Preventing power surges in commercial properties

Power surges happen for various reasons; in rural and residential areas, they can happen when a car crashes into a power pole, a tree falls on a power line, or a possum climbs into a transformer box.

In the city or industrial and commercial areas, power surges usually occur when something overloads the system – it could be starting up a large motor, a lightning strike, faulty appliances/machines, or a glitch with the transformer. For whatever reason, power surges are caused by something external outside of your control. To learn more about power surges and how to protect your home, read our previous article here.

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What damage can occur from a power surge in a commercial space?

The worst damage from a power surge would be a fire, but it can also blow-up electronics and cause damage to your wiring. Power surges can cause electronic components to overheat, leading to a reduced lifespan, malfunction, or complete failure. Storage devices, computers and servers can be affected, often leading to data corruption or loss.

Is there a way to protect from power surges?

Installing surge protectors and circuit breakers at key points in the electrical system can protect your office, factory, and commercial space.

Power surge protectors limit the voltage that reaches connected devices during a power surge. It monitors the electrical flow and diverts excess voltage to the ground, protecting sensitive electronic equipment from damage caused by spikes in voltage. They are typically installed at the point of electrical power entry into a building. It responds quickly to sudden increases in voltage – a matter of nanoseconds.

A surge protector essentially sacrifices itself, and then they must be replaced, so ensure the ones you have can be individually pulled out (some cheaper models don’t, and you must replace the whole row). You can tell if they’re dead because there’s an indicator on them – like this one on the right, showing the panel as red.

Circuit breakers are designed to interrupt the flow of electrical current when it exceeds a safe level. It acts as a safety mechanism to prevent electrical overloads, short circuits, and potential fire hazards by breaking the circuit. These are installed within the electrical panel or switchboard, with each circuit protected by its own breaker. They react more slowly to fast over-voltage situations, as their primary function is disconnecting when an over-current is detected that exceeds the breaker’s rating over a short period.

Both power surge protectors and circuit breakers serve different functions, and we recommend using both.

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How do I check my power surge protection?

If you are using power boards with built-in surge protectors, it’s hard to tell if they’ve been damaged after a power surge, so your best bet is to replace them. If you have a commercial property, then we include this in our maintenance plans (read more about these here).

The good thing about power surges is that most damage is covered by insurance. If you experience a surge and can tell there’s been some damage, your first call should be to us at French Electrical to assess and provide a report and quote for your insurance company.

If you’d like a review of your power surge protection, call us on 0800 945 147 or fill in the form on our website and we’ll get back to you to make a time.

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