Can a power surge start a fire : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Does anyone know if a power surge could cause a fire in the home? I plan to be away tomorrow evening and I'm concerned. Also my insurance co. informed me that they were not responsible for y2k damage.

-- Harv (, December 30, 1999


Harv, I'd recommend unplugging then. Not knowing what appliances you have, and the state of your home wiring, better safe than sorry. May wanna trip your main circuit so you don't have juice in the walls, unless you installed your home wiring so can be confident of the quality, given you won't be there to respond to any events.

Hope this helps. I'm not an electrical engineer, and am sure other experst will be along to give advice:)

-- Hokie (, December 30, 1999.

Yes, particuarly in devices like TV's that are on standby.

Electrical devices are fused so the damage should be minimal under surge conditions with little chance of ignition, but there is always exceptions like TV's with a fast warm-up function.

My advice is unplug everything you don't need just in case. If there is a surge the appliance might not ignite but a cooked power supply or motor is not a cheap repair.

-- merville (, December 30, 1999.

UNPLUG!!!! We just had 2 huge power surges....All ready ran for the flashlight!!!! I hope this isn't a sign....

-- Moore dinty Moore (, December 30, 1999.

Yes, electrical fires were started at IBM, EPA and a hotel in Research Triangle Park, NC, today by power surges. Motors were burned out--on HVAC equipment, I believe. I don't know the fate of electronic equipment. The only other effects I personally know of: traffic lights and power went out in the affected area.

-- Old Git (, December 30, 1999.

Yes, I came close to having a fire *twice* when Consumer's Power managed to pump 220V through one 110V leg of the service running into my house. My television went nuts then blitzed off, my refrig started groaning, my fluorescent lights got real bright and started having waves of light dancing inside them, and I started smelling smoke. I ran to the basement and yanked the main cannister fuses, but not in time to protect my furnace thermostat transformer (a glorified 24V doorbell transformer). They burned it out *twice* -- that was, as best as I could determine, where the smoke smell came from.

It seems that fuses won't blow in time if the're getting twice the normal voltage. I think they're *current* devices, and don't really care that much about voltage.

I plan on being off-grid prior to midnight GMT. So is the VA and SSA, I believe.

-- Ron Schwarz (, December 30, 1999.

I installed an Intermatic surge protecter on my fuse panel. Its model EG240RC rated at 400 amps, 1200 joules, maximum surge current 48,000 amps, response time <5 nanoseconds. It cost $44.00 at my local discount lumber yard. I think its good protection.

-- John Littmann (, December 30, 1999.

Ron - regarding your comment on fuses being current (amperage) driven devices. It's true, except that each kind of fuse has a voltage rating. The amperage melt the fusible link, and as the wire separates an arc is established. This arc must be "quenched" to stop the current flow. The current that is flowing as the arch is quenching is known as the "let through" current. This is where the voltage rating comes in - as an indicator of what sort of voltage the fuse can break the arc of. As a result, you have one size of fuse on your PC circuit board (for 5V rail components), another size for automobile applications (the standard 3 AG fuse) and yet another, much larger cartridge for 600 V circuits. HP (or was it Fluke?) used to brag that their multimeters boasted the 600 V cartridge fuses, as opposed to the 250 V 3 AG types, which better protected the repair tech when they accidently measured a 3 phase circuit's voltage while on current setting.

Anyway - the upshot is that if there is a voltage surge on the line, then the fuse might open at the proper fault current, but not quench the arc, and the subsequent let through current can wreak havoc on downstream appliances.

-- Tom Stein (, December 30, 1999.

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