Discovery : Insuring against power surges can help cover damaged appliances especially during load shedding – Discovery Insure

Discovery : Insuring against power surges can help cover damaged appliances especially during load shedding – Discovery Insure

When power returns after load shedding, households may experience a surge of current to their plugged-in appliances and this could cause serious damage. The appliances may even be irreparable following a serious ‘voltage spike’.

Head of Strategy at Discovery Insure, Kgodiso Mokonyane says: “Recent Discovery Insure claims data reveals that clients are between 108% and 130% more likely to submit a power surge insurance claim after experiencing a spike in voltage after a load shedding event. These claims are directly impacting household costs with many clients having to claim for the replacement of expensive appliances which were damaged during load shedding periods.”

Mokonyane adds that the risk of power surge damage increases threefold during Stage Four load shedding events.

To assist clients in the costly replacement of appliances as a result of these surge spikes, Discovery Insure has introduced the power surge benefit to cover the full cost of damage to insured items. Discovery Insure clients are also able to upgrade their Essential and Classic plans to provide higher amounts of power surge cover for just a small additional premium.

“Replacing expensive appliances which are damaged or broken as a result of a power surge is a very costly exercise,” she says. “This power surge cover certainly adds value to our clients and helps them to seamlessly ensure that new appliances can be purchased if required.”

Load shedding has been a part of daily life in South Africa since 2007

South Africans have experienced load shedding for 15 years with scheduled power cuts first implemented in 2007 as part of a plan to support the National Power Utility – Eskom – in managing power supply issues, especially when the national electricity grid comes under pressure and demand outweighs supply .

What is a power surge?
Many of us own electronically powered gadgets, appliances and computers in our homes. Power surges – also known as ‘transcient voltage’ – can result in damage, which can unfortunately result in appliances being irreparable thereafter. Computers can even experience data loss from a power surge. In South Africa, the standard electrical voltage supply is 220/230 volts at a frequency of 50HZ.

“Power surges occur when the voltage exceeds the norm and flows at a higher voltage and frequency,” says Mokonyane. “When the normal operating voltage is exceeded, an arc of electrical current can occur. This generates heat – and it’s this heat that causes damage to an electronic circuit board. By extension this heat then impacts an appliance or electronic device.” Surges can happen during a power grid switching process, which is what occurs during load shedding periods. Surges can also occur unexpectedly if there’s a malfunction in a nearby transmission line or transformer. “Even an instance where a lightning strike occurs during an electrical storm can cause a power surge,” continues Mokonyane. Mokonyane cautions that smaller power surges can be problematic too. These occur in high-powered electrical appliances which switch on and off too often – such as a refrigerator or an air conditioner. The motors and compressors of these appliances typically require a considerable amount of energy in order to switch on and off; and when the normal voltage flow in the electrical system is disrupted a surge results, which causes damage to important home appliances. “Damage caused by smaller power surges can be incremental and accumulate over time,” she adds. “A major surge can cause more permanent damage instantly, but smaller disruptions typically tend to shorten the ‘lifespan’ of a particular device or appliance over a longer period.”

Four indications your appliances or electronics have been damaged following a power surge

  1. The clock or lights of a device or appliance are flashing

  2. There may be a burning or acrid odor in the vicinity of the device or appliance (especially near the power source)

  3. The device or appliance is not working or appears off

  4. A power strip or surge protector may require re-setting

But, Mokonyane says that there are things you can do to protect your appliances – with many of the options being easy to implement at home immediately:

  1. Disconnect electrical devices and appliances from the plug source when not in use, when load shedding commences, or during an electrical storm. This will help to save your valuables, reduce the likelihood of damage and even conserve valuable energy too.
  2. Be careful not to overload your power outlets, especially those appliances that use high amounts of electricity. Valuables, such as computers, laptops, widescreen TVs, internet modems or routers should ideally not be plugged into the same power outlet as they typically use a lot of energy and have sensitive circuit boards too. Items such as air conditioners, washing machines and refrigerators should also have their own dedicated plugin source or power strip.
  3. Make use of surge protectors for your electric mains board, as well as plug adapters. These typically divert excess energy into the grounding wire built into the protector unit, when a surge occurs instead of allowing it to flow into the circuit that your valuables may be plugged into. Surge plug adapters are a simple solution that you can implement yourself, but Mokonyane advises that any protectors which need to be installed on your DB boards should be done by a certified electrician.
  4. Consider purchasing a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). This is useful for protecting your internet or fiber connections, as well as electronics such as a modem and router. It also allows you to be able to continue using your computerized devices even during a round of load shedding.
  5. Make use of a surge protecting power strip. Such power strips have a built-in surge protector which typically includes a fuse that is designed to fail if a voltage spike occurs. When this happens, power supply is prevented from flowing through to your plugged-in appliance or device; and thereby preventing damage during a surge.
  6. Allow an electrician to double-check your electrical switchboard or fuse box to ensure that you have an adequate supply of stable power for your home and electrical devices and appliances.
  7. “If you’ve noticed a few flickers or experienced power trips recently, this may indicate that you have circuit breaker issues. A certified electrician can help you to ensure that you can sufficiently upgrade if needed,” says Mokonyane.

  8. Cross-check your home insurance plan details. Does your plan cover damage as a result of a power surge? It’s a good idea to ensure that you’re 100% clear as to whether your plan has taken into account the different kinds of risk scenarios to which your valuables may be exposed; providing sufficient cover should a power surge happen, resulting in a need for repair or replacement.

“It’s vital to ensure that a solution is in place at home or in your office to protect costly appliances or electronics from power surges. Being vigilant, implementing some of the recommendations highlighted here, and staying aware of load shedding schedules will go a long way towards reducing unnecessary damage to valuable electrical items,” Mokonyane concludes.

To find out about the Power Surge benefit from Discovery Insure, please call 0860 751 751 or speak to your financial adviser for more information.