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Load shedding has been a recurring event for many years, but that doesn’t mean that many of us don’t still have questions around the effects it can have on our technology at home. Let's have a look at some of the common questions (and misconceptions) around it and your tech...
Should you unplug your phone if you know the power is going off?
Usually, there’s not much risk to your phone when the power goes off. The risk comes in when load shedding ends and the power comes back on. This is because the restoration of power may cause a power surge, which can damage and sometimes break electronic devices.
'When the power comes back on, it may do so with a momentary surge, which may damage electronically controlled appliances such as computers, television sets, VCRs, DVDs, etc,' Eskom says in their load shedding FAQ.
Eskom advises consumers to switch off power outlets during load shedding and to only switch them back on after power comes back to reduce the risk of surge damage. You can also buy surge protectors for your home electricity distribution (DB) board or for specific plugs and power sockets around the home.
Does insurance cover damage caused by load shedding?
You will need to enquire with your insurer about this. However, it’s important to understand your policy and directly ask about load shedding cover regarding your insurance plan. Don’t assume it will automatically be covered.
Can your laptop or TV explode when the power goes off?
The power going off won’t damage your devices, but there is a surge risk when the power comes back on. Usually, if there is a surge, it will simply damage the circuits of an appliance and cause them to not work.
In extreme cases, however, a massive surge could cause a device to spark or burn. But these surges aren’t usually caused by load shedding, but by events such as transformers exploding at substations and theft of essential voltage control elements. Load shedding alone is unlikely to cause this magnitude of a surge, but you could always opt to be safe and unplug your devices anyway. Here are some more suggestions to keeping your appliances safe.
1. Disconnect your appliances
It's best to unplug your appliances directly from the plug source whenever they are not in use. A power surge cannot damage an appliance that is not plugged in, and it is also a smart move for conserving energy as well as staying safe. Power surges that blow your appliances usually occur when the power comebacks on. During load shedding, you can switch off all your appliances to prevent them from being damaged when that surge happens.
2. Invest in surge protectors
You can buy a surge protector for your electric mains board, as well as surge protector plug adaptors, at most leading hardware stores. If the power levels spike above a level deemed acceptable, the surge protector diverts the excess energy into its grounding wire. Surge protectors on the electrical wiring/DB boards should be installed by a certified electrician.
Stay connected even when the power goes out: Find out why an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is a must-have.
How else can load shedding affect my tech at home?
There are other ways that load shedding can affect your technology at home beyond power surges. It can affect services like wireless internet and mobile signal if the cellphone towers in your area run out of backup power.
Many people also experience temporary slow internet once power is restored due to the congestion on ISP networks from many households reconnecting simultaneously. For tech that doesn’t rely on a battery, switching off suddenly due to load shedding can mean you lose certain data (for example, work on your desktop computer).
Finally, frequent load shedding also wears out backup batteries on alarm systems and other devices like electronic gates more quickly.
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries lose capacity over time as they go through charge cycles (draining and refilling with power). Needing to rely on these backups more frequently and for long periods means that they go through more charge cycles in a much shorter period. You may find you need to replace these batteries much more frequently due to load shedding.