Last year, South African short-term insurers recorded a 60% increase in claims for destruction to people’s property due to power surges as a consequence of load shedding. But, in 2023, these claims have reportedly reduced from 5000 a month to just under 1000, with this being attributed to the actions of consumers, including the installation of surge protection devices (SPDs).
Dr Andrew Dickson, Engineering Executive at CBI-electric: low voltage notes that while SPDs may be a grudge purchase, they can limit the high peak voltages that occur when electricity returns after load shedding, diverting the spikes (transients) away from your distribution board. “Plus, they cost a lot less than having to buy a new TV, fridge or gate motor.”
He explains that, with load shedding, when the electricity is turned back on at a substation, it can send a voltage pulse of several thousand volts into the network. “The problem is that the average home runs on 230 volts, so when the lights come on again, all electrical items, including your lights and appliances, may receive an unexpected voltage spike, followed by a power surge from the returning main supply. This only lasts for a microsecond, but it is enough to result in a point of failure within equipment which may cause significant damage.”
Describing how SPDs work, Dr Dickson shares, “In the event of a voltage surge, where the voltage is greater than what a home’s appliances can generally handle, these devices clamp the voltage, providing a path to ground where the excess energy is dumped, limiting the excess voltage spreading into the home, and thereby keeping the voltage at an acceptable level. Different SPDs can absorb different amounts of energy. If these levels are exceeded, it could affect the device, which is why all SPDs have an indicator to show the user that it is either operational or at the end of its life.”
“You would typically use a Class 2 SPD which is installed within the distribution board by a licensed electrician to prevent the spread of over-voltages within the electrical system and protect whatever is connected to it. For sensitive electronic devices like TVs, routers and home entertainment systems, you might want to supplement this with Class 3 devices at the point of consumption which is typically a plug-in adaptor,” he points out.
To ensure that homeowners are protected, Dr Dickson advises that they check the devices after load shedding or a storm to see if the indicator still shows that they are in good working order. “While SPDs are risk mitigation measures, they will eventually fail so need to be checked on a regular basis, especially with Eskom stating that ‘protracted load shedding’ will continue for the foreseeable future. ”
“In the face of escalating load shedding, consumers have embraced SPDs deflecting potential damage, safeguarding their homes, and preserving their peace of mind. And I encourage more people to take proactive action in this regard because just like having an insurance policy, they often underestimate the benefit of these devices until after an event has occurred,” Dr Dickson concludes.
For more information, go to https://cbi-lowvoltage.co.za