Amidst the continued challenges of incessant load shedding in South Africa, the efficacy of surge protection devices (SPDs) in curbing property damage caused by power surges has emerged as a beacon of hope for homeowners. Despite a year plagued by record-breaking blackout hours, statistics reveal a significant decline in property destruction, thanks to the increased adoption of SPDs among consumers.
The year 2022 witnessed a staggering 60% surge in insurance claims attributed to power surge-induced property damage, a repercussion of the intensified load shedding during that time. However, contrasting this trend, the year 2023, marked by an unprecedented number of load shedding instances and blackout hours, witnessed a remarkable decline in reported property damage cases. The figures plummeted from 5,000 incidents per month in the previous year to just under 1,000, owing primarily to the widespread installation of surge protection devices by consumers across the nation.
Dr. Andrew Dickson, an expert at CBI-electric: low voltage, shed light on the significance of SPDs, acknowledging that while these devices might be perceived as an unwelcome expense, they serve as a crucial barrier against the detrimental impact of high peak voltages that accompany electricity restoration following load shedding. Dickson emphasized, “They cost considerably less than having to replace essential appliances like televisions, refrigerators, or gate motors.”
Explaining the technical aspect, Dickson highlighted the inherent danger when the substation transmits a voltage pulse of several thousand volts into the network post-load shedding. This sudden surge, reaching far beyond the standard 230 volts that households operate on, exposes electrical appliances to unexpected voltage spikes, potentially causing irreversible damage within microseconds.
Dickson further clarified the role of SPDs, stating, “During a voltage surge surpassing the capacity of household appliances, these devices redirect the excessive energy to the ground, curbing the spread of surplus voltage within the home and maintaining it at an acceptable level.” He stressed the existence of diverse SPD types, each with varying energy absorption capabilities and indicators to signal operational status or life expectancy, ensuring user awareness when the device surpasses its limits.
“For optimal protection,” Dickson advised, “a Class 2 SPD, professionally installed within the distribution board by a licensed electrician, prevents over-voltages from propagating within the electrical system.” He added, “For delicate electronic devices like TVs and home entertainment systems, supplementing with Class 3 devices at the point of consumption, usually plug-in adaptors, enhances safeguarding measures.”
Moreover, Dickson urged homeowners to routinely inspect their devices post-load shedding or storms to ensure operational efficiency. He cautioned that while SPDs serve as risk mitigation tools, they are not immune to failure and require regular checks, especially given Eskom’s forecast of prolonged load shedding in the foreseeable future.
“In the face of escalating load shedding, the adoption of SPDs has proven pivotal in deflecting potential damage, securing homes, and assuring peace of mind for homeowners,” Dickson emphasized. He urged more individuals to proactively invest in these devices, likening their significance to an insurance policy, often underestimated until an unfortunate event unfolds.
As South Africa grapples with ongoing energy crises and prolonged load shedding, the narrative surrounding surge protection devices stands as a testament to proactive measures empowering homeowners to safeguard their property from the repercussions of power surges. With the demonstrated efficacy of SPDs in mitigating damage, their wider adoption promises to be a crucial defense against the uncertainties of fluctuating power supply, ensuring the resilience of homes and appliances across the nation.