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Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Plano, Allen, and Frisco.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no travel charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service.

Power Surges Can Damage HVAC, Appliances & Electrical Devices 

Lightning strike

Image Source: pixabay.com

Shown: Lighting Strike

External Power Surges

EXTERNAL Power Surges are brief spikes in electrical voltage within an electrical circuit coming into your home .  They can’t be avoided, and occur when some event boosts the electrical voltage at a location within a circuit.   Homes use 120-volt power — with voltage ranging from -169 volts (low) TO +169 volts (high).  A power surge spikes the voltage above 170 volts.   During a Power Surge, damage to HVAC Systems, Appliances and Electronics can occur.

External Power Surges boost the voltage of electrical current flowing into your home’s from the outdoor power line.  Power surges can damage both your home’s wiring and every electrical device plugged into it.

Most people think of a power surge from a lightning strike.  This is certainly one of the most damaging types of power surge.   There are over 20 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in the 48 contiguous U.S. states each year.

Another common reason is a short circuit within the electricity distribution system.  A short circuit is defined as electricity taking a different path than the intended path.  If an electrical path occurs that has less resistance than the intended path, the electricity will flow through that path instead.  Shorter paths have less resistance — hence the term “short circuit.”

A common short circuit is caused by a tree limb touching distribution wires.  The tree provides a path for electricity (into the ground). This is why you see trees trimmed away from power lines.

photo of tree trimmed away from electrical distribution lines

Image Source: Photo by Ibrahim Boran from Pexels

Shown: Tree On Left Trimmed Away From Electrical Line

 

Examples Of Power Surges From Events Within The Electrical Power-Grid

Our electrical power grid is a network of: electricity-generation power plants, power lines, and electrical-distribution equipment.   A common source of power surges occurs when ONCOR (our electricity distribution utility) adds additional power plants to meet increasing demand.   The action of adding another power plant can create a power surge.

Damaged power lines can also cause surges.  These kinds of surges cannot be predicted, as they occur when something goes wrong within the power grid.  The power-grid has many built-in systems to avoid power outages.   There are two reasons why your lights “blink” in your home.

A Power “Blink” Occurs Because:

  • There was a “fault” (short circuit) on the power line.
  • The operation of a protective-device working in reaction to a fault.

Most anything touching a power line can cause a short circuit.  We already mentioned lines touching a tree limb.  A tree limb falling on wires will do the same thing, as it creates a new circuit.  During high winds, two power lines may touch each other.

If the short-circuit is bad enough, it can allow a large amount of electricity to flow through the lines.  In that case, the power-grid has protective devices to shut the line down.  There are fuses or circuit-breakers that detect high levels of power flowing through the line and disconnect it.  It’s much like a circuit-breaker or fuse protects circuits in our homes.

If a fuse exists in the line, it blows and must be replaced by power-restoration crews.  Circuit breakers will retest the line to see if the short-circuit has cleared.  It will reconnect the line and disconnect again if the short-circuit still exists (the breaker may do this a few times).  If the short-circuit continues, the breaker will shut off until power-restoration crews correct the problem.  During the testing by the circuit-breaker, power surges can repeatedly come into your home.

A power surge when electricity is restored is one of the easiest power surges to explain.  At one moment power lines are carrying no electricity.  When power is restored, a surge of electricity races through the electricity distribution lines.

Surge Protectors Stop Power Surges Getting Through To Your Devices 

Whole House Surge Protectors For External Power Surges

You can protect your home’s electrical wiring + every electrical device from EXTERNAL Power Surges with a Whole-House Surge Protector.  These require a licensed electrician to install them inside your Circuit Breaker Panel.  Once installed, many are visible when the panel’s door is open, and most will have a green indicator light to let you know it’s working.

Shown below is a modestly priced Whole House Surge Protector From General Electric.  Near the top you can see the location of the indicator light that glows green indicating the protector is working properly.   Whole-house surge protective devices (SPDs) are typically wired to the circuit-breaker box and cost $200-$500 installed.  A Whole-House surge protector guards the home’s wiring + all electrical devices.

Note: Al’s Does Not Sell Or Install Whole House Surge Protectors.

SHOWN: A Whole House Surge Suppressor / Protector. 

 Click On Photo To: View, See Details, or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com

A Whole House Surge Protector Protects From External Power Surges Coming Into The House. 

It Won’t Protect From Internal Power Surges Created Within The House. 

 

Internal Power Surges

Up to 3/4 of power surges come from inside the house.  This means the electricity coming into the home did not produce the power surge.  Internal power surges occur several times each day when high electricity-demand devices turn off.   Air conditioners and electric heaters are some of the biggest creators of internal power surges.  Because they are thermostat controlled, they often cycle on & off many times in a single day.

If you have ever seen a light bulb get brighter for just a moment, you have witnessed a power surge.  When a high-demand electrical device (such as a/c) shuts off, there is briefly a surplus of electricity in the homes electrical wiring.  The excess electricity moves into the ground wire, which takes it back to the circuit breaker panel and then into the earth.  All this happens very fast, as the electrical wiring is designed to carry excess electricity away.

During that very brief moment when excess electricity exists in the home’s electrical wiring, a power surge occurs to every outlet on that circuit (and possibly into other circuits if the power surge is large).  Today’s appliances have sensitive electronics just like computers do.  These appliances are subject to tiny amounts of damage each time an internal power surge occurs.  Over time, repeated internal power surges shorten the life of electronics & appliances.

Click Below To See A Video About A Washer Damaged By A Power Surge: Washer Damaged By Power Surge

 

Guarding Against All Power Surges Requires Two Levels Of Defense:

  • A Whole-House Surge Suppressor — to stop big, external power spikes from coming into the house from the electrical distribution wires.
  • Individual “Plug-In” Surge Suppressors — to stop small, internal power surges from reaching vulnerable appliances and electronic devices.

Without surge protectors, the only way to protect your: HVAC System, Appliances & Electronics is to disconnect power to them.  This is most easily accomplished by turning the circuit breaker off.   The problem is, power surges cannot be predicted.  Other than disconnecting power, the only way to protect your home’s expensive electronics is to have power surge protectors operating 24/7.

Plug-In Surge Protectors For Internal Power Surges 

A Whole-House Surge Protector stops External Power Surges from coming into your home from the power-grid.  However, 3/4 of power surges occur inside the home, they are called Internal Power Surges.   The Whole-House Surge Protector does not protect your home from surges that occurred inside the home.

Using Plug-In Surge Protector will guard sensitive appliances and electrical devices from internal power surges.   Any device with a digital readout has electronics inside.  Today’s appliances typically have sensitive electronics too.  If you are in doubt whether an appliance or device needs a surge protector, add one to be sure.

All plug-in surge protectors stop the power surge itself.  Additionally, some surge protectors will block the electricity from going past them until the current is stabilized.  This style of surge protector will light up to let you know it has power, but will delay allowing electricity through the surge protector until the surge protector is satisfied with the stability of incoming current.

Some brands of surge protectors have an “Delay” Indicator.  We show once such brand below.  This indicator light is typically yellow, and is lighted while the surge protector monitors the electrical current for stability.   Other brands may delay the power, but not indicate that.  Check your owner’s manual to how to know if a surge protector has a delay mode, and when it is in delay mode.

Shown: Surge Protector With Delay Light.   Products shown do not constitute endorsements by Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C.

Click On Photo To: View, See Details, or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com

Plug-In Power Surge Protectors Are Not All Created Equal

How Does A Plug In Surge Protector Work?   When electrical voltage rises above a safe level, the surge protector has internal components (called varistors) that absorb the excess voltage and diverts it to the Surge Protector’s ground wire.  The ground wire then carries the excess voltage away.  This prevents a power surge from from reaching devices plugged into it.

One of the biggest concerns with Plug In surge protectors is if they disconnect power (to the items plugged into them) when they become compromised.  The only way to be sure is to read the marketing verbiage provided.  If they don’t say they disconnect power, assume they don’t.

One Brand Of Plug In Power Surge Protector That Disconnects Power Is Tripp Lite.  This brand also comes with insurance to replace items if the Trip Lite power surge protector fails to protect them.   This verbiage came from Tripp Lite’s website (www.tripplite.com) under the heading “Premium Safety Features”:  “Automatic shut off cuts power to all outlets when protection has been compromised.”  Tripp Lite Sells Surge Protectors In A Myriad Of Different Configurations, From 1 Outlet To Protectors That Serve Many Devices.

SHOWN: Tripp Lite Model TLP1008TE:

Click On Photo To: View, See Details, or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com

 

Note:  There may be other brands that also disconnect power.  Al’s does not endorse any brand of Surge Protectors only because we don’t have first-hand knowledge of all devices.

Power Surges Often Damage HVAC System Components

It’s common that central a/c stops running after a power surge.  The two most common surges that damage HVAC are lightning strikes and when electricity is restored after an outage.

If the surge is larger (like lighting or a short-circuit in the electricity distribution system) — there are other components that are subject to failure in addition to the control board.  If the power surge is quite large, often the cost to repair the a/c cannot be justified unless it’s nearly new.  In that case, a new system must be installed.

Common Problems A Central A/C May Have Following A Power Surge:

  • Damaged Control Board:  The control board is the “brain” for the outdoor unit (there is a second control board in the furnace).  It tells the outside unit which function to perform, and in what order.  Being a sensitive electronic control-board, it is high subject to damage from a power surge / spike.

SHONW: HVAC System Control Board.  There is a specific unit required for each: brand, model and size HVAC System.

   Click On Photo To: View, See Details, or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com

 

  • Damaged Capacitor:   Capacitors are the battery that sends a extra jolt of electricity to start a motor running.
  • Electrical components items that use large amounts of electricity typically need an extra jolt of electricity to start running. Capacitors are the battery that provides the jolt.  In a central air conditioner, capacitors serve: the outside unit compressor, the outside unit fan, & the furnace blower fan.
  • A capacitor is the most common air conditioning part to fail due to a power surge, as a relatively weak surge can damage a capacitor.   A damaged capacity can ruin the a/c’s compressor, as the compressor depends on the extra jolt of electricity from the capacitor to start the compressor running.
  • If the compressor does not get that jolt, it may start running.  But without the capacitor, the start was extremely hard on the compressor.  “Hard starting” is when an AC struggles to turn on and then shuts off in a short time.   In a short period of time, the compressor will fail due to hard starting.

SHOWN: HVAC System Capacitor.   There is a specific unit required for each: brand, model and size HVAC System.

 Click On Photo To: View, See Details, or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com

 

  • Damaged Contactor Relay Switch:  This is a low-voltage switch controlled by the thermostat inside the house.  This low-voltage relay then operates the high-voltage relay switches for the: outside unit compressor, the outside unit fan, & the furnace blower fan.  The high-voltage relays turn on 120V electrical power (to fans) or 240V electrical power to the compressor in the outdoor unit.

SHOWN: Contact Relay Switch.  There is a specific unit required for each: brand, model and size HVAC System.

  Click On Photo To: View, See Details, or Purchase This Item From Amazon.com

 

  • Damaged Compressor:  The compressor moves the refrigerant thought the outside unit & the cooling-coil inside the furnace.   Being an electrical device with a lot of wiring, the compressor can be damaged by a large power surge.   A small power surge that damages a capacitor will also damage a compressor over time.
  • The cost to replace a central a/c compressor exceeds the value of the outdoor unit unless it’s quite new.   In most cases, the outdoor unit will be replaced if the compressor is damaged due to a power surge.

There are many HVAC components that can be damaged by a power surge.   In summer, a power surge can damage the control board in the outside unit + the furnace’s board if the central a/c is running at the time of the surge.   A surge caused by a restoration of electricity can damage HVAC — if the thermostat setting is calling for cooling when the power is restored.  The HVAC System will start up the moment power is available, and that could be accompanied by the power surge.

 

Symptoms Of A Central A/C That Is Not Working Correctly

These symptoms tell you something is wrong with your central a/c — regardless of what caused the problem:

  • Nothing working (thermostat turned off, failed thermostat).
  • Outside unit suddenly not running  (tripped circuit breaker, thermostat changed from “cooling”).
  • Tripping Circuit Breaker.  A/C starts tripping the circuit breaker (overloading the circuit due to malfunction in HVAC system).
  • Furnace blower suddenly not running (tripped circuit beaker — furnace on separate breaker as outside unit, thermostat changed from “cooling”).
  • Fan is in the outside unit is not running (capacitor has failed, relay switch has failed, other).
  • Air coming from the outside unit is not warm (compressor not running).
  • No air coming from the ducts (furnace blower fan not running, cooling coil inside furnace has iced up due to low refrigerant or failed control switches).
  • Less air coming from ducts than in the past (dirty air filter needs replaced, dirty cooling-coil — above or inside the furnace).
  • System is blowing cool air, but not as cool as in the past (low refrigerant and / or dirty outside unit).
  • System refrigerant just recharged, now blowing much colder than in the past (refrigerant overcharged — to much refrigerant).
  • System is blowing warm air inside (compressor not running).
  • Outside unit is making new noises you have not heard before.
  • Outside unit shakes when it turns on (compressor is likely hard starting).
  • Ice is forming on the outside a/c unit (low refrigerant or failed control switches).
  • “Burned” smell (wiring is burning out).
  • A/C is running constantly during extremely hot weather.  This may not be a problem — the system is trying to keep up.
  • A/C is running constantly during only warm weather (low refrigerant, dirty outside unit, dirty air filter).
  • Electricity bill has spiked upward (low refrigerant, dirty outside unit, dirty air filter).

Note: Frost will form on the outside unit of a Heat Pump in winter.  It will defrost itself as needed.

Catch Problems Before The System Stops Working

Due to its complexity, there are many things that can go wrong with a central a/c system.  The Best Defense Is A Annual Maintenance & Cleaning Of components (as needed).   The system will be checked for refrigerant level and components that have failed, or are near failing.   The system’s operation will be tested to ensure it is working at its maximum cooling ability and energy efficiency.

Your a/c is most likely to stop working when you need it most (because that’s when it is running the most).  A failing component (such as a capacitor) may be able to function when the a/c is not cycling a lot, but then fails when heavy demand is placed on it during hot DFW summers.

Discovering upcoming problems will save: being miserable with heat, being inconvenienced, and possibly after-hours repair charges (they are often higher than during normal office hours).   It may also catch the need for an inexpensive repair (such as capacitor) from causing very expensive repairs (such as a burned out compressor due to failed capacitor).

Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C provides annual maintenance appointment at your convenience.  We also provide repairs by appointment + 24/7 Emergency Repairs of HVAC Systems & Plumbing.

 

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Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in northern Dallas, Garland and Richardson.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no travel charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service.