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Four Common Causes of Winter Power Surges

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While an immense amount of engineering and technology has gone into making our electrical grids more stable and reliable through any type of weather, the truth is that no electrical grid is perfectly immune to issues. Sometimes freezing cold or scorching hot temperatures can lead to issues, while in other cases excess demand can bring the system to its knees. These are just a few of the reasons why a power surge can occur.

A power surge is when a sudden, massive influx of voltage or current is sent through power lines. This sudden spike completely overpowers sensitive electrical equipment that is designed to operate within a certain voltage range, blowing it out and potentially causing melting wires, burnouts, and even electrical fires. In a matter of less than a second, an electrical surge could cause thousands of dollars in damage and create the need for extensive and labor-intensive repairs.

One of the first steps toward protecting yourself from power surges is to recognize what actually causes them in the first place. When you’re able to understand what causes a surge, you can recognize when one may occur and take preventative measures to try and prevent one from damaging your home. Here are a few of the most common causes of winter power surges so you can know what to keep an eye out for this winter.

Electrical Shorts

Did you know your home is far more likely to encounter a short in your electrical system during the winter months? A short is when the hot and neutral ends of your electrical system come together without an electrical load between them. This allows the current to flow at extremely high rates, resulting in overcurrent, excessive demand, melting wires, sparks, and even fire. But why are these more common in winter months?

The answer is simple: a larger amount of outdoor electrical use. Do you decorate your home for the holidays? This often involves running strands of decorative lights, blow-up figurines, and plenty of other festive fixtures that all require electricity. Every one of these lines is a place where a short can occur, and likewise, every plug could potentially be susceptible to a short if it were to come in contact with moisture the wrong way. Sadly, this causes extensive damage and devastating fires for many homes every year, particularly for those who aren’t careful about how they decorate and what decorations they use.

Winter Storms

Winter storms bring about power surges quite often. During winter months, storms often feature high winds, cold temperatures, heavy rains, and possibly even snow and ice. High winds can cause power lines to strain or snap, tree branches to land on these power lines, or ice accumulation on lines that causes them to strain and stress under the added weight. During particularly violent or intense storms, it’s not uncommon for the power to be impacted, possibly by a power surge.

Even cold temperatures can add a lot of extra strain to the power grid. When it gets cold out, people switch on their heaters to stay warm. If you depend on a heat pump, electric furnace, or any other form of an electrical-based heating system, you’re one of the thousands in your immediate vicinity who are likely doing exactly the same. This puts a lot of added strain on the power grid and could result in power distribution equipment failing, resulting in a surge.

Electrical Repairs & Maintenance

Has recent damage caused issues with your power? Has the added strain of winter weather placed a lot of extra strain on the grid that needs repaired? It’s rare, but not unheard of that this work on electrical lines actually contributes to a power surge. Whether it’s a repair that’s done wrong or an accident while working on the lines, sometimes services to public utility infrastructure leads to a power surge that could cause serious consequences for your home.

Rolling Blackouts

This one surprises and confuses most people. If the power goes out and I’m caught in a rolling blackout, how could a power surge happen? Rolling blackouts are when your home has no power, so how can a sudden burst of power damage your home if there isn’t any power to surge? The answer isn’t necessarily the blackout itself—it’s what happens immediately before a blackout and immediately after. In some cases, blackouts are often immediately preceded by or followed by a huge spike in voltage. In some cases, electrical equipment will output a large burst of energy as it turns on and all of the various components begin to work together. It may only last for a split-second, but in that amount of time you could see a pretty sharp jump in voltage that could lead to a power surge.

Learn more about protecting your home from a power surge with a whole-home surge protection solution from A-TEMP Heating, Cooling & Electrical. Call us at (503) 694-3396 today.