How to deal with the other load shedding monsters

Not only does the load-shedding monster leave you without power — it can also damage your devices, and insurers are now requiring consumers to have surge protection when making claims for surge-damaged devices.

South African short-term insurers are reporting a 60 per cent rise in property destruction claims due to power surges resulting from load shedding.

Some are now demanding that homeowners have a surge protector (SPD) installed when claiming damage from a power outage.

This condition is often overlooked and the consumer only finds out about it when he wants to complain.

Therefore warns Dr. Andrew Dickson, Engineering Executive at CBI-electric: Low Voltage, encourages consumers to check the fine print of their policies to see if this applies to them.

“If you don’t do this, you could be in for a nasty – and costly – shock should your home be hit by a power surge.”

ALSO READ: Load shedding wreaks havoc on devices and causes spikes in dips

What is a power surge?

If the power is switched on again at a substation after a load shedding, it can send a voltage pulse of several thousand volts into the grid.

“The problem is that the average household runs on 230 volts and when the lights come back on, all electrical equipment, including lights and appliances, can receive an unexpected power surge, followed by a surge of power from the returning mains supply,” he explains.

Although this surge lasts only a microsecond, it is enough to create a point of failure in the equipment that can cause significant damage.

“While they may be a bad buy, SPDs can limit the high peak voltages and shunt that extra current away from your distributor.”

SPDs also cost a lot less than a new TV.

Dickson explains that SPDs will limit the voltage in the event of a power surge, when the voltage is higher than what home appliances can generally handle, and provide a path to ground where the excess energy is discharged, limiting the surge that can occur spreading into the house and thereby keeping the tension at an acceptable level.

Different SPDs can absorb different amounts of energy and exceeding these levels can affect the device, which is why all SPDs have an indicator to show the user that it is either operational or at the end of its life.”

ALSO READ: Load shedding can destroy your devices – here’s how to avoid it

Choosing the right SPD

Dickson says your insurance company will likely dictate the type of SPD you should use, which is typically a Class 2 SPD installed in the distribution panel by a licensed electrician.

It then prevents surges from propagating within the electrical system and protects everything connected to it.

He says you might want to supplement this with Class 3 devices, which are typically point-of-use plug-in adapters for sensitive electronics like TVs, routers and home entertainment systems.

Consumers should note the SPD installation requirements in their policies, and check equipment and devices after a load shedding or storm to see if the gauge still shows they are in good condition.

Dickson warns that consumers need to keep an eye on the SPDs they use as risk mitigation measures as they will eventually fail, especially as Eskom announces “protracted load shedding” will continue for the foreseeable future.

With this year’s rise in inflationary pressures forcing South African consumers to rein in discretionary spending, they cannot afford not to deploy SPDs.

“Not only could this prevent expensive equipment from having to be repaired or replaced, but it could potentially protect them from becoming a victim of crime when power surges disable alarm systems and electric fences.”

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