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Protect Your Electronics from Power Surges

Person turning on a surge protector with plugs
Surge protectors are a simple way to protect your devices.

Lighting storms can ruin more than your pool parties, they can also do some serious damage to your expensive TVs, computers, video game systems and even your DVR. But it doesn’t have to be thundering outside to get zapped. Power surges can strike even when the skies are clear. (And you could be out of luck if your electronics get blown.) Don’t wait for your next home theater upgrade to get your valuables protected.


What Are Power Surges?

A power surge can occur in a few common ways:

  • Lightning striking on or near your home.
  • Power fluctuations either in your home or due to power company work.

You could have issues in your home due to improper wiring or as your power grid changes with new construction. They can also happen when you turns on or off large appliances. That small change in your electrical use can make big problems with surges.

Power surges can even occur due to nearby wildfires. One writer noted his saga in 2017 when California wildfires knocked out many appliances in his home, including his digital thermostat, microwave and tankless water heater. It’s just another way that wildfires can impact your life; even if no sparks land on your roof.


Don’t bet on Your Warranty but Count Your Pennies

You might think that your electronics are protected by their manufacturer’s warranty or even that extended package you purchased from the big box store, but you’d be wrong. Most power surges occur as a result of outside influences, not a defective part when your TV or dishwasher gets manufactured. It’s likely that your standard warranty won’t cover power surges at all.

If you want to be sure, take out all of your warranties and read the fine print. Note any that offer power surge coverage. You should also note the replacement value of all your household appliances so you can make those hard decisions if any of them get zapped. A 10-year old TV might not be worth fixing if it gets hit by a surge, but instead you might want to put your money towards the new digital thermostat or security system.


Protection can Come in Little or Big Packages

You can take care of your appliances in a few ways, and you should consider your home’s location as well as your budget. If you live in an area with lots of lightning strikes, you might want to ensure your home’s safety. You can spend a lot of money or take some smart, basic steps to keep your possessions safe.


Option A. Whole house surge protector. You can get a professional to install a system on your electrical box that can protect your home electrical system from outside power surges. This can be a few hundred dollars in parts, and expert installation is necessary to ensure it’s grounded properly.

Option B. Surge protection at the appliance level. Don’t confuse your “power strip” with a certified surge protector or surge suppressor. Some brands even offer a warranty on the electronics you plug in to them, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.


Some tips:

  • Before you shop, check out surge protector reviews in Wire Cutter where they did extensive tests of various brands.
  • Don’t forget to protect your cable line that also can carry surges.
  • Buy a surge protector for travel. If you’re plugging in a laptop for business or on vacation, you’ll want to stay protected.
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