4 tips to prevent electronic damage during power disruptions
When the weather report predicts any type of storm, it’s time to prepare for the possibility of an electrical outage. Whether it’s the lightning bolts of a thunderstorm, the damaging winds of a tornado or the heavy snows of a blizzard, these powerful storms can cause blackouts, brownouts and other electrical glitches.
You can’t control the weather – but you can safeguard your valuable appliances and electronics against the threat of a power disruption. Follow these tips to be prepared.
1. Invest in a generator – and use it wisely. Portable generators can be a great solution during a blackout. But if one is connected to the main power supply of your home when the power comes back, your generator can be “catastrophically destroyed,” according to Don Nanney, senior manager in the System Analysis and Control Division at EPB, a municipal power company in Chattanooga, Tenn.
When running a generator, turn off your main breaker so you’re disconnected from the electric utility. Remember to unplug the generator before turning the main breaker back on, too.
2. Purchase surge protectors. Think of surge protectors as inexpensive insurance for your priciest electronic items. If you have a $1,000 television, it’s worthwhile to invest a few more bucks in a UL-listed surge protector. The same goes for any other expensive electronic devices you own. And if there is a power surge, be sure to replace all your surge protectors. “It’s their job to give up their life for your more expensive electronics,” says Nanney.
3. Back up your computer power. If the power goes out while you’re working on a desktop computer, you risk losing everything that wasn’t saved. An uninterruptible power source (UPS) gives you a “grace period” of five to seven minutes of reliable power to save all your work and shut down properly. “For less than a hundred dollars, you could save yourself a lot of time and money on lost work,” says Nanney. A more expensive alternative is to replace your desktop computer with a laptop. Keep the battery charged and you’ll have plenty of time to save your work in the event of a power outage.
4. Power down and pull the plug. Whenever a storm approaches, take the time to move through your home to turn off and unplug all small electronics and appliances. Lightning can come into your house through the wiring, so disconnecting these items from their power source will protect them from damage. If you notice signs of a brownout once the storm hits – such as a prolonged dimming of lights – be aware that your refrigerator’s motor might have difficulty operating in this low-voltage situation. Don’t risk touching the plug or outlet during the storm – but you may want to break out the ice cream before it melts.