South Africans have been experiencing the worst year of rolling blackouts so far in 2022, and with load-shedding often comes power surges that can damage electrical equipment.
Dialdirect head Anneli Retief previously told MyBroadband that claims relating to load-shedding-induced power surges have doubled since 2018, meaning it might be wise to protect your devices and appliances from the power spikes.
When power is restored after load-shedding, a rush of electricity exceeding the typical voltage supplied to households can occur. Any device connected to mains power at the time is at risk of being irreversibly damaged.
However, there are several interventions that homeowners can make to protect their appliances and devices from power surges.
These include disconnecting devices from mains power during power cuts, investing in DB board surge protectors, replacing plugs with surge-protecting variants, and connecting devices and appliances to surge-protecting strips.
More details on each form of intervention are provided below.
Disconnect devices and appliances
According to Dialdirect, switching off appliances like fridges and air conditioners during load-shedding can help protect them from power surges when electricity is restored.
The insurer advises that owners wait for the power supply to stabilise by waiting for lights to stop flickering or dimming before switching on the appliances one by one.
Completely unplugging appliances that can be is the safest option.
Furthermore, having devices disconnected from the mains when power is restored puts less pressure on the power grid, making damage to municipal and Eskom infrastructure less likely.
High power demand when electricity is restored puts immense pressure on electrical infrastructure like transformers and mini-substations, which can often result in further electrical faults.
This, in turn, causes prolonged outages as Eskom or municipal staff must repair the fault for power to be restored to the area served by the blown transformer.
With the load-shedding South Africa has experienced over the past two years, these faults are becoming increasingly common to the point that Eskom warned that it could run out of spares to repair them.
In July 2022, the power utility published a statement warning South Africans that it had limited stock levels to replace blown transformers and repair mini-substations.
At the time, it said it had replaced or repaired 116 damaged substations and 1,326 transformers, costing the power utility R152 million.
Surge protectors and strips
South Africans can buy surge protectors for their DB board or surge-protecting rewirable plugs and power strips from various hardware stores and online retailers.
When power levels spike above a certain threshold, surge protectors reroute excess energy into their grounding wire, preventing it from reaching your appliances or devices.
They can also help protect devices if the voltage drops below safe thresholds.
DB board surge protectors should be installed by a certified electrician. However, those looking for a solution with less hassle can opt for surge-protecting rewirable plugs or power strips.
These essentially divert excess electricity in the same way but merely need to be the link between your mains power outlet and your appliances to provide protection.
Several DB board surge protectors and surge-protecting rewirable plugs and strips, along with their pricing, are listed in the table below.
|Surge protector pricing|
|DB board surge protectors|
|Leeyee 4-20mA Surge Protector||R199|
|CBI Surge Protection Breaker||R340|
|Leeyee AC Surge protector 275V 40kA 2P||R449|
|Feed Modular Surge Protector 220V Single Phase||R499|
|Leeyee AC Surge Protector 275V 40kA 4P||R699|
|Surge-protecting rewirable plugs|
|Ellies High Surge Protection Plug||R99|
|Clearline Dedicated Lightning & Surge Protector Plug||R136|
|ACDC 15A Surge Protection Plug||R149|
|Snappy Chef Surge Protector Plug||R179|
|United Electrical 16A High Surge Protection 3-Pin Plug||R179|
|Surge-protecting power strips|
|Nexus Multi-Plug: 3 x 16A; 3 x 5A with surge protection||R249|
|Africa Surge Wonder Protected 4x3pin and 4x2pin||R319|
|Clearline Loadshedding 4/4 Surge Protection Multiplug||R497|
|Ellies High Surge Protection 4 Way Multi-plug + 3m extension||R579|
|Ellies 8 Way MultiPlug with Surge Protection||R769|
It should be noted that the surge-protecting plugs listed above also require some work in the form of rewiring appliances to set up. However, this is relatively straightforward.
While DB board surge protectors and surge-protecting power strips are more expensive than surge-protecting plugs, they simultaneously provide surge protection for multiple appliances and devices.
On the other hand, rewirable plugs only protect the device to which they are wired.
Uninterruptible power supply (UPS)
UPSes also allow users the time needed to safely shut their devices off or continue working after load-shedding has kicked in.
They also regulate the amount of power connected devices and appliances receive — essentially a form of surge protection.
UPSes come in varying sizes and use batteries to keep your devices running without interruption when the power goes off. They also provide users time to save their work if the power goes out while they are busy.
The size of the UPS needed to run devices depends on the unit’s capacity and the load which connected devices and appliances put on the UPS.
Five UPSes of varying sizes and their prices are listed below.
KSTAR Powercom 600VA Line Interactive UPS — R779
Eaton 5E UPS 850VA — R999
Mecer 1,000VA Line Interactive UPS — R1,499
RCT 2,000VA Line Interactive UPS — R1,799
RCT 2,400VAS Line-Interactive UPS — R2,785