Unplugging Electrical Appliances During a Thunderstorm: Sensible or Nonsense?

Unplugging Electrical Appliances During a Thunderstorm: Sensible or Nonsense?

We explore whether or not you should you unplug and disconnect your electric appliances from the power outlet during a thunderstorm.

During my childhood I remember my parents telling me to unplug the TV and other electrical appliances at the first signs of a thunderstorm, I didn't question it and rushed to save these appliances from the impending danger of the storm. 

To me, it was seemingly common knowledge that you should unplug any electrical equipment when storms were near, but as technology has moved on from the 90s, people have started asking if it is really necessary, and what the risks are if you don't disconnect everything

According to the experts, the answer is still a resounding yes, and here's why. Simply put, thunderstorms can cause massive power surges, sudden increases in voltage that can happen when lightning strikes near power lines. These surges of electric can travel through the lines and into your home, potentially damaging any appliances that are plugged in. 

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When a power surge occurs, it can overload the circuits in your appliances. This can burn out the internal components, rendering the device useless. For instance, a lightning strike could fry the circuits in your TV, computer, or even your refrigerator. Repairing or replacing these items can be expensive and inconvenient.

What Appliances to Unplug?

To protect your electronics, it's a good idea to unplug the following items during a thunderstorm:

  • Computers and laptops
  • Televisions
  • Kitchen appliances (like microwaves and coffee makers)
  • Gaming consoles
  • Chargers for phones and tablets

Basically, anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet should be unplugged if possible. This includes power strips and surge protectors. While surge protectors can help, they aren't foolproof. A powerful surge could still bypass them.

How to Protect Your Devices?

Here is some additional advice that you can take to protect your devices:

  • Install Surge Protectors - Surge protectors can add a layer of protection for your electronics. Consider using them for your most valuable devices. Look for surge protectors with a high joule rating, which indicates how much energy they can absorb before failing.
  • Whole-House Surge Protectors - For even more protection, you might want to consider installing a whole-house surge protector. This device is installed at your main electrical panel and can help protect your entire home from power surges.
  • Timing is Everything - It's best to unplug your appliances before the storm hits. Once the storm is overhead, it might be dangerous to handle electrical devices. Lightning can strike suddenly and without warning, so it's better to be safe and unplug early.