How Do I Protect My Appliances From Power Surges?

Many of today’s appliances use electronic circuit boards to control their components. Although these circuit boards help us easily monitor and control our appliances, control boards are susceptible to damage caused by power surges and glitches that enter your home’s power supply wiring through the electrical grid.

Power surges can be caused by lightning strikes during electrical storms, power outages, electrical grid overloads and wind storms. When a power surge makes its way through your house wiring to your appliances’ electronics, control board circuitry can get fried and internal memory or programming can get corrupted.

Fortunately, you can take some reasonable steps to prevent power surges from reaching your appliance electronics.

How Do I Prevent Power Surges From Reaching My Appliances?

Use these tactics to isolate your appliances from potentially damaging power surges.

  • Plug each appliance’s outlet cord into a surge protector outlet plug adapter. The surge protector will absorb surges and prevent damaging current from reaching appliances.
  • Install a whole-house surge protector. Connecting a whole-house surge protection device to your home’s electrical service panel keeps power surges from reaching all of your home’s internal wiring.
  • Plug appliances into GFCI outlets when possible. A GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet monitors electric current flow and may trip when it detects a power surge. A GFCI outlet won’t trip for all power surges so it’s not the most reliable solution for protecting appliances from power surge damage. The GCFI will trip if a power surge makes it through the outlet and shorts wiring in a circuit board or appliance device.
  • Unplug electronically controlled appliances during severe electrical storms. Although it’s hard to anticipate when a power surge may occur, electrical storms multiply the risk of power surges entering your home’s wiring. Unplugging appliances is the best protection against potential damage due to power surges.
  • Install a whole-home back-up generator. Damage to appliance electronics can occur during power outages, brown outs and during restoration of power from a blackout. Install a whole-house back-up generator with an ATS (automatic transfer switch) and surge protector to keep reliable power supplied to your appliances during power outages and brown outs.

What Should I Do When an Appliance Doesn’t Work After a Storm?

When an appliance with an electronic control board doesn’t work after a storm, try rebooting the control board by unplugging the appliance for 3 minutes. After plugging the outlet cord back in to restore power, the appliance may work properly. If not, then you’ll likely need to have the appliance serviced by a technician. The tech will test the electronic control board and replace it if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions about Power Surges Damaging Appliances

Can an Electronic Control Board Damaged By a Power Surge Be Repaired?

Some electronic control boards can be repaired after being damaged by a power surge. Often, it is easier for a technician to replace a damaged control board rather than repair it. Most electronic control boards need to be removed and sent to a remote repair facility for repair, then returned to your home and reinstalled in the appliance. You’ll typically need to have a service technician complete these tasks.

Is Control Board Damage Caused By a Storm Covered By My Insurance?

Refer to your insurance policy regarding storm damage. Some homeowners insurance policies may cover damage to the electronic control board in your appliance caused by a direct lightning strike to your home. Some policies also cover power surge damage caused by power supplied by the utility company.

Can a Power Surge Cause a Fire?

A power surge will almost never cause a fire. Power surge damage often affects electronic circuit boards. The control board damage often corrupts internal memory or programming of the control board. In very rare instances, damage to a control board can cause a short circuit that could get extremely hot for a short period of time and start a small fire. The house circuit breaker should trip and cut off the electrical current supply so a small electrical fire will typically go out quickly once the electrical supply shuts off. If you suspect that an appliance is damaged because you smell burnt wires, have a service technician examine the appliance before restoring power.