We’re having power surges



I hear this remark fairly often when a customer is having issues with equipment.

At this point I usually have to slow them down and ask for specifics, exactly what issue are you experiencing? In many cases the issue is not related to a power surge, but is either an internal issue of some other power problem.

For many people “power surges” is a catch all for different kinds of power related issues. The recent storms and in particular, the ice storm in December caused a variety of power issues that we don’t often see.

Here are some of the possible power issues and some ideas of how to avoid or minimize related damage.

Power Surges

We might as well start here since this is the issue that you think you are experiencing.

A power surge is an unexpected increase in the amount of electrical voltage in an electrical line.

A power surge can provide too much power to a computer or electrical device causing damage to that device making the device not operate at all or improperly.

Some similar issues could be……

High-Voltage Spikes

300px-Lightning-in-Arlington-framed A high-voltage spike is similar to a voltage surge. This occurs when there is a sudden voltage peak of up to 6,000 volts. These spikes are usually the result of nearby lightning strikes.

The solution to both of the issues above is to install a surge suppressor in or near your main service panel. We can either install a breaker in the main panel that contains a surge suppressor or more commonly, we install the surge suppressor on the outside of the panel fed by a separate breaker in the panel.

This will work quite well for a surge or spike that enters from the power lines. However these spikes can enter a couple of other ways that can be just as damaging. They could enter through the telephone lines or through your cable.

In fact we have a customer that had experienced this twice. The second time was enough to convince them to call for some advice. For about $500, we can install a complete kit that will protect against all three possibilities, power lines, phone or cable.

Single Phase

Most large buildings including condominiums are supplied with three phase power. In a three-phase system, three circuit conductors carry the power to equipment. This is a very common and efficient way to provide power to motors.

Damage can occur to motors and equipment if for some reason one of these phases fail, due to a utility or fuse issue. In this event the motor will draw an excessive current and if not properly protected could damage the windings. Most motor controls do have some type of system in place to protect the motor in the event of a single phase condition. However sometimes the reaction time can be too slow and damage can occur before the protective system is able to disconnect the motor from the power.

While this may not be too serious for a fan motor, the same cannot be said for a booster pump or chiller.booster-pump

The solution here is to supply and install a phase monitor interlocked with the motor control system. These monitors are very sensitive to phase loss and will react very quickly.

These monitors can be supplied and installed for under $1,000.

There are many other power issues including:

  • Transients
  • Power Sags
  • Brownouts
  • Blackouts

Many times these power issues can be a result of unpredictable damage to utility equipment related to storm activity.

Assuming that you’re at home, a simple solution to protect your sensitive electronic devices would be to unplug them during these weather events. You may want to do this even during a complete loss of power. When the power comes back on it may still not be fully stable and could cause unwanted damage.

If you feel that these solutions might be right for you please feel free to contact us at 416-490-8093 or  send me an e-mail to mark@signatureelectric.ca


Mark Marmer

ECRA/ESA 7001298

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Phone: 416-490-8093 Fax: 416-474-1052
www.signatureelectric.ca   mark@signatureelectric.ca
Twitter: @signatureMark
400 Esna Park Drive, Unit 1, Markham, Ontario, L3R 3K2

Pictures from:(1) wikimedia commons (2) primopumps.com