Power surge damages $1,000 worth of electronics in Monroe County

Power surge damages $1,000 worth of electronics in Monroe County

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Cary Cano says a 32-inch TV and a hair dryer were among the items damaged at her home on December 6 while she was away from home. Cary Cano says a 32-inch TV and a hair dryer were among the items damaged at her home on December 6 while she was away from home.
"I left at 6 o'clock to Knoxville. Came back at ten, went to watch TV, and out of four tv's, three of them broke," Cano said. "I left at 6 o'clock to Knoxville. Came back at ten, went to watch TV, and out of four tv's, three of them broke," Cano said.
6 on Your Side checked with some experts to determine whether a surge or temporary overvoltage in that transformer outside Cano's home could have caused damage to appliances and electronics. They said it's possible, but tough to prove. 6 on Your Side checked with some experts to determine whether a surge or temporary overvoltage in that transformer outside Cano's home could have caused damage to appliances and electronics. They said it's possible, but tough to prove.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

SWEETWATER (WATE) - A surge protector is one piece of standard equipment many people buy when installing an expensive TV or computer.

The devices block any unwanted voltage spikes, but there can still be problems.

A Monroe County woman is speaking out after several of her household appliances and electronics were damaged by what she believes was a surge of electricity from a transformer.

Those big power lines you see throughout East Tennessee hold hundreds of thousands of volts at any given time.

Electrical transformers are used by power companies to get the correct amount of voltage into your house without burning out its wiring.

But a power surge, a spike in the current flowing through the wires to your home, can have big consequences.

However, proving negligence isn't easy.

Cary Cano says a 32-inch TV and a hair dryer were among the items damaged at her home on December 6 while she was away from home.

"I left at 6 o'clock to Knoxville. Came back at ten, went to watch TV, and out of four tv's, three of them broke," Cano said.

Cano called Sweetwater Utilities. She said an inspector came and examined the electrical panel and the meter outside her house.

"After they checked everything in the house, then they came out here and that was the last thing they checked, the transformer," she said.

They also replaced the transformer.

"I could hear them saying the transformer was bad," Cano said.

Not all of the electronics were damaged. She had a few surge protectors, but the estimate was more than a $1,000 loss.

The weather on Dec. 6 was clear; there had been no storm. Still, she believes something interrupted the proper voltage flow to her home.  

"My oven works now because I called our repairman. This is what he told me, this part that goes right here blew it out.  This is a transformer and it's burned," Cano said.

She said the repairman told her a power surge was to blame.

Right after the repairs to the transformer, Cano called an official at Sweetwater Utilities.

"I told him everything that broke because of the power surge. He said they were going to call their insurance company to see if they'll take care of it," she said.

A few weeks ago, Cano received a letter from the utility's insurance company, saying they had investigated the matter.

"It revealed that the Sweetwater utility was not negligent," Cano said.

To gain some understanding of the issue, we went to the utility company and asked to speak with someone in charge, but no one was available and no one responded to email messages.

Cano is convinced she knows what happened.

"It was the transformer, and that equipment belongs to them," she said.

6 on Your Side checked with some experts to determine whether a surge or temporary overvoltage in that transformer outside Cano's home could have caused damage to appliances and electronics.

They said it's possible, but tough to prove.  

The experts said there are so many complicated factors involved in a situation like Cano's, it's not unusual for the insurance company's investigation to have found no negligence on the part of Sweetwater Utilities.

But after the fact, the company offered Cano surge protection insurance for a fee.

A surge device like this would be attached to her meter.

"I could buy insurance for $5.50 a month, which covers all the appliances except for water and heater," said Cano. "I don't know what to tell you, to me I feel like everything I lost was robbed."

Electricians say those whole-house surge protectors are worth the money.

They range in price from $200 to $300 and with the extra cost of installation, they can save you a lot of money if an unexpected power surge hits your home.


If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email ddare@wate.com.

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