Protecting your home from power failures has become a necessity today. Utility companies can no longer be counted on for a steady stream of electrical power. Because of an aging infrastructure, confusion over deregulation and other factors, the suppliers of the nation’s electricity have been struggling to maintain enough service to power homes and businesses.
According to one study, 75 percent of U.S. homeowners have experienced a power outage. In addition, 90 percent of the study’s respondents said they have been without power.
Power Sags, Surges and Spikes
Power failures can range from complete blackouts to fluctuations in the amount of power delivered to a home’s electrical system. These power fluctuations usually occur as sags, surges or spikes.
Sags, also known as brownouts, occur when start-up demands of electrical appliances pull more power from the utility company than it can re-supply to the home. Sags can cause serious damage to appliances like computers, which need very steady sources of electricity to function.
Surges occur when high-powered electrical motors, such as air conditioners and household appliances, are switched off, causing extra voltage to dissipate through the power line. Computers and other sensitive electric equipment can also become damaged by surges.
Spikes are instantaneous, sometimes dramatic increases in voltage and can be caused by an event like a lightning strike or a car accident involving a utility pole. During a spike, huge amounts of voltage can instantly spread throughout centrally wired electronic equipment like telephones or televisions. Spikes are the most damaging of all power problems and can completely destroy these appliances.
How to Protect Yourself from Blackouts
So how do you protect yourself from these power problems? By setting up backup systems to protect mission-critical appliances from damage or destruction. Here’s where to begin:
Whole House Generators
Power failures are common, and power problems have spurred record sales for companies that provide whole house backup generation systems. Why? Because these appliances make perfect sense.
Generators can run on natural gas or gasoline, and some can re-power most of the home’s critical systems within a short time of a power outage occurrence. Whole house generators are permanently installed and wired into a transfer switch that automatically routes the selected circuits or entire panel to run off the generator within seconds of the power going out.
The transfer switch also prevents the electrical power from being routed back to the power grid where it could potentially endanger the lives of utility linemen working on the wiring.
Each year, the cost of lightning strikes adds up to millions of dollars of damage to electrical systems in homes throughout the country. Comprehensive surge suppression strategy is the best way to ensure whole-house protection. Power surges can also occur from inside the home. To protect yourself, you’ll need several types of devices:
- Lightning Rods – Good to protect against blasts of lightning hitting at or near your home. Lightning rods provide a ground path to divert this runaway power from harming your home’s electrical systems.
- Surge Arrestors – Surge arrestors, also known as whole house surge protectors, are mounted inside your electrical panel and provide another protection against voltage spikes, which occur from the outside. Because whole house surge protectors are mounted in the electrical panel, they protect all electrical circuits fed from that panel.
- Surge Suppressors – Surge suppressors provide the second stage of an interior defense system. Most suppressors resemble power strips with outlets, and protect equipment that’s particularly sensitive to moderate power surges such as computers, TVs, phones, and audio/video systems.
When shopping for surge suppressors, keep in mind that major qualitative differences exist. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for and finding out your suppressor didn’t work can be a very expensive lesson to learn.
Also, keep in mind that if in fact you are hit by lightning, this may very well be considered “storm damage” and could be covered by your homeowners insurance policy.
Probably the single most effective equipment to protect computers from damage from an electrical power outage is a battery backup. Known as an “uninterruptible power supply” or “UPS”, these small devices will not only protect your sensitive data from surges or spikes, they can also instantly restore power to your computer long enough to allow you to safely save your work and shut down the system. Battery backups are an essential part of your power failure plan.
Check out these sites for good tools and tips on protecting your power:
- Generac – Manufacturer of top-rated home standby and portable generators.
- Electric Generators Direct.com – Use the home wattage wizard to find out how much power you’ll need in the event of a blackout.
- National Lightning Safety Institute – Get the facts on lightning and learn how to avoid becoming a victim.
Protecting your home from power failures with a thorough power failure plan has become a necessity, due to today’s many power outages. But with a little preplanning, the inconvenience of losing electricity can be left at just that.