Televisions, microwaves, kettles and other electrical appliances have become fatalities of Eskom’s load shedding and the spontaneous power outages Pietermaritzburg has been experiencing.
And the cost of replacing these items is running into thousands of rands.
Electrician Cliff Blackman, of DCB Auto Electrical, explained that when there is a power outage and the electricity comes back on, plugged-in appliances get a surge of current.
“It gets a start-up voltage spike. This is what affects electronic components,” said Blackman.
He said the surge mainly affects sensitive electronic equipment such as computers. To avoid appliances being damaged, one can purchase a high-voltage protection plug which can be obtained from any electrical wholesaler, he said.
It costs between R80 to R350.
These plugs do not allow excess current to bypass them, allowing only up to 240 volts through.
Alternatively, he advised people to unplug all electrical appliances when the power goes out.
Brenden Sivparsad of Msunduzi Municipality said the City’s electricity infrastructure sometimes also gets affected by the surges from load shedding.
“During load shedding there are switching operations that are undertaken. Switching implies sudden interruption of the flow of current. During these operations switching surges can occur, and depending on the severity of the surge, it may have a negative impact on the equipment, leading to fault on the system. In some instances this has been the case,” he added.
Weekend Witness asked Facebookers if load shedding or power outages have caused damage to any of their electrical appliances, from gate motors to television sets and fridges.
Tanya Sewchurn said: “Yes, we had R38 000 worth of damage; 2 flat-screen TVs, microwave, double-door fridge, DSTV decoder, remote gate motor, home-theatre system and the fish tank pump, and we still haven’t been reimbursed for what we have lost. Makes me so angry, we work so hard to buy our stuff and when we make a claim from the government they say it’s not their fault.”
Lynlee Billings said: “For me it was my TV, washing machine, microwave, gate motor. Cost about R10 000 to replace it. When you go to claim, they give you a thick document to fill out and must be verified by 3 electricians before they ‘pay you back’, so they say.”
Skhumbuzo Ndlovu said that all her appliances are damaged. She said that only her fridge is working. “DVD, TV, microwave, radio, etc., all broken.”
Monsignor Warren said that he had his gate motor circuit
board damaged recently.
Many of the insurance claims filed for goods damaged by load shedding are not in fact covered, an insurance expert has warned.
Fin24 quoted Old Mutual Insure insurance expert Christelle Colman, who said claims are typically for things like the deterioration of food; the spoiling of refrigerated stock in trade; and damage to appliances or sensitive equipment due to a sudden power surge.
She advised policyholders to check their documents carefully to see what they are covered for.
“All policies are different, so it is essential that each and every South African takes the necessary steps to reduce their risk of financial loss resulting from blackouts. This includes making sure that you have both the correct insurance cover in place for your needs, as well as adequate cover to insure the required value of your assets.”
Owners must also take care to prevent damage in the first place, she said.
Here are Colman’s tips for mitigating losses.
Unplug appliances and sensitive equipment: Unplug appliances or electronic devices that may be vulnerable to power surges. This includes cellphones, computers, servers and LCD screens, all of which could be badly damaged when the power comes back on due to a spike in electricity flow.
Beware your generator: It is critical that generators are never used inside a home or enclosed workplace area as the emissions can cause asphyxiation. The heat from the generator or a faulty connection to your home’s power supply can also cause fire damage, which would not be covered as this would likely be deemed as negligence.
Test your alarm system: During load shedding, alarm power packs and batteries may wear out faster. This may also cause alarm systems to produce false alarm signals or even malfunction altogether. Many insurance policies require that you perform an annual or bi-annual alarm system check, which must be logged by your security company. Failure to do so could impact your claim, Colman warned.
Install reserve power: To ensure that electric fencing and gates still work during load shedding, reserve batteries should be installed and maintained. While reserve batteries generally last for six to eight hours when the power goes out, load shedding dramatically decreases a battery’s lifespan.
Secure your premises: Not only will this reduce the risk of the theft occurring, but it will also make the claims’ process a lot easier in the event that a theft or robbery occurs.
Be vigilant: Criminals may see blackouts as an opportune time to act, Colman said. Keep a torch in your car should you arrive home in the dark and need to open your perimeter security gate manually.
Light up your premises: Using solar power or battery-operated lighting can reduce the chance of opportunistic crime occurring. Keep them fully charged.
Review your policies: Check what is covered in the event of loss or damage to the contents of a home or building during a blackout, and speak to your broker about any additional cover you may need.
Follow the load-shedding schedule: Rather switch off sensitive equipment in a managed and planned way to avoid damage.
Hang in there: “We have been through this before, so we know what the risks are and how to mitigate them,” said Colman.