electronic equipment occur every day and often several times a day. (Dirty power refers to spikes and reductions in power flow –average voltage higher or lower than normal — all described as power hits that can subtly or severely affect electronic components.) Brownouts, power surges, and other aspects of dirty power are more common in the country than in urban areas.
“A lot of times you may not even realize these minor surges are happening, but each one wears on electric motors and other electronic systems,” he says. “And you may see it too. If an electric motor starts and your lights dim a little and then brighten, that is power surge. When you replace a burned-out light bulb that is blackened on the top of the bulb, that is a sign of power surges. If you seem to always be replacing fluorescent light bulbs in the farm shop, that’s due to power surges. Each one of those little hits eats away at the windings of an electric motor and ultimately it wears out the motor.”
Piebiak says placing one surge protector where the main power supply comes into the farmyard helps with power surges coming in on the main line, but recommends for optimum protection it is best to install surge protectors at each breaker panel box. They are not difficult to install, some farmers will install them themselves, but he recommends it may be best to have a qualified electrician do the work.
“Any piece of equipment with an electric motor or an electronic circuit board can benefit from a surge protection device,” he says. “New appliances have printed circuit boards, computers, televisions, and other devices are all susceptible. The average house has $20,000 to $30,000 worth of appliances or equipment that can be affected by power surges, and none of it is covered by an Act of God clause in your insurance.
”It may cost $2,000 or more for a surge protector, but if a pump goes in your water well, that can easily cost $1,000 and if you have a herd of cattle to water how much downtime can you afford?”
And Piebiak points out in many other intensive livestock operations, farmers rely on computers and monitors to feed cattle, maintain air quality, and operate other vital functions. “If you have a computer that goes down because of a power surge, you can have some serious operating issues to deal with,” he says.
McNaughton isn’t convinced that surge protectors will protect them 100 per cent in the event of a major power surge, or another lightning strike, but he figures it is good insurance.
”We have had a water pump that burned out and we’ve had circuit boards fail, and that main alarm system failed last fall and it may be due to surges or it could just be faulty circuit boards,” he says. “We have had some very close calls, and fortunately we were close by at the time and were able to keep everything running.
“I think our greatest risk is from electrical storms during the summer, but when we look at our overall operation, our weakest link is the electrical system, so it makes sense to provide protection to keep it operating.”
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]