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Power surge fries dozens of appliances on Greater Cincinnati street

How to protect your expensive appliances during a storm
Posted at 10:58 AM, Mar 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-12 13:49:03-04

Most homeowners these days have a few high tech stainless steel appliances, perhaps a washing machine or fridge with an LED panel on the front, and a computer chip on the inside.

If so, you need to realize that a a simple power surge during a Spring storm could fry them, costing you thousands of dollars in losses.

That's what happened on Chapel Heights Lane in Colerain Township on Feb. 24, when a cold front with high winds blasted through the Cincinnati area.

As the wind got stronger that morning, homeowner Mike Vorherr said, "there was a popping, almost a flash of lightning in the house, and the lights over the dining room table popped off."

A power surge tripped several of Vorherr's circuit breakers. But they apparently did not trip quick enough.

"When I opened the refrigerator door," he said, "the lights didn't come on."

Bad news: the computer board in Vorherr's $1,500 refrigerator was fried, rendering the fridge useless.

At neighbor Steve Smith's home, meantime, LED light bulbs started popping.

"I heard glass shatter, and it was the chandelier in our dining room," he said. "The bulbs actually burst, and sent glass down onto the table."

Luckily, Smith said his two computers were on power strip surge protectors, and they were unharmed.

But like a lot of us, he had a number of appliances not on a power strip.

"I lost a TV, a microwave and dehumidifier, so I'm out about $1,000," Smith said.

Big losses, no reimbursement

Up and down the street came reports of dead dehumidifiers and TVs.

Smith spoke with neighbors, tallied up the losses, and reports:

  • House #1- Lost LED Lights and surge protectors.
  • House #2- Lost microwave oven, dehumidifier, TV, and LED lights.
  • House #3- Lost Keurig coffee kaker and surge protectors. Hired electricians to repair circuit that didn’t come on and to replace GFIs. Coming back for burned rubber smell in walls.
  • House #4- Lost dishwasher.
  • House #5- Lost refrigerator.
  • House #6- Lost dishwasher, coffee maker and damaged electrical system.
  • House #7- Hired electrician for damage at cost of $455.

But when homeowners tried to file claims with Duke Energy, all were denied.

Duke spokeswoman Sally Thelen said power companies cannot reimburse for storm losses, or they'd lose tens of millions of dollars.

"Because it was considered an act of Mother Nature, that's something we can't control," she explained. Only if power companies are negligent, and cause a surge, can they be liable for damage.

Shows importance of surge protectors

Thelen said that's why its so important to have surge protectors on anything with a computer board, and not just big screen TVs.

Even modern refrigerators, dehumidifiers and microwaves should ideally have surge protection, she said.

She suggests investing in several good quality surge protectors sold at stores like Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart and Target, or local hardware stores. She suggests skipping the cheapest power strips, which may not offer the best protection.

But she says to protect all your appliances, consider a whole house surge protector.

"With the proliferation of smart appliances, you would almost do better to take a look out there at what some of the broad full home things are out there to protect sensitive things," she said.

For less than $200, you can purchase a whole house surge protector, though they must be installed by a licensed electrician.

Duke Energy and other power companies can provide you a surge protector for a monthly fee. Duke's is called Strike Stop, and costs around $7 a month (added to your bill). For an additional $3 a month, you can add an insurance policy in case it fails to protect all your appliances during a surge. Call or click here to learn more.

That way you save your expensive appliances and don't waste your money.


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