Electricians don’t typically build consumer electrical devices. Things like computers, HVAC systems, and household appliances are typically built by highly specialized engineers who work with that particular system. However, as they all run on electrical power and operate while connected to your home electrical system, we have certainly seen various ways in which they are sometimes damaged, as well as the consequences of that damage. With that in mind, here are a few basic tips for making sure that your important electronics stay safe.
One of the most common dangers to electrical devices is electrical surge through the household electrical system. Imagine if your bathroom faucet was suddenly under the pressure of water thousands of times what it was rated for. The faucet would explode, and the pipe could rupture. However, when dealing with electronics, not only are power surges more likely to occur, but can also occur on a large number of different scales. For example, an overhead electrical line could likely take a much larger burst of electrical energy than your cell phone could. These surges of energy can be incredibly difficult to predict, and can occur for a variety of reasons. One common cause of power surges is the switching of energy from the power company. If they are adjusting the grid, there can be small surges which damage electronics over time. One of the best things to do to stop this damage is to install surge protectors. However, not all surge protectors are created equal and if you want to really ensure that something stays safe, you may have to spend some extra money.
Additionally, lightning can cause incredibly damaging power surges, with huge amounts of electrical energy unexpectedly being dumped into a system. Unfortunately, even the best surge protectors cannot completely guarantee that you and your devices will be safe should this occur. The simple fact of the matter is that if the lightning strike is powerful and close enough, there is no realistic amount of surge protection which can stop the huge amounts of energy. However, surge protectors can still work quite well if the strike was further away or smaller.
So, in order to protect your electronics from electrical surges, you should use surge protectors to protect from common low energy surges. As different devices can be quite sensitive to even small fluctuations, you should absolutely make sure that your more valuable (sentimentally or financially) electronics are using quality surge protectors. If a storm approaches, and there is electrical activity in the immediate vicinity, you should disconnect your electronics from their power sources. This will prevent a direct lightning strike from destroying your valuable electronics and will also decrease the risk of fire or injury associated with uncontrolled electrical discharge.
Electrical Surges are not the only source of damage to home electronics. Sometimes, their storage environment can drastically reduce their lifespan. For example, electronics stored in humid environments are at risk for condensation buildup or corrosion. Try to store your electronics in cool, well ventilated, and clean areas. Another risk for electronics is the buildup of dust or other particulate matter. As dust builds up, it can lead to damage directly, or can prevent the dissipation of heat. Many electrical components will generate heat and attempt to radiate it into the air. If there is too much dust built up, not only will the heat be unable to dissipate properly, but the dust could contain flammable particles and lead to a fire. This would not only leave your electronic system at risk but could cause extensive property damage or even bodily injury to those around. If you notice dust building up on electrical systems (particularly on circuit boards, radiators, and fans, make sure that you remove it. The safest way to do this is via the use of compressed air which is safe for use on electronics. Be mindful of where your electronics are stored, and think of ways you can protect them from environmental hazards, such as via elevation or insulation.
There are also some modern innovations which can protect your devices. One of the more dangerous things to electronic devices is flooding or moisture buildup. Some modern systems and appliances have built in sensors which can actually be used to send an alert to you when things start getting wet. This can allow you time to go correct the problem before it causes serious damage. Also, when it comes to things like computers, the most important components are likely the files and pictures stored on the computer. The rest of it can be replaced, but your important documents would be a terrible thing to lose. Backing up your files and important pictures can ensure that no matter what happens, you have access to your valuable personal files.