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Electrical Power Surges

What are power surges?

Power surges happen when electrical charge is boosted on a power line which, in turn, leads to a greater amount of electricity flowing to an electrical outlet on a wall. There are many reasons why these surges occur. One of the reasons is lightning which can cause a power surge by increasing electrical pressure by millions of volts. Many electrical devices like air conditioners and elevators that draw a lot of power to switch on and off can also cause power surges. Other factors that can cause a surge may include downed power lines, problem with the wiring, and faulty equipment from the utility company.

Listed below are a few questions answered by electricians on issues relating to power surges.

I am experiencing power surges at home and all the lights keep dimming and then getting brighter. The electric company says that everything at their end is fine. How do you think I can fix this?

It seems likely that the problem lies with your main feeder. Since all your circuits are affected, it is possibly because of a loose neutral. If an inside panel is being fed by an outside service disconnect, there could be a problem with either of them. It’s a good thing that you made your electric company check everything at their end since that seems to limit the problem to the panel and/or the disconnect.

It’s best to hire an electrician to have a look at this as it may not be possible for you to switch off the power completely on the first panel that is being fed by the meter. If there is no loose connection in either panel, it is possible that the wire between your meter and the panel(s) is damaged.

The power surges in my house are burning up surge suppressors. Can this happen because of a faulty ground in the house?

In most cases, a bad neutral connection causes spikes in voltage. If you find that these surges are occurring all over the house, you could have a problem with the meter socket, the panel, or the utility connections. If the surges are limited to only one or two rooms, it may be a problem with the internal wiring. You can minimize the damage with proper grounding but it’s not a solution to the problem.

I called the electric company to fix a power surge in my house recently. They fixed a loose neutral wire and everything seemed to work fine except for my new stove. When I filed a claim with them, they said that they were not responsible for this problem. What should I do now?

Unless you have evidence that the damage was caused by the utility company, you can’t claim anything from them. The best thing to do would be to recover your losses through your home owners insurance.

Every time I use a large appliance like a refrigerator motor at home, I experience a power surge that affects lights that are not even on the same circuit. What can I do to fix this?

You may not be able to fix the problem completely but you can try opening your electrical panel and start by tightening everything inside. Switch the breakers off one by one and ensure that the screw that connects to the wire is tight. After all the wires are tightened, including the white and bare wires on the neutral and ground bars, switch the breaker on and move to the next one. Ensure that you follow all safety precautions while doing this.

There is another way to approach this problem but it’s a little more labor intensive. You would need to pull outlets and switches from the wall and check the wire connections. Ensure that they are wired using the side screws and not the small holes at the back. This would give you a much more effective electric connection. Finally, get an electrician to tighten the main wires in your electrical panel and meter base.

There are several ways to protect your home from power surges. To begin with, install a surge protector on the appliances that draw the most electricity in the house to protect them from spikes in voltage. Also check that power sources are not overloaded and that each major appliance has its own power source. If you face frequent power surges and realize that it’s a particular appliance that is causing it, call an expert to see if the appliance needs to be rewired or replaced. Finally, if your power surges continue and you can’t understand the reason for them, get an electrician to check the electrical system in your home thoroughly.
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