Summer electrical storms are a common occurrence in the Midwest and can cause a sudden surge of power that wreaks havoc on your home electronics. Learn how to avoid costly repairs or replacement of equipment.

You’d think we would learn. Last summer an electrical storm took out our modem and a large external hard drive that was connected to our home network. We thought we were pretty safe having surge protectors on everything, and were really upset by the loss of data and having to wait to have internet service restored.

This spring as an electrical storm approached and we could see lighting on the horizon, I said to my husband, “Quick, unplug everything!”

“We’ll be fine,” he said, not budging from his chair.

Say goodbye to another modem and our wireless router. It was then we learned two important things- electrical surges can occur over phone lines, not just electrical lines, and even the best surge protectors can’t prevent all damage from power spikes.

So how does lightning cause problems over a telephone line? Phone lines carry a small amount of current, which can act like a lightning rod. Your internet service installation likely came with a network interface device (NID) to prevent lightning from damaging wiring. The lightning protectors are designed to route electrical surges in excess of 300 volts to the ground. However surges of less than 300 volts are strong enough to wipe out sensitive modems, routers, fax machines and other equipment connected to a phone jack, or in our case, daisy chained from the modem via a phone cord.

Surge protectors for electrical outlets are not foolproof either for the same reason- they handle only a certain range of spikes. No type of protection can stop the power of a direct or nearly direct hit from lightning

Time to call in an expert. According to John Ketelhut, Manager of Technical Operations for Arvig, here are the best ways to keep your electronics safe during an electrical storm:

1. If you know an electrical storm is coming and you are at home, unplug devices both from electrical outlets and phone jacks.

2. If you are going to be traveling, unplug devices both from electrical outlets and phone jacks before leaving home.

3. Invest in a whole home surge protector that handles both electrical and phone lines. Some of the higher-end models come with a replacement guarantee if equipment connected to the surge protector gets damaged due to electrical surges.

4. Keep data backed up on a cloud based storage system to avoid losses due to hardware failure.

Since summer electrical storms are common, make sure you have both phone line and electrical surge protectors installed now to avoid losing devices. Nothing is safer than disconnecting entirely before a storm. Once the storm has passed, plug the equipment back in, turn it on, and make sure it works as it did before the storm.

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