When an electrical surge occurs in a building, it may have an effect on any electronic item plugged into the wall outlets, including appliances such as the refrigerator. The effects of a power surge are generally minimized through some safety devices built into the home to help control surges, but a bad power surge may still damage a refrigerator unit.
Causes of a Refrigerator Power Surge
An electrical surge in a home may be caused by a number of different things. If you plug too many items into the same outlet and run the electronics all at one time, it may cause a surge. Lighting strikes directly to a home or to power lines around the home may also cause surges. In some instances, a refrigerator itself may be the cause of a surge. Due to the high power requirements of the appliance, when a refrigerator cycles, turning on and off automatically, it may cause a surge that can flip the breaker or burn out the fuse.
Flipped Breaker Switch
Many times when an electrical surge hits a refrigerator, it doesn't permanently affect the refrigerator's operation. Breaker boxes, which can generally be found in older homes, help prevent permanent damage to a refrigerator and other electronics during a power surge. If the breaker box is working properly, when a power surge moves through the electrical line, the breaker for the refrigerator flips to the "Off" position. You can return power to the refrigerator by flipping the breaker back to "On."
Blown Refrigerator Fuse
In general, more recently built homes use fuse boxes instead of breaker boxes to help control the electricity running through a house. When an electrical surge occurs in a home, instead of a breaker flipping to an "Off" position, the fuse for the refrigerator may blow out. If a refrigerator fuse blows in the fuse box of a home, you must replace the fuse for the refrigerator to begin working again.
Damage to a Refrigerator Is Rare
A power surge that destroys appliances is a rare event, but it can happen, especially in instances of lightning strikes. When this type of surge occurs, it may damage any number of components inside of the refrigerator, including fuses on the unit's circuit board or the motor. Some of these components, such as fuses, can be inexpensively replaced, but others require a complete circuit board or motor replacement.
Protecting Your Refrigerate From a Power Surge
A refrigerator is a vital appliance for any home, but it can be expensive to replace in the event of damage. Protecting your refrigerator from a power surge is easy to do thanks to a few precautionary measures.
First, purchase a refrigerator surge protector from Lowes or your local hardware store. Look for one designed for use with refrigerators or freezers, since these appliances are especially sensitive to electrical fluctuations. Plug the surge protector into the wall outlet and then plug the refrigerator into the surge protector. In the event of an electrical surge, the surge protector will help prevent the electricity from damaging the refrigerator.
But the only way to absolutely protect your refrigerator from an electrical surge is to unplug it completely. Many electrical surges happen at random, but if you know a lightning storm is on the horizon, you can unplug your appliances as an extra precaution. Don't forget to plug them back in once the threat passes!
Alexis Lawrence is a freelance writer, filmmaker and photographer with extensive experience in digital video, book publishing and graphic design. An avid traveler, Lawrence has visited at least 10 cities on each inhabitable continent. She has attended several universities and holds a Bachelor of Science in English.