Load shedding isn’t just an inconvenience. Rolling black outs can cause irreparable damage to your essential home appliances. Here’s what you need to know about the impact of scheduled outages on your appliances and gadgets.
How does load shedding affect appliances?
What are the negative impacts of load shedding? Home appliances are designed to run with a constant power supply. Obviously load shedding is an interruption to this power supply, which can have detrimental effects on your essential home devices. While load shedding can damage electrical equipment, the post-black out surges that follow when the power comes back on are often more damaging to appliances than load shedding itself, and can cause electrical shorts that result in fires.
What is a power surge and why is it bad? A power surge is a massive rush of electricity that exceeds the typical voltage supplied to households. It’s usually caused by incidents such as lightning strikes, or the sudden restoration of power after an outage. As such, any device connected to the mains power when a surge takes place is at risk of being irreversibly damaged. However, different types of electrical appliances are affected differently by power surges, and as such their risk for damage caused by load shedding differs. Click here for Eskom's official fact sheet about power surges.
How does load shedding damage home appliances?
- Pure resistance or induction devices: such as stoves, kettles, geysers, toasters and heaters are usually unaffected by the power switching off and on, before and after load shedding.
- Reactive-carrying load devices: such as tumble dryers, dishwashers, washing machines, and electric gates, have electric motors that are vulnerable to damage caused by power surges. (This kind of equipment usually has protective measures built in to protect against or minimise damage.)
- Cooling devices: such as fridges, freezers, and air conditioners have gas compressors; pressurised gas inside these often provide resistance to the power surge that causes damage to the appliance’s motor when the power returns after load shedding.
- Battery-powered devices: such as mobile phones, alarms, laptops, automated gate/garage doors and backup systems are indirectly affected by load-shedding if the batteries run down entirely, drastically shortening the lifespan of the batteries. Depleting a battery completely reduces its lifespan, with manufacturers only guaranteeing a certain amount of charge cycles.
What problems does load shedding cause?
How does load shedding affect the people of South Africa? An increase in power surges after load shedding, and damage to batteries has pushed the number of household insurance claims up drastically.
What’s the big deal about load shedding and power surges? It’s not just a simple case of switching the power off and then on again. The way load shedding works, means that every time the power comes back on and a technician flips a switch at your nearby substation, this sends a surge of roughly 11 000 volts into the circuit. Load shedding is problematic because single-phase power in the average home runs on 230 volts, which means that when the power comes back on, all the appliances in that area are exposed to this surge in voltage, much higher than 230 volts. While it lasts only a split-second, it’s long enough to damage electrical equipment, particularly when it happens multiple times a day.
Can you claim from home insurance for damaged appliances?
While insurances generally don’t provide cover specific to load shedding damage, it’s important to check whether your household cover includes damage caused by power surges. Read this cover carefully to identify all exclusions and make sure you know exactly what you’re in for, just in case you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to replace an expensive appliance that suddenly stopped working when the power came back on after a scheduled (or non-scheduled) outage.
Yes, load shedding can damage your appliances.
Load shedding and its related power surges can wreak havoc on your home life. Not just from a convenience perspective, but from an unexpected cost perspective. It’s a good idea to have an electrician advise you on measures that you can take to protect your home appliances, such as surge protection plugs. By taking extra precautions you can ensure that claiming from your home insurance to replace your fried home appliances is a last resort, and not a regular occurrence.