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What is a Power Surge?

  • Written by NewsServices.com

If you ask someone what a power surge is, you will get a wide array of answers. You may hear that a power surge is when your “power bill goes up” or that it is when your light bulbs burn out, among other responses.

However, the scientific definition of a power surge, and the definition used by most electricians and engineers, has nothing to do with your utility bill or the cost of light bulbs (although they are related).

Worry not! This article will explain everything you need to know about power surges, including what they are, what causes them, the signs of a power surge, and how to protect your electronics from a power surge.

What is a Power Surge?

A power surge is a sudden increase in voltage. It can last as little as a few nanoseconds or as long as a few seconds. Power surges can be caused by many factors, including lightning strikes and faulty electrical wiring.

Power surges have the potential to damage or destroy sensitive electronic devices such as computers, televisions and microwave ovens. These devices are designed to withstand normal voltage levels but not high voltage levels that come from power surges.

The risk of experiencing a power surge varies by location and is dependent on your home's geographic location and the size of your home's wiring system.

Causes of Power Surges

A power surge is caused by a sudden change in voltage. The most common cause of this is lightning strikes, which can cause a spike in the amount of electricity flowing through your home's wiring.

Lightning can also damage power lines, resulting in weaker connections and allowing electrical energy to flow more freely.

Power surges are also caused by faulty electrical equipment or devices that use too much electricity at once (such as power tools), as well as utility company issues (such as an over-amperage surge).

Signs of Power Surges

If you notice that your lights are flickering, appliances are humming, your heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration are cycling on and off, clocks are resetting themselves, or there's a faint but unmistakable smell of burning wires, it's time to check your breaker box.

If you do find a tripped circuit breaker in the panel, wait at least 30 seconds after resetting it before turning anything on again. While doing so, make sure to turn off any sensitive electronics (like computers) first.

Protection and Prevention

Your best protection against power surges is to purchase surge protectors, which can be found at most hardware stores. If you have a home-wide surge protection system, you don't need to worry about this one, but if not, it's a good idea to install one!

Even if your appliances are intact after the storm, they may still be damaged by any electrical surges that occur during or after the storm has passed. If you're concerned about this possibility, replace any damaged appliances as soon as possible so that they won't pose an ongoing threat of fire and electrocution.

When using power tools or equipment with motors during thunderstorms (or anytime), unplug them from their outlets before going outside for safety reasons, and then again once inside because what happens outside only affects certain parts of our homes' electrical systems anyway!


All in all, there isn't a whole lot of mystery surrounding power surges. Most, if not all, surge protectors will protect your electronics from the damaging effects of these dangerous spikes. However, before purchasing one for yourself, make sure you understand the terminology involved and which devices you're attempting to protect.

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