As the country enters the height of the winter season in July, the risk of load shedding interruptions as a result of the pressured electricity grid is also quite high.
Identified by Google as South Africa’s most searched term in the past decade, load shedding continues to bring about a huge amount of frustration, inconvenience and increased short-term insurance risk for many South Africans.
Through the introduction of various load shedding notification apps, people can now see load shedding schedules in advance and can ensure that they are adequately prepared. However, there are still times when load shedding occurs in the early hours of the morning or overnight, leaving many household items at risk of being damaged through power surge.
When electricity comes back after a few hours of load shedding, it can cause a power surge which in turn can cause instant damage to one’s electrical appliances where plastic and metal parts can melt and often burn circuits.
Elizabeth Mountjoy, Private Wealth Manager at FNB Insurance Brokers warns, “With load shedding occurring more regularly, it is vital that you ensure you have cover available should you require it. You should contact your short-term insurer or broker and confirm whether the power surge benefit has been added to your policy. If this benefit is not included and your home appliances are damaged due to a power surge, you will not be able to submit a claim for the damaged appliances.”
Apart from ensuring that you have the right kind of insurance cover for power surges, another comprehensive way to protect your appliances is to have surge plugs or an arrestor installed to protect all the electrical circuits in your entire house. The surge arrestor is installed at the point where the power comes into your house, and protects you against surges in power, usually up to around 6000 volts. You can get a surge arrestor for up to as much as 20,000 volts.
“One of the most cost-effective methods to completely prevent a power surge is to unplug certain appliances in the event of load shedding or during thunderstorms. Once the electricity has returned, one should wait a further 10 minutes before plugging in all the appliances”, adds Mountjoy.
To avoid loss as a result of load shedding in your household, below are 3 key things that you should consider when protecting household assets:
· Check your policy to see what cover is provided in the event of a power surge
Depending on the insurer and product, you should contact your insurer or broker who will be able to advise what sections of cover to add to your policy to have reasonable coverage. Most insurers offer power surge cover up to a certain limit under the household section which may not be adequate if you have expensive electronic items. In addition, also check what cover is provided for the loss of freezer/fridge contents.
· Check your policy to see what the conditions are around your alarm being incapacitated due to load shedding
Thus far, we have had instances where we have experienced stage 6 which means we are out for 4.5 hours, with a 2-hour reprieve till the next outage. If you have the alarm warranty on your policy, you must still activate your alarm, whilst unoccupied, as you would under normal circumstances, even if you are going through scheduled outages. It is important to note that most alarm back up batteries can last for at least 6 hours. Double check whether your backup battery for the alarm is checked regularly and ready to kick in during these times.
If not, it is your responsibility to regularly test the batteries to ensure maximum protection is provided by your system.
· How to minimise damage/loss
In the case of automated garages and gates, ensure that you can access your property safely and keep override keys in a safe yet accessible place. Instead of candles or paraffin lamps invest in solar or battery powered lights. In addition, consider installing surge protectors at your main board but ensure that this is done by a reputable electrician. Surge protector adaptors should also be installed to minimise damage to electronics.
“To keep yourself, your home and your household contents safe, continuously monitor the load shedding schedule in your area to better prepare for the next power outage. Once you are aware of the load shedding schedule, you will then be able to make the necessary arrangements to protect your household appliances and enjoy peace of mind knowing that you are well protected”, concludes Mountjoy.