Keep Your Appliances Safe during Spring Storm Season


Did you enjoy our recent spell of hot weather when temperatures soared into the 90s? Those warm, humid days were a reminder that the spring/summer thunderstorm season isn’t far away. As we’ve seen in recent years, those storms all too often cause power outages throughout many neighborhoods.


Whether you’re without electricity for a few hours or a few days, a power loss can be an expensive proposition if your appliances are damaged during the storm or its aftermath. Here are a few suggestions for protecting your refrigerator, freezer, laundry appliances and air conditioning systems that should help you avoid the need for appliance repair in Virginia.

Unplug and Disconnect

According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a lightning strike can travel through cables and wires to damage equipment more than a mile away. The lightning doesn’t have to hit a transformer or other wiring equipment directly; if it strikes a nearby object, such as a tree or a flagpole, the bolt can radiate a strong electromagnetic field that can be picked up by a home’s wiring. In both cases, that can mean a surge of power into the home that can damage anything connected to your wiring: refrigerator, freezer, air conditioner, washer, dryer, etc.

The best way to protect your appliances and other expensive electronic equipment is to unplug them when there’s a storm in your area. You can also turn the power off to them by flipping the appropriate breaker in your main power box.  Realistically, however, most people aren’t going to go around their home unplugging all the electrical appliances when there’s a storm. (If nothing else, think of how many digital clocks you’d have to reset!) And that solution doesn’t work if you’re not home when the storm hits.

Use Surge Protectors

Although nothing is better than unplugging your appliances to disconnect them from the power grid, surge protectors can reduce the risk of damage. Utility provider PEPCO recommends that its customers install two types of surge protectors:

  • Surge Arrester – This is a whole-house system that is installed in or near a home’s main electric service panel and offers protection against voltage surges up to 20,000 volts (such as a lightning strike).
  • Surge Suppressor – This surge protection device is a power strip that can handle up to 6,000 volts. A surge suppressor protects only the electrical equipment that is plugged into it.

Both types of surge protectors will also provide a defense against the power surges that sometimes occur when the electricity comes back on. (Imagine getting through a few days without electricity only to have your refrigerator’s motor burned out by a power surge when the lights come back on!)

Think About Backup

If you rely on a sump pump to keep your basement dry, a loss of power may result in water flooding the lower area of your house and damaging appliances that you keep on the lower levels of your home—washer, dryer, freezer or extra refrigerator, water heater, furnace, etc.

Your best defense in this case is a battery backup system for your sump pump, which could help keep your basement dry until the power returns. (You’ll want to test the system to make sure that you know how to operate it before the storm hits.) An alternative to the local battery backup is a whole-house stationary power generator or a portable unit that can power select outlets in your home.

You could also try putting your washer and dryer up on wood or cement blocks to help keep their motors above flood levels.If you don’t have a battery backup, or if it appears that the water is coming in too fast for the sump pump to handle, unplug whatever appliances you can and then keep out of the basement until the water recedes. NEVER go into a basement if water reaches the level of any electrical outlets, and/or if you have any electrical wires on the floor that are covered by water. The combination of electricity and water can cause severe shocks that can result in serious injury or death.

Once the waters recede, give us a call. There may be damage to motors and wiring that should be taken care of by our Virginia appliance repair servicemen before you try to use them. We can also advise you if replacement is a better (and safer) alternative than trying to fix the damaged appliances.