Power outage? No problem - Top tips to make the most of family time this holiday


Unexpected power surges and load shedding are our current reality; but these power outages need not take the fun out of your holiday.

Many of us own and frequently use electronic gadgets, appliances and computers in our homes. These have become a part of our daily essentials, be it for work as well as entertainment. So we are often left asking ourselves, 'what can I do during a power outage?' Here are several suggestions to keep you and your family busy during electricity downtime.

Keeping the family entertained during a power outage

  • Spend time together with a good braai - nothing brings family and friends together like a braai - especially during warm summer afternoons or evenings.
  • Have a little friendly competition with a board game or a good old fashioned game of cards. The whole family can get in on the fun, keeping everyone's spirits up.
  • Catch up on some reading with a good book - while tech and electronic gadgets are a great means to enjoy e-books and movies; little beats the charm of turning the pages of a well-written story. Immerse yourself in some quiet time as a whole other imaginative world unfolds.
  • Get creative with some arts and crafts - this is wonderful opportunity to get the whole family involved with some DIY holiday gifts and cards, painting, drawing or paper m‚chť. For older kids and adults, it's also a great opportunity to get started with that vision board.
  • Get active - take a stroll or run, or even head out somewhere for a short hike.
  • Get out and about - Why remain cooped up when you can make the most of the time by exploring your local community? Perhaps there's a market nearby, a playground or park that can be explored or an interesting museum or art gallery. And while you're out, be sure to support our local restaurants or grab a take-away meal.

Protecting your valuables

Aside from keeping us entertained and aiding us in our work, electronic devices are of great value. Therefore, it is important that we protect our valued appliances and electronics from the damaging effects of sudden power surges.

Power surges can result in damage, which are often irreparable for many kinds of electronics or appliances. Computers can even experience data loss from a power surge. There are things you can do to protect your valuables - and they're simpler than you may think.

But first, what is a power surge?

In South Africa, the standard electrical voltage supply is 220/230 volts at a frequency of 50HZ. Power surges occur when the voltage exceeds the norm and flows at a higher voltage and frequency. When the normal operating voltage is exceeded, an electrical current generates heat - and it's this heat that causes damage to an electronic circuit board, and by extension, an affected appliance or electronic device.

Surges can happen during a power grid switching process, or unexpectedly if there's a malfunction in a nearby transmission line or transformer. Load shedding, and even an instance where a lightning strike occurs during an electrical storm can also result in a power surge.

Smaller power surges are also possible if a high-powered electrical appliance switches on and off too often- such as a refrigerator or an air conditioner. The motors and compressors of these appliances typically require a considerable amount of energy in order to switch on and off; and so if they do, the normal voltage flow in the electrical system is disrupted - resulting in a surge.

Damage as a result of smaller power surges can be incremental and accumulate over time. A major surge can cause more permanent damage instantly, but smaller disruptions typically tend to shorten the lifespan of a particular device or appliance over time.

4 Indications your appliances or electronics have experienced a power surge

  1. The clock or lights of a device or appliance are flashing
  2. There may be a burning or acrid odour in the vicinity of the device or appliance (especially near the power source)
  3. The device or appliance is not working or appears off
  4. A power strip or surge protector may require re-setting

7 Ways to prevent the damaging effects of a power surge

To best protect either small or major surges from damaging your valuables, the below tips can be useful to get into the habit of implementing:

  1. Disconnect electrical devices and appliances from the plug source when not in use, during an electrical storm or when the power goes out. This will help to save your valuables, reduce the likelihood of damage and even conserve valuable energy too.
  2. Be careful not to overload your power outlets, especially those appliances that use high amounts of electricity. Valuables, such as computers, laptops, widescreen TVs or internet modems or routers should ideally not be plugged into the same power outlet as they typically use a lot of energy and have sensitive circuit boards too. Items such as air conditioners, washing machines, microwaves and refrigerators should also have its own dedicated plug-in source or power strip.
  3. Make use of surge protectors for your electric mains board, as well as plug adaptors. Surge plug adaptors are a simple solution that you can implement yourself, but any protectors on your DB boards should be installed by a certified electrician.
  4. Consider purchasing a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). This is useful for protecting your internet and electronics such as a modem and router. It also allows you to be able to continue using your computerized devices even during a round of load shedding.
  5. Make use of a surge protecting power strip. Such power strips have a built-in surge protector which has a fuse that is designed to fail if a voltage spike occurs. When this happens, power supply is prevented from flowing through to your plugged in appliance or device; and thereby preventing damage during a surge.
  6. Allow an electrician to double check your electrical switchboard or fuse box to ensure that you have an adequate supply for your home and electrical devices and appliances. If you've noticed a few flickers or power trips, this may indicate circuit breaker issues. A certified electrician can help you to ensure that you can sufficiently upgrade if needed.
  7. Check your home insurance plan details. Does your plan cover damage as a result of a power surge? It's a good idea to ensure that you're 100% clear as to whether your plan has taken into account the different kinds of risk scenarios your valuables may be exposed to; providing sufficient cover should a power surge happen, resulting in a need for repair or replacement.

On every Discovery Insure Plan, there is embedded power surge cover on buildings and household contents. You can also upgrade this cover for your household contents on the Essential and Classic Plans so that you have comprehensive power surge cover for a small additional monthly premium.

To find out about the power surge cover from Discovery Insure, call us on 0860 751 751 or speak to your financial adviser today.

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