Unplugging from the world and eating dinner by candlelight sounds enjoyable, but it’s only fun when you have a choice in the matter. When modern technology is ripped from your hands and your family is forced to shiver in the dark, you can’t have a good time.
Keeping the power on is key. Fortunately for you, we have some pro tips for doing just that, whether it’s through a snowy winter or a bad hurricane season. Here’s everything you need to know to protect your home from power outages.
Why You’ll Lose Power
There are two common forms of power interference that could impact your house:
Voltage Dips — These happen when the motors in high-draw devices, like dishwashers and refrigerators, come on and reduce the energy available to other devices. Flickering lights are a common indicator of a voltage dip. More severe voltage dips can cut power to electronic devices and reset clocks.
Voltage Surges — These are a more serious form of power interference that can damage electronic devices like computers, entertainment centers and treadmills. These momentary surges in voltage can start inside or outside the home.
How Surge Protectors Can Save the Day
Surge protection is the solution for preventing both types of power interference. For maximum protection, you’ll want to use two kinds of surge protectors: surge suppressors and surge arrestors.
Surge Suppressors — A surge suppressor (also known as a surge diverter) is designed to handle the hundreds of small voltage jolts that might occur in a day. These surges happen when devices with motors, like a refrigerator or a hairdryer, turn off and divert the energy they were using elsewhere as excess voltage.
You may not notice an immediate impact from these small surges but, over time, they can wear down wiring insulation and break down your electronic devices. Surge protectors, which typically cost between $20 and $50, are a simple and economical way to make your electronic equipment last longer.
Surge arrestors — A whole house surge arrestor has the capacity to protest against surges up to 20,000 volts (like a lightning strike). They are designed to protect outlets, appliance motors, the circuit breaker box and the wiring in your home.
According to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide*, the average whole-house surge arrestor costs between $300 and $500. It involves electrical components and should always be installed by a licensed electrician. There are different sizes and styles of surge arrestors available and a trained professional can determine which will work most effectively with your electric panel.
Taking Extra Precautions for Lightning
A lightning arrester is an added line of defense to protect your home if lightning strikes a nearby power or communication line. These arresters are above 1,000 volts and electrical contractors affix them to power and telecommunication lines. Their job is to divert the current from the struck line to the ground and away from the house. They prevent power surges and outages but should only be installed, repaired and maintained by a licensed professional. The average cost to install a home lightning protection system is $1,320.
What About Home Generators?
If you do inevitably lose power, an emergency home generator is a great thing to have. It will keep your heat and electrical appliances working with minimal to no interruption so that you stay warm in the winter.
There are different types of home generators on the market, all of which should be installed by an experienced contractor for safety purposes.
Diesel or gas generators: These generally provide power or light for work sites, not for houses. That said, some higher-end models can power small devices and provide light for a short period of time in the event of an outage. If you use a diesel or gas generator for any reason, make sure to keep it outside. They produce carbon monoxide — a lethal and odorless gas.
Natural gas home generators: These are permanently fixed to the outside of a structure and can provide power to the entire house indefinitely. They run on either natural gas or liquid propane and most turn on automatically when the power goes out.
Select circuit generators: These only provide power to pre-selected electric devices in your house. You determine which devices will receive the power before you install the generator. Since non-essential devices will not be connected to the generator, the unit itself can be smaller and will run on less fuel.
Whole house generators: These are expensive. A large automatic generator designed to power a reasonably large home can run more than $20,000. Because of their size, they’re also expensive to run. Still, they keep the lights on!
The cost to install a generator varies based on the model and the size of the home it will power. The average cost for installing a generator is $4,075 and most cost somewhere between $1,250 to $6,900.