the power strip’s outlet.

Unfortunately, not all power strips have inbuilt surge protection. Power strips are still worthy investments that can help improve your home’s energy efficiency use. They cut off electricity supply to devices you aren’t using and effectively lower energy loss to phantom loads or during standby mode.

Besides saving you from costly repairs after electric surges, surge protectors also lower your electricity bill. You can also use your surge protector to test power outlets for electric surges.

First, plug the protector into the wall socket without adding any electric device. Proceed to assess the protector at regular intervals to check if the circuit is tripped. You can plug in an electric appliance during periodic checks to see if it receives a current flow. If the appliance doesn’t work, then a power surge tripped the circuit breaker.

Avoid overloading outlets with excessive electrical loads

Unplugging devices that aren’t in use during extreme weather and power outages is one of the easiest ways to prevent surges. Distributing electrical appliances amongst your extension cords and power strips can avoid overloading your power outlets.

These simple yet effective surge preventive measures can help you avoid unnecessary expenses on repairing or replacing costly devices.

Protect yourself from an electrical overload

After a power surge, reset the circuit breaker on your surge protector and assess your home for possible damage. You want to be cautious of electric faults arising from power surges that can cause accidental electric fires.

Let us find you the best plan in seconds and start saving.

More From the Power Wizard Blog

  • Cost Savings
    Shop Texas Electricity

    How Time of Use Energy Plans Work

    Once, one company controlled all aspects of your electricity. Whether you liked it or not, you had to agree with the charges of that company and pay the bills. Those days are over, as you can now choose an electricity provider within a deregulated market and pick the best rates for yourself. You even have […]

    View Article
  • Shop Texas Electricity

    How to set up electricity in an apartment

    Moving to a new apartment can be equal parts exciting and overwhelming. In addition to packing up your belongings and transporting them to your new home, you have to file a change of address, update your driver’s license, and make sure your renter’s insurance policy is in order. You’ll also want to prioritize setting up […]

    View Article
  • Cost Savings
    Shop Texas Electricity

    How to Understand Your Texas Power Bill

    When your Texas power bill arrives, what do you do? Many people only look at the amount due and pay it without a second thought (unless they notice that the total is significantly higher than the month before). Understanding your electricity bill and the charges on your bill can save you from overpaying for electricity. Don’t […]

    View Article
  • Efficiency
    Shop Texas Electricity

    How much electricity does a pool pump use?

    A backyard swimming pool lets you beat the scorching afternoon heat while enjoying the privacy of your home. On the downside, pools have huge installation costs and electricity demands. Therefore, if you want to enhance the elegance of your backyard with a pool, keep in mind its maintenance cost.   Homes with swimming pools consume on […]

    View Article
  • Shop Texas Electricity

    What you should know about electric cars

    Electric cars (also called all-electric or battery electric vehicles) have become increasingly more popular in recent years, providing an alternative to traditional gas-powered vehicles. In addition to all-electric car manufacturer Tesla’s lines of vehicles, nearly all legacy automakers have introduced at least one electric model. Fisker, another all-electric automaker, has also entered the market with […]

    View Article
  • Shop Texas Electricity

    What to do when you see a Texas electric bill increase

    Let’s be honest. Paying monthly bills isn’t something that anyone can avoid. However, opening your energy bill, often your most expensive utility expense, only to discover your costs have drastically increased is more than just frustrating. Have you experienced a Texas electric bill increase? Power Wizard is here to help. We can find you the […]

    View Article
  • Shop Texas Electricity

    How energy brokers can help you save

    At these difficult times, we are all looking for ways to lower our cost of living and adapt to the changing economy. Electricity plays a critical role in daily living and contributes significantly to our utility expenses. That’s why identifying the ideal energy plan to reduce energy expenses is one of the top priorities. Several […]

    View Article
  • Shop Texas Electricity

    Do You Need a Tesla Powerwall?

    What is a Tesla Powerwall? The Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable home battery storage system for residences. It is made by Tesla Energy, a subsidiary company of Tesla Inc. that makes electric vehicles. Introduced in 2015, the battery has been in mass production since 2017. By 2021, there were over 250,000 units installed. There have […]

    View Article