Does homeowners insurance cover power surges?

Homeowners insurance may cover damage caused by power surges, but it all depends on the type of coverage you have and what caused the surge.

Kara McGinley

By

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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Whether your homeowners insurance covers your laptop or TV if it gets fried by a power surge all depends on the cause. If the damage was caused by a covered peril, like lightning, you’ll likely be reimbursed for the loss. But your insurer probably won’t cover power surge damage caused by an overloaded circuit or exposed wiring. For that extra protection for your appliances and electronics, you might want to add equipment breakdown coverage to your policy.

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What is a power surge?

Just like the name implies, a power surge is quite literally a surge in electrical power. It’s a sudden spike in voltage in your home’s electrical system that significantly exceeds the standard flow of electricity. Power surges can damage appliances and electronics that are plugged into your walls, and can sometimes damage your outlets or cause electrical fires.

There are a few common ways that power surges can happen:

  • Lighting strikes

  • A malfunction in a nearby transmission line

  • Maintenance work or power grid switching done by your electrical company

  • An appliance blows a fuse, like a high-powered AC unit or hair dryer

  • Faulty or old electrical wiring in your home

When does homeowners insurance cover power surge damage?

Whether or not your homeowners policy covers power surge damage depends on what actually caused it. Below are two instances when you may be covered.

Lightning

Home insurance covers your home, other structures on your property, and your personal belongings against lightning strikes. And if the lightning and power surge result in a fire, you’d be covered for that, too. 

Here’s an example

Say your house is struck by lightning, and it causes a power surge that fries your TVs and computer. Your homeowners insurance may help pay to replace your damaged belongings up to your personal property coverage limit. If you’re covered, your reimbursement amount will depend on whether you have a replacement cost policy or an actual cash value policy

If you have a replacement cost policy that covers power surge damage, your insurer will reimburse you for new items — up to your policy’s limits. But if you have an actual cash value policy, you will only be reimbursed for the depreciated value of your belongings.

Artificially generated surges

Homeowners insurance may cover artificially generated electrical currents, which is insurance speak for “a man-made power surge.” 

Here’s an example.

Say your electrical company caused a power surge during maintenance work to your home, and that damages your belongings. That may be considered an artificially generated electrical current, which your insurer may cover.

However, many insurers do not cover the loss of tubes, transistors, and other components that make electronics work if they were to be damaged by an artificially generated current. This would exclude most home appliances, like refrigerators and stoves from coverage. You may want to consider adding equipment breakdown coverage to your policy for that added protection. 

Homeowners insurance may also cover …

  • Short circuit damage

  • Damage resulting from a power surge, like a fire or explosion

What is equipment breakdown coverage?

Equipment breakdown coverage is a policy endorsement that offers protection for everything from your TVs to your dishwasher against many causes of loss — like mechanical breakdown, power surges, and short circuits — that may not be covered by your standard policy.

Equipment breakdown coverage also protects your appliances that are damaged by:

  • Improper installation

  • Mechanical breakdown, including rupture or bursting that’s caused by a centrifugal force

  • Pressure systems breakdown

→ Learn more about equipment breakdown coverage

When does homeowners insurance not cover power surge damage?

There are a few instances where your homeowners insurance company may not cover damage caused by a power surge, including when …

  • The power surge occurred due to general negligence

  • Your home has been vacant for over 60 days

  • The power surge occurred due to maintenance issues

  • The power surge was the result of electrical work away from your home, like if an electrical company was making repairs to the neighborhood’s electrical system

As we mentioned before, some insurance companies will not cover artificially generated electrical damage to tubes, transistors, or electronics that are part of appliances or fixtures in your home.

How to prevent power surges

There are proactive steps you can take to protect your home from power surges by installing various degrees of surge protection devices. Here are a few things you can do: 

  • Install point-of-use surge protection devices (SPDs). While SPDs won’t suppress or stop a power surge completely, they can divert the electrical surge to the ground — preventing your appliances from getting fried. 

  • Periodically check your plugs and your home’s wiring. It’s a good idea to keep your eye on your plugs to make sure you aren’t overloading your home’s electrical system.  

  • Install surge protected outlets and replace your surge protectors every few years. This is a good way to keep your home protected from potential power surges. 

  • Install a lightning protection system in your house. This is especially important if you live in an area that experiences extreme weather, like Florida or Louisiana.