Power surges

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SULPICIO Lagarde Jr., general manager of Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco), recently announced that the power utility will pay for the reported damage on their air conditioning unit and other appliances worth about P170,000 when these exploded over the weekend.

Ditto for the neighboring establishments which filed the same complaint. They suspected that the incident was due to over voltage of their power supply.

Before these establishments jump for joy over Mr. Lagarde’s pronouncement, they better read the fine print. He qualified the power utility’s generosity – IF it can be proved that the damage is traceable to Ceneco’s distribution system.


That’s a big IF. Lagarde invited the complainants to visit the Ceneco office and file their formal complaints. How they can prove their case to the power utility is something else.

Lagarde insisted that the power surge occur when there is a fault on the transformer and when there is a problem on its grounding. Why blame us, blame the thieves who steal the aluminum grounding and sell them to junk shops. Scrap metals are sold in large volumes for the voracious Chinese economy that’s roaring ahead with its high-speed industrialization.

Other sources of power surges include faulty wiring, problems with Ceneco’s equipment, and downed power lines. The system of transformers and lines that brings electricity from a power generator to the outlets in our homes or offices is extraordinarily complex.

Lagarde said the power problem over the weekend was due to the fault in the 69KV Line in Barangay Mansilingan where VMC Rural Electric Service Cooperatives connects its power line to supply electricity to its consumers in northern Negros.

So you see, there’s the escape hatch for Mr. Lagarde’s pronouncement. Make sure you have the right guy who damaged your appliances. Make sure however that they have the right defendant to haul to the coals.
Besides, there is a subtext to the statement. Prove your case beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law, not police blotter reports. Go ahead, file a case in court.

There are, however, technical caveats to consider. Our complainants might like to Google the website “How Surge Protectors Work” for more details.

A common cause of power surges, says the website, is the operation of high-power electrical devices, such as air conditioners and refrigerators. These high-powered pieces of equipment require a lot of energy to switch on and turn off components like compressors and motors.

This switching creates sudden, brief demands for power, which upset the steady voltage flow in the electrical system. They can be severe enough to damage components, immediately or gradually, and they occur regularly in most building’s electrical systems.

In fact, there are dozens of possible points of failure, and many potential errors that can cause an uneven power flow. In today’s system of electricity distribution, power surges are an unavoidable occurrence. Power surges are unavoidable, especially when we consider unpredictable factors such as weather, animals, cars hitting poles, etc.

Today’s computerized appliances and electronics can be damaged or destroyed by over-voltage surges or spikes. This includes computer equipment and peripherals; electronic equipment such as stereos, flat TVs, and VCRs; household appliances including washing machines, refrigerators, microwave ovens, blenders, to name a few.

In other words, before anyone can pin down Ceneco, he has to eliminate the myriad of possibilities for the power surges. I have my own beef on its frequent sudden power outages but perhaps Ceneco can explain to its consumers why this happens.


Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 19, 2014.


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