When Power Goes n Comes n Goes...

In light of the coming hurricane, is it advisable to unplug your electronics? Especially when power may be going and coming back and going again (which we’ve experienced under normal conditions while repairs were being made after a lightning strike). At first, you might think a simple surge protector is sufficient. However, surge protectors are rated (and priced) by joules, and who can really say just how many joules a spike will have??? Have you really bought enough surge protection?

So, considering all this, is this suggestion reasonable or extreme?

By all means, unplug your stuff. Surge protectors cant be trusted.

Perfectly reasonable. We once lost two TV sets from a power outage/surge.

What about large appliances? Can motors handle this better?

It depends on the appliance. Motors aren’t quite as sensitive to power surges as a microprocessor control board is, but motors still aren’t very happy about power that is winking and blinking and brownouts are especially bad for motors. In a brownout, the motor may not have enough torque to spin and the motor coils could overheat and fail.

Anything that has a fancy control panel will be much more delicate than something that just has a switch. If your washer or dryer has a fancy control panel and a timer and all that good stuff you might want to unplug it. If it just has a simple rotary control you probably don’t need to worry about it.

If the power is blinking a lot, or if you get a brownout, it’s probably a good idea to unplug your fridge. I wouldn’t just unplug it ahead of time just because you are worried about it though because then your food will go bad pretty quickly. Wait until you actually have a power problem before you unplug it.

Jinx, unplug your PC & use battery power if/when you can.

And while I’m being a noodge, if your laptop or cellphone is charged, change the battery settings to max battery saver. If you’re near my neck of the woods, you could well lose power over the course of the next three days.

Lastly, anytime (no, really, Anytime) you see your lights dim & go bright or “flicker”, Please call your local utility & report it. Them fixing it early is better for you (and for them) than them fixing it later when you really need it.

When I have a big hurricane coming at me, I tend to unplug everything that I can. I leave the fridge plugged in…and one TV. I happen to have tons of spare batteries for my cell phones, so I just charge them in advance.

But yeah. Unpredictable electric supply an damage your equipment. Probably won’t, but I personally prefer not to take a chance.


If you are concerned about the power going out, what you want is not a surge protector, but an uninterruptible power supply, which will automatically switch to battery power in the event of an outage (some of the more expensive models always run off of the battery, with a charger sized to supply both charging and normal running power, so power fluctuations will never reach the powered equipment; a normal UPS will allow some variation before switching over); it is a very good idea to have one for your computer. Many UPSs will also have surge protection and noise filtering, the latter of which is only found in more expensive surge protectors.

Also, one problem with surge protectors is that the manufacturer’s idea of maximum clamping voltage is often too high, often 300 volts or more (worse still are the varistors you often see in electronic equipment, often rated for 470 volts - in 120 volt (170 peak) equipment, which will commonly use parts rated for 200 volts in the power supply).

If protectors did what so many claim they do, then you need do nothing. However read that joules number. Destructive surges are hundreds of thousands of joules. How many will that $80 protector absorb? Hundreds? There is this one small problem. Claims that so many make subjectively do not correspond to what the numbers say.

Protection for everything (including dishwasher) means earthng one ‘whole house’ protector. That device is rated to connect at least 50,000 amps to earth. Then hundreds of thousands of joules dissipate harmlessly in earth. But its a little late to make plans now. These were even available in Lowes and Home Depot for less than $50. But insufficient time exists to install it and to upgrade (as necessary) what does the protection. Earth ground.

No protector does protection despite subjective claims that assume so. Protection is done by what absorbs hundreds of thousands of joules.

Meanwhile, power loss is not a surge. And is not destructive to electronics. Destructive are high energy events (ie a 4000 volt primary wire falling upon 120 volt distribution wires). Just another reason why informed homeowners earth a ‘whole house’ protector.

Read numbers for a UPS. It’s numbers claim less protection. A UPS has one purpose - provide temporary and dirty power during a blackout. Do you protect from one anomaly called a blackout? Or a completely different anomaly called a surge? An anomaly must be defined before any solution can be recommended. Even that UPS requires protection provided by one properly earthed ‘whole house’ protector.

We’re in our 3rd day of moderate winds due to stuff semi-related to Sandy.

Late yesterday afternoon we had two back-to-back power glitches. My PC rebooted, etc.

The big problem was the microwave was running at the time. Completely dead. The fuse is blown and I’m replacing that later. Hope that’s all that’s wrong with it.

So, yeah, even mild storms can take out appliances if the glitch/surge happens a particular way.

But the idea of having everything unplugged for 3 days for 20+ mph winds? Egad.