Harris Marley
Harris Marley

Global Courant
Picture: IOL

South Africans are feeling the impact of continued load shedding and it extends far further than inconvenience and delays. It hits them, and South African insurers right in the wallet.

According to insurer, Dialdirect, there has been an 80% increase in power surge claims in 2022/2023 when compared to the 3 years prior. This coincides with a 970% GWH (gigawatt hours) increase in load shedding for the same period. 

Most South Africans are still in the dark about whether they’ll be covered for damages caused by power surges.

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According to Anneli Retief, Head of Dialdirect Insurance: “While grid failure was never stipulated as an insured event and has never featured in policy terms and conditions, loadshedding related power surge damage is still a grey area.  Some insurers have capped power surge payouts, some say ‘we’ve got you covered, but at a higher cost’ and some will cover some power surge related damage but not all.  It’s confusing.”

Dialdirect says that the electricity crisis is beyond consumers’ control, and they shouldn’t be penalised for it and has launched a combo deal specifically designed to protect South Africans from power surge related damage and solar system crime which is an emerging trend.  

South Africans can also do their bit to minimise the risk of damage during a power surge, which occurs when the flow of electricity is interrupted and then starts up again, sending electricity back into the system. Power surges can cause instant damage to electrical appliances by melting plastic or metal parts and burning circuits.  

Retief provides these helpful power surge prevention tips:

Have the updated loadshedding schedules on hand so that your family will have enough time to prepare for the power outage. Beware of the surge – surge protectors are more readily available than ever and can be purchased at most retailers and hardware stores. Surge protectors should be installed at three points on the property: at the utilities meter; at the load side of the main service panel and plugged into electrical equipment inside the home. A wide range of plug adaptors are on offer including multi-plugs, two-pin plugs and plugs with a USB portal. Plus, there are even specific plugs for TVs and fridges. Another quick and cost-effective solution is to plug appliances into a power strip/multi-plug with a built-in surge protector.  Disconnect – remember to disconnect electronics and appliances just before scheduled loadshedding times. Power surges usually occur when the power comes back on so ensure you wait until loadshedding has ended to switch them back on again. Ideally switch them on one by one. Consider fire risks – switch off any devices that could cause a fire risk when power is restored. Keep cool – ensure fridges and freezers remain closed to keep them cooler for longer. Illuminate – get a few high-wattage solar powered lights for your garden, and a few LED lights for inside. Light is a crime deterrent. Rechargeable LED lightbulbs are a great cost-effective alternative to smart light bulbs. Also keep a torch or a solar, battery powered light that is charged beforehand in multiple, easily accessible locations around your home. Be sure to also have plenty of spare batteries. Safety first – if you need to manually open and close your gates when you get home, try to have someone come and meet you at your entrance, or arrange for an escort from your security company.   Use padlocks, burglar bars and deadbolts – these provide an extra level of home security that isn’t power-dependent.  Security backup – alarm systems, garage doors and electric gates generally rely on electricity so make sure that these items all have good back-up batteries.  Stay online – staying online and connected to the internet is critical for most of us, so it’s a good idea to invest in a good UPS for your router, modem, access points etc., so you can remain connected throughout loadshedding. Power banks are also a useful option for smaller devices like your phone – an essential tool during a power outage. Data protection – in case you do lose connection, frequently back up to the cloud to ensure you don’t lose important files, documents, photos, etc. Some options to consider are Google Cloud, iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox. Dedicated circuits – a problem in more modern homes is circuit overload, so to prevent that from happening, ensure large appliances have dedicated circuits.  Update – make sure that the wiring in your home has been updated. Many homes are not equipped to handle today’s modern devices and may run the risk of power surges. Signs that your wiring is outdated are frequent blown fuses or tripped circuits – important signs that should not be ignored. 

“The golden rule is to proactively think about all the ways in which things can go wrong and plan thoroughly,” Retief concludes. “It’s also vital to have insurance in place, should catastrophe strike during power outages or as a result of surges.”

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