What Happens to Appliances When the Power Goes Out?

CW Services Inc: Protect Your Home from Power Surges

Power failures happen.  Sometimes it’s because of a fault at the power station or substation.  Sometimes an unusually high power demand overburdens the power supply chain.  And sometimes extreme cold coupled with snow and ice, a tornado, or other storm conditions will knock the power out.

But what happens to your appliances during and after a power failure?  When the power is out, the appliances will, of course, stop working.  That is undoubtedly inconvenient but not particularly damaging to the appliance.  

The damage occurs when the power comes back on.

Most appliances are designed to run at the normal 110-120 volt household current.  When power is restored, the current often momentarily surges in at 200 volts or more, creating a kind of “tidal wave” of electricity to the electrical outlets in your home.  This spike in voltage can lead to arcing and create high levels of heat that can damage circuitry or even destroy your appliances.

Even if the power surge doesn’t immediately fry your appliances, the damage is cumulative, which means that every time it happens, the lifespan of your appliances is potentially shortened.  This is sometimes aggravated when the restored power isn’t stable and it cuts on and off a few times before it levels out.

It’s not just your appliances that are at risk.  Other electrically-powered equipment such as computers and their peripheral devices, televisions, heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters, and pretty much anything that’s plugged in or hard-wired can be damaged in a power surge.

How to Protect Your Home from Power Surges

One obvious solution is to use point-of-use surge protectors for your appliances and any sensitive electronic equipment like computers and HDTVs.  These commonly look like power strips, and they are, but with the added feature of detecting excess voltage and diverting it to the outlet’s ground wire.  This keeps the voltage going to the device within the normal household range.  

It’s important to know that point-of-use surge protectors don’t last forever.  If your surge protectors have just taken a big hit, it’s a good idea to replace them.  Even without power surges, surge protectors should be replaced every two years or so.

If you don’t have your appliances and electronic equipment on surge protectors, you should unplug them until the power is stably back on.

That’s not possible for everything in your house, though.  Some items such as dishwashers and furnaces are hard-wired and there is no way to unplug them.  You may want to consider investing in a whole-house surge protector.  Whole-house surge protectors are available in various levels of protection.  The degree of protection they offer is measured by its “voltage protection rating” (VPR) which is the maximum voltage the surge protector will allow through to your home’s electrical system.  Generally speaking, the lower the VPR, the better.  Some people use a combination of a whole-house surge protector and point-of-use surge protectors.  Because installing a whole-house surge protector involves accessing the main power panel, many manufacturers recommend hiring a professional electrician.

Whole-house surge protection and multiple point-of-use surge protectors is not inexpensive, but neither is replacing your appliances and electronic equipment.

When your appliances are in need to repair or maintenance, call the factory-trained, experienced technicians at C&W Appliance Service at (855) 358-1496 or submit our online service request form for prompt, reliable service.


For the very best in appliance repair and maintenance, you can count on C&W Appliance Service.