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Understanding Surges & Spikes
Understanding Surges & Spikes
Learn how to protect your equipment from damage caused by power surges and spikes.
Understanding Surges & Spikes

Understanding electrical problems
Eighty percent of electrical problems in your home or office result from wiring or grounding issues. Twenty percent occur because of an event in the PGE distribution system. To reduce potentially damaging spikes or power surges, keep in mind this basic rule: Whenever possible, try to isolate sensitive electronic equipment from power-hungry appliances:

Sensitive appliances and electronics
  • Computers, servers and modems
  • VCRs, DVD players and stereo equipment
  • Answering machines and fax machines
  • Security systems
  • Garage door openers
  • Digital clocks
  • Any equipment that needs constant, uninterrupted power

Power-hungry appliances
  • Laser printers
  • Photocopiers
  • Washers and dryers
  • Electric and microwave ovens
  • Hair dryers and electric razors
  • Electric tools
  • Electric furnaces and air conditioning

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Three steps to protect your home
A few preventative steps can go a long way in protecting your home from electrical spikes or surges. If power quality questions come up, please call the PGE Power Quality Hotline at 503-736-5750 or 800-270-7016 or talk with an electrical contractor.
  1. Check your wiring and grounding.
    • Are your lights dimming or getting brighter? Is your electronic equipment acting unreliably? You may have problems with your wiring. Make sure the equipment is plugged into a grounded outlet.
    • Living in an older home (built before 1960)? See if your wiring meets current standards.
    • Check appliances for loose or damaged plugs or poor connections and repair or replace them.
  2. Use outlet surge suppressors.
    • You install these devices between the appliance and the electrical outlet to prevent surges from reaching your sensitive equipment. Read more about choosing an outlet surge suppressor.
  3. Invest in protection at your home’s electric gateway.

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Use this chart to find solutions to common power problems.

Home Power Problem Power Problem Causes Electronics Protection
Power surges/spikes When motors or compressors cycle on or off (think refrigerators or paint sprayers), or PGE switches various sections of the power grid, it can cause a power surge, which can damage electronic components.

Lightning strikes can send excessive voltage into electrical, telephone or cable TV lines and possibly destroy them.
Surge suppressors divert excessive electrical energy away from your electronics or appliances without harming them. For specifics, see our guide to surge protection products.
Brownouts Excessive household power usage results in lights flickering, computers locking or electric motors burning out. Surges occur most often when power returns to normal. Line conditioners, UPS (uninterruptible power supplies)
When voltage sags, line conditioners shut off power to protect electronics and appliances. A UPS runs equipment on an internal battery for a short period if voltage decreases below a certain level or goes out completely.
Blackouts Storms, animals on power lines, excessive demand on power grid and other causes. UPS
Indispensable for just about any home computer user. Provides temporary power for 10 to 20 minutes so you can back up files and shut down your computer during an outage.
Electromagnetic interference
and
radio frequency interference.
Laser printers, fluorescent lighting, and lightning. Nearby radio stations create static and harmonic (noise) distortion. Usually found in better surge protectors, UPS devices and line conditioners.

Electrical filters protect your electronics and appliances by trapping the interference before reaching your equipment.

Check product packaging for the words EMI/RFI noise protection.

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Use the chart below for solutions to common power problems at your business.

Symptom Cause Solution
Computers, including networks and peripherals
Computer locks up Heating/ventilation/air conditioning equipment starting and stopping; lightning; crossed power lines; routine utility activities; photocopiers and laser printers Install surge suppressor with data port at computer; install surge suppressor at service panel; use fiber optic cables to link communications peripherals to computer
Computer reboots Heating/ventilation/air conditioning equipment starting and stopping; lightning; downed power lines; routine utility activities; photocopiers and laser printers; tripped circuit breakers; blown fuses Relocate computer and peripherals to a different circuit; install UPS at computer
Data errors Overhead distribution lines or building transformers; heating/ventilating/air conditioning motors; elevators; water coolers, fans; lightning; crossed power lines: routine utility activities; photocopiers and laser printers; static discharge Connect computer and peripherals (but not laser printers) to the same circuit; relocate computer and peripherals to a different circuit; install surge suppressor with data port at computer; install line interactive or online UPS at computer; use fiber optic cables to link communication peripherals to computer
Computer monitor
Wavy lines or noise on computer screen Building transformer; electric heaters; overhead distribution lines; routine utility activities Relocate monitor away from noise source; change monitor software scan rate; relocate monitor and computer to a different branch circuit
Fax machines
Lost memory Heating/ventilating/air conditioning equipment and elevators starting and stopping; lightning; downed power lines; routine utility activities; photocopiers and laser printers; tripped circuit breakers; blown fuses Relocate fax machine to different circuit; install UPS at fax machine
Faulty transmission Overhead distribution lines; building transformers; motors in heating/ventilating/air conditioning equipment; elevators; water coolers; fans; lightning; crossed power lines; routine utility activities; photocopiers and laser printers Relocate fax machine to a different circuit; install UPS at fax machine
Photocopiers and laser printers
Data errors, lost memory Heating/ventilating/air conditioning equipment and elevators; starting and stopping; lightning; crossed power lines; routine utility activities Relocate photocopier or laser printers to a different circuit; install surge suppressor at photocopier or surge suppressor with data port at laser printer and computer; install surge suppressor at service panel
Postage machine
Faulty readout Kitchen appliances; light dimmers; heating/ventilating/air conditioning equipment; elevators starting and stopping; photocopiers and laser printers; lightning; crossed power lines; routine utility activities Relocate postage machine to a different circuit; install surge suppressor with noise filter at postage machine
Digital scale
Faulty readout Heating/ventilating/air conditioning equipment; elevators starting and stopping; crossed power lines; routine utility activities Relocate digital scale to a different circuit; install surge suppressor with noise filter at scale
Telecommunications
Static or buzz in telephone receiver Electronic lighting; kitchen appliances; heating/ventilating/air conditioning equipment; elevators starting and stopping Relocate telephone away from noisy appliances; install a noise filter at telephone; install a surge suppressor with telephone port and noise filter
Lost calls Lightning; downed power lines; routine utility activities; tripped circuit breakers; blown fuses Install a UPS unit at PBX telephone system panel

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