Understanding Electrical Surges
Power surges are short lasting changes in the electrical conditions of circuitry that can happen anywhere. Wherever there is electrical equipment, there are power surges. Power surges can damage sensitive electronic equipment and even lead to fires if severe enough. While lightning only accounts for very small percentage of power surges, it can and does cause them. More likely causes, however, are problems at electrical facilities. Typically external events at power stations cause internal disruptions through power lines, telephone lines, and assorted cords. Faulty wiring, equipment breakdowns, downed power lines, tree limbs, severe storms, and grid switching are all primary causes of surges. Additionally, frequently turning off and on heavy duty electrical equipment can disrupt the voltage flow and lead to surges.
The risks of electrical surges are hard to assess since the majority of them occur as a result of a problem with power lines or problems at electrical facilities. Lightning induced surges are rare and also hard to evaluate, but things like location and frequency of electrical storms can help assess risks. Many large commercial buildings have lightning protection systems to disrupt and ground energy from a lightning strike, but most homes don’t require this degree of protection. If your home has been hit in the past or is located in an area prone to lightning storms, it may be worth considering, though. The more realistic risk during lightning storms is power surges instigated by the strong electromagnetic fields created during lightning storms. These affect transmission lines which affect electrical equipment within facilities, in turn affecting the local grid and everyone connected to it.
Generally, surge protectors are the primary force of prevention. These are part of the electrical systems of commercial and public facilities and are designed to mitigate the damaging effects of surges. On a residential level, whole home surge protectors are the best way to preserve your electronic equipment during a surge, as well as avoid the ignition of a fire. Also making sure your home electrical system is properly grounded is a good way to guard against severe damage from surges. Complete prevention is impossible, but with the right safety mechanisms you can mitigate the damage to electronics and, more importantly, avoid a fire.