Power Outages, Generators, and Basement Floods

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LeBlanc Heating responds to hundreds of emergency service calls every year, but the past couple of years have been different.  Lately it seems that there have been more problems and certainly a lot more widespread. It also seems every year we are hit with some type of storm that causes the power to go out for days, floods, pipes freezing, electrical surges, etc.

There are some basic things that can be done to avoid major problems. Most of the issues we see from the power going out are caused by electrical surges, or backup generators that are either hooked up wrong or the generator is low quality and the voltage it is making is erratic. Some call it dirty power. A standard residence has 240 volts of electricity coming in which consists of 2 lines (wires). Each line is 120 volts with another line called neutral & a ground wire. Household electrical equipment has a tolerance of plus or minus 10% so the voltage can be around 110 to130. The main problem is when an electrical surge happens, in a split second the voltage could be an excessively high 150 volts or more. The components in electronic equipment will explode, burn up or short out.  Items in your home such as furnace & boiler controls, transformers, gas & oil burner controls, thermostats, garage door openers, security control panels, microwave ovens, computers & motors are examples. The list is long.  I’ve seen it all during the past few storms. Some people have had thousands of dollars in damage from electrical surges or generator mishaps.

So, what can be done? If you don’t have a generator, in the event of a major storm and the power goes out, the basic common-sense thing to do is to turn off and unplug the items of value that are plugged into a wall outlet. Then, if you’re familiar with your electrical circuit breaker panel, you can turn off select circuits so that when the power does come on, if there were to be an in-rush surge, that equipment wouldn’t be affected.  After the power is back on, you would turn everything back to where you had it before.

Homeowners with basic generators (not an automatic whole house). A generator should be exercised or ran a few times every year — not just plugged in and started the few times you need it. Most importantly, it must be warmed up and running stable before the switch is turned on. Then, if you have to turn on breakers, do one at a time with a second or two between each switch.  

Homeowners that have automatic whole house generators. You should have them checked annually and make sure that they have an exercise schedule and to ensure they are working properly.

If you want some added protection and peace of mind, we can add whole house surge suppressors.  This can be mounted at the electrical panel or at a point of use for the piece of equipment. Call me for more information on whole house surge protection

For those of you who tough it out with no generator.  If the weather is cold enough to freeze pipes, it’s a good idea to open faucets and possibly drain the pipes if the house is not going to be heated. If you’re only heating one room with a fireplace, the pipes in the basement or at the other end of house could freeze. If the home is to be vacated, drain the pipes, empty all toilets, and call us at LeBlanc Heating for more specific advice.

My last issue is with floods. I have seen furnaces and boilers completely under water.  If the electricity to this equipment was shut off, there is a good chance that it can be dried up and will start without even replacing a part. Some of these startups were purely miracles.  So, if other contractors advise you that equipment has to be replaced, call us.

If you would like more advice on generators, call us, we can help.

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A.J. LeBlanc Heating Inc

Address: 45 South River Road Bedford, NH 03110


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