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13 August 2020King Price

Load-shedding is on the menu again, sending South African consumers scrambling for alternative power supplies – but while it’s worth installing surge protectors to protect your appliances, make sure your generators or back-up power systems are installed professionally to ensure you’re covered by insurance.

Wynand van Vuuren, client experience partner at King Price, says it’s vital that alternative power supplies like generators are installed and certified by accredited electricians. If these devices are installed or used incorrectly, you might not be covered for any damages that may result.

The case for UPS
It’s always a good idea to install surge protectors and UPS (uninterruptable power supply) systems in your house, especially for your most valuable appliances. A UPS allows you to shut your appliances down properly when the power goes off, and protects your big ticket appliances from power surges that often occur when the power comes back on.

“We get a lot of claims for ‘fried’ computer equipment, fridges, TVs and even distribution boards caused by power surges. If you can’t afford a UPS, it’s advisable to manually disconnect your more sensitive appliances from the power supply and reconnect them after the electricity is switched back on,” says Van Vuuren.

It’s also important to check your home contents insurance to see if you’re covered for damage from power surges, says Van Vuuren. In general, consumers should be able to claim these damages directly from their municipality, but this isn’t always viable. If you’re insured for electrical damage due to power surges and dips, you can claim directly from your insurer, who will then claim from the municipality on your behalf.

Doing alternative power supplies right
Apart from keeping your lights on, different power options all have one thing in common: they must comply with safety guidelines, and they must be installed by a professional.

• An inverter changes DC power from a battery into AC power that you can use to operate all kinds of devices. Obviously, it needs a battery pack to be useful. These batteries are either charged by solar or from the grid while the power is on.
• A portable generator is the little generator on wheels that you see people buying in their dozens at Makro and Builders Warehouse over the weekend. They’re relatively cheap and easy to operate, but can’t keep big appliances running. It’s also essential that portable generators are operated in open areas with good air flow, to prevent carbon monoxide build-up, and that fuel is stored safely in an area with adequate ventilation. ‘Portable’ doesn’t mean that it can be moved to a different location during load-shedding. Not only is the generator not covered, but any possible damage caused by the generator won’t be covered either, because it’s not properly installed
• Stationary generators are usually slightly bigger units that are installed permanently, and switch on automatically when the power goes off. They’re more expensive, but have greater capacity.

“Whether you’re using a generator or an inverter, make sure they power your electric fence, gate and alarm as well, as burglars are all too quick to exploit opportunities caused by power outages. If you don’t have an alternative power supply, make sure your fence, gate and alarm have a battery back-up,” says Van Vuuren.

“And make sure your generator’s insured as well, in case it’s stolen or struck by lightning. You would typically insure a portable generator under your home contents. A stationary (standby) generator becomes a fixed fitting once installed, and must therefore be added to your buildings cover.”

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