Experiencing a power surge can be frustrating and damaging. Within seconds, a surge in electricity can ruin televisions, computers, appliances and other sensitive electronics in your home. Replacing these items is costly, so homeowners naturally wonder if their insurance policies will help cover the expenses in the event of a power surge or similar electrical mishap.
Fortunately, in many cases a standard homeowners insurance policy will provide some coverage for power surge damage. Keep reading to learn more about how power surges happen, the typical damage they cause, and specifics on how homeowners insurance can help if you find yourself dealing with the aftermath of this common electrical occurrence.
What Is a Power Surge?
A power surge, also known as a voltage spike, is a rapid, short term increase in voltage on an electrical circuit. Surges can be caused by a wide range of occurrences, including:
- Lightning strikes
- Damage to power lines and transformers
- Faulty wiring
- Issues with the electrical utility company
- Use of high-powered electrical devices like air conditioners
- Downed trees or branches falling on power lines
Power surges can range from small, harmless blips to major spikes that can damage electronics and appliances that are plugged in. Even smaller surges can degrade the performance of electronics over time.
Surges can enter your home in a few different ways:
- Directly through power lines – A lightning strike on a nearby power line can travel right to your home and electronics.
- Through cable and phone lines – Power lines run alongside cable and telephone lines. A surge can move into your home through these.
- Via plumbing pipes – Underground water pipes and gas lines can conduct electricity from lightning and transfer surges into the home.
Without protection, a single large power surge can damage a wide range of devices and appliances throughout the home. Some of the most commonly affected items include:
- Desktop computers
- Laptop and tablet chargers
- Gaming consoles like Xboxes and Playstations
- Stereos and speakers
- Smart home devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa
- Air conditioners
- Washers and dryers
- Garage door openers
Even small consumer electronics like alarm clocks, cordless phones and baby monitors can be vulnerable. The repair or replacement costs quickly add up after a major electrical surge.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Surge Damage?
The good news is that a standard homeowners insurance policy will typically cover some or all of the damage caused by a power surge.
There are two parts of a homeowners policy that can come into play when filing an electrical surge claim:
1. Dwelling Coverage
This part of the policy covers the physical structure of the home itself. Wiring and electrical systems are included in this, so dwelling coverage can pay for repairing or replacing wiring that was damaged in a surge.
It can also cover damage to any built-in appliances like microwave ovens, ranges, heating and air conditioning systems and more that were ruined.
2. Personal Property Coverage
This provides coverage for your personal belongings inside the home. Many policies will offer additional coverage for things like jewelry, guns, antiques or collectibles too.
Personal property coverage is where surge-related claims are most commonly filed, as it covers damage to televisions, computers, game systems and small household appliances like coffee makers and vacuums that were plugged in when the surge occurred.
One key point – the damage has to be sudden and accidental to be covered. Gradual degradation of a device due to repeated small surges over many months or years is typically excluded.
Your policy may also specify that covered damage must be caused by a “change in artificially generated electrical current.” This rules out things like mechanical breakdowns or manufacturing defects causing the damage.
Are There Any Limitations?
While a standard homeowners insurance policy is designed to cover many common surge claim scenarios, there can be some limitations:
- Deductibles – Most policies have deductibles in the $500 to $2,500 range. You’ll pay this amount out of pocket before coverage kicks in.
- Dollar limits – Caps are common for categories like jewelry, electronics, collectibles. Make sure you have enough coverage.
- Off-site items – Damage to devices like laptops outside the home or in a car usually isn’t covered.
- Gradual damage – Wear and tear or deterioration from repeated small surges typically isn’t covered.
- Cause of surge – Damage from surges during illegal activity may be excluded.
Power strips and surge protectors can also complicate claims. Some insurers won’t cover damage if protective devices were not in use. Photos of fried surge protectors can help show you had them installed.
It’s also wise to check if replacement cost or actual cash value coverage applies for your belongings. Actual cash value accounting for depreciation can leave you short on the payout for a fried five year-old laptop.
Tips for Filing a Successful Surge Damage Claim
Follow these tips to make the claims process as smooth as possible if you ever need to file a power surge damage claim with your homeowners insurance provider:
Document the damage – Take photos and videos showing the clear, visible damage to devices and appliances. Capture model numbers and serial numbers as well.
Save damaged devices – Don’t throw anything away until the claim is completed. The insurance company may request to inspect damaged electronics.
Get repair cost estimates – For larger appliances, get written estimates from repair shops showing the projected repair bills.
Highlight melted surge protectors – Show photos of fried surge protectors. This demonstrates you attempted to prevent damage.
Gather purchase receipts – Having receipts proving the cost and age of damaged devices is extremely helpful for personal property claims.
Call right away – Notify your insurance company promptly. Most policies prohibit waiting an unreasonable amount of time to report damage.
Provide records – If the utility company can provide any power outage history or surges in your area at the time of the damage, include this.
Ask questions – Don’t be afraid to ask your insurer to explain their process, timelines, coverage limits and your rights.
How Can I Protect My Home From Power Surges?
To help avoid the hassle and expense of an electrical surge, it’s wise to take proactive steps to protect your devices and appliances. Here are some options to consider:
Whole house surge protectors – Also called surge suppressors, these can be installed at your home’s breaker box or electrical panel to monitor incoming power and block surges. Cost is $800 to $2,000 installed.
Point of use surge protectors – Less robust but more affordable options to use around the home. Look for UL-certified surge protectors with an LED indicator light. Replace these annually.
UPS battery backup – An uninterruptible power supply with surge protection can provide backup power and protect computers, modems and WiFi routers.
Appliance grade surge protectors – Larger versions designed to safeguard appliances like air conditioners, well pumps, freezers and more. Look for models with noise filtration.
Lightning rods and grounding – Properly installed lightning rod and grounding systems help divert surge energy safely into the earth. Most effective for homes in high lightning risk areas.
Electrician inspection – Hire an electrician to inspect for any improper wiring or grounding issues that could increase surge vulnerability.
Disconnect devices – When storms are expected, unplug expensive electronics to isolate them from any surges.
Backup important data – Use cloud backups or external hard drives to store important files, photos and documents.
Outlook for Surge Damage Coverage
While severe weather events that can cause surges become more frequent, experts expect homeowners insurance policies will continue providing coverage for power surge damage much the same as they do today.
Costs may rise over time, and deductibles could increase for electrical claims. Maximum dollar limits for categories like electronics may also see gradual increases. But the basic protection for your home’s wiring and your personal property inside will remain intact.
Maintaining adequate dwelling and personal property coverage limits, paying attention to exclusions, and utilizing surge protective devices can help ensure you don’t take on unnecessary costs when the occasional but inevitable power surge makes its way into your electrical system and devices.
Summary: Key Takeaways
Power surges are brief spikes in electrical current that can damage electronics and appliances.
Lightning, downed trees, faulty wiring and other situations can trigger surges.
Homeowners insurance dwelling coverage pays for wiring and built-in appliance damage.
Personal property coverage pays for damage to televisions, computers, game systems, and small electronics that were plugged in.
Save damaged items, document damage, get repair estimates, and call your insurer promptly.
Consider installing whole house or point of use surge protectors to limit potential damage.
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