How to protect expensive appliances from power surges

January 30, 2015

Lightning strikes or downed utility poles may seem like unlikely threats to your home, but they're more common than you might think. Many of these events happen every year, and if you're one of the unlucky homeowners who gets hit, your appliances could be at risk. The National Institute of Standards and Technology explained that electronics, small and large appliances and control systems can all be affected by a power surge. Here are a few ways that homeowners can protect their big-ticket items from electricity surges.

Whole-home protection
The first essential step when protecting your home against surges is to make sure there's a whole-house suppressor in place. This Old House explained that these systems are hard-wired into your service panel and come standard in most homes. When there's an electricity surge, suppressors divert excess voltage into the ground wire to protect your home. There are also whole-house units that will protect your phone and cable lines from surge threats. However, these systems can let up to 15 percent of excess voltage slip by, so you should solidify your home protection plan with individual surge strips as well.

Best practices with surge strips
You may also want to use surge strips to protect your valuable electronics and appliances. These plug-in units should be able to absorb at least 600 joules of energy to best protect your expensive products. Use them on items like your home entertainment system, air conditioners and printers.

However, you should use care when placing your surge protectors. This Old House noted that appliances with large motor loads, like laser printers and air conditioners, produce their own low-level surges. Avoid plugging these types of items into the same strips as sensitive electronic devices.

Another important factor to take into account is that surge strips don't last forever. CNET explained that these protectors will wear out over time, so it's important to take note of their condition. Some products have an indicator light to let you know they're on the last leg. Be sure to replace any faulty surge protectors for the sake of your appliances.

The information in these articles is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.