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Summer thunderstorms can bring welcome rain – and unwelcome lightning. If lightning, being a covered cause of loss under your property policy, enters your home through power or cable lines and toasts your electronics, the resulting damage is covered by the policy. But damage from a power surge, not directly linked to a lightning incident, is not covered, and that requires you to be proactive to prevent power surges from “doing in” your household electrical devices.
A recent survey by Trusted Choice agencies showed that about 55 percent of people mistakenly believe their homeowners policy covers power surges. However, this damage is only covered if the cause of the power surge is attributed to lightning.
A power surge occurs when there is a sudden ramp up in electricity to power lines. While several things may cause a surge, lightning is the least common. An uneven power flow may be caused by downed power lines or technical difficulties at the utility company. Squirrels have been known to skirt across a power line, find something worth chewing on, and that may spark a surge.
Many home appliances have microprocessors, which can’t handle surges – unless you protect your electronics, appliances and pool pump equipment with inside and outside surge protection, the likelihood of an outage and power surge during a summer thunderstorm is great.
Putting surge protectors on all high-end electronics, such as entertainment center equipment and computers, is a first line of defense. Keep in mind that all home surge protectors are not created equal. In other words, you get what you pay for. Consider purchasing surge protection with a power strip “surge station” that has a built-in circuit breaker. Many of these come with a guarantee or warranty.
In addition, consider purchasing an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device. This is a back-up battery source that gives you time to save data on your computer, along with a safety net of 5 to 15 minutes to shut off other devices so they are not subjected to electrical jolts when power returns.
Another good investment is a time-delay switch for your air conditioner. It delays the A/C from starting for several minutes to allow power to stabilize after an outage, which minimizes damage to the unit’s compressor.
Many utility companies offer power surge protection plans for a monthly fee. This service typically covers major appliances, but not computers or TVs. Plans available from a utility company generally do not include a deductible, while most homeowner policies do.
There is also a device that attaches to the circuit breaker panel to protect a home against surges; the one-time cost is about $300.
Whole-house surge protection involves protecting main electrical panels and attaching lightning rods and conductor/ground rods to reduce structural damage from lightning strikes. This is not a do-it-yourself project, according to the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). Only experienced, reputable UL-listed and LPI-certified lightning protection contractors should install such systems.
At Frontline Insurance, we want you to be prepared for what happens when the lights blink off – and when they come back on. Damage from lightning and power surges is preventable, and we encourage taking all the precautions necessary to lessen that risk.