5 Tips to Defeat Power Interruptions

Protect your valuable electrical and electronic devices from power problems.

Lightning storms. Tornados. Overburdened power grids. All these things and more can cause blackouts, brownouts and other electrical glitches.

You can’t control the weather—or the power company. These tips can help you protect your electronics and appliances from damage.

  1. Buy surge protectors for all electronics. If you have a $1,200 television, it’s worth a few bucks more to buy a UL-listed surge protector. The same goes for your computer and any other device susceptible to damage, says Don Nanney, senior manager in the System Analysis and Control Division at EPB, a municipal power company in Chattanooga, Tenn. If there is a power surge, replace all your surge protectors. “It’s their job to give up their life for your more expensive electronics,” says Nanney.
  2. Unplug everything if a lightning storm approaches. Lightning can come into your house through the wiring, so unplugging everything before an electrical storm strikes is an easy way to protect your electronics and appliances. Once the storm reaches you, though, stay away from those electrical outlets.
  3. Turn off or unplug appliances during a brownout. Anything with a motor, such as a refrigerator, will struggle to operate in a low-voltage situation. Those appliances develop too much heat and can burn out their motors, says Nanney. If you notice a prolonged dimming of the lights or other signs of a brownout, turn off or unplug anything with a motor or electric circuitry.
  4. Use generators 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 on, your generator can be “catastrophically destroyed,” says Nanney, and possibly cause injury. It can also send electricity back out onto the power lines, which could hurt someone trying to perform repairs. When running a generator, turn off your main breaker so you’re disconnected from the electric utility. Unplug the generator before turning the main breaker back on.
  5. Invest in an uninterruptible power source (UPS) for your computer. If the power goes out when you’re working on the computer, you risk losing everything you were working on. A UPS gives you five to seven minutes of power to save your work and power down safely. “For less than a hundred dollars,” says Nanney, “you could save yourself a lot of time and money on lost work.”
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