As electronics have become ubiquitous in everyday life, competition has forced down both price and quality, with the result (and an ironic result, I think!) that it’s the ‘no moving parts’ components that are most likely to fail, rather than the physical, mechanical controls. Somehow, I doubt that’s due to recent advances in the engineering of the humble on/off switch. More likely it reflects the fact that the electronic bits and pieces mounted on circuit boards are now so numerous, so varied, and produced in such vast quantities, that there are simply vastly more of them to fail. From our experience, the most common single cause of failure is not dropping the device on the floor, or spilling coffee over it, or an outburst of rage-against-the-machine. No, the most often repeated single cause of failure is, in our view, a surge of voltage or current ; and the most common cause of that is not, as you might guess, lightning strikes, but rather the surges rippling out from, for example, a worn-out pump, or a cheap vacuum cleaner, or the start-up of a desk-top fan, or a number of storage radiators all turning off at exactly the same time.
With three houses (our own and the two holiday lets), each with electronics in almost every room (and, would you believe it, even the chicken house too!) we’re finding that a worrying proportion of our revenue is lost to replacing electronic devices that have stopped working, or have gone haywire. The recent electric storm that frizzled the telecom master socket and killed the solar thermal pumpstation? Well, as the days have gone by, we’ve found more and more things not working. By now, it’s no longer possible to prove that all these were damaged by the same electric storm – or even any ‘insured event’ at all, and as our insurance excess is pretty high, this is just an episode we’re going to have to put down to experience.
So far the losses seem to be:
- BT Master Socket : Free (responsibility of BT – thank heavens)
- Microwave network modem : £60 (or would have been, but as it happens we had a spare)
- Convector heater electronic control module : 3 No, £75 each
- Solar thermal pumpstation – electronic control module : £310
- Positive-pressure whole-house ventilation fan unit – electronic control and heating element : £95
- Portable de-humidifier – electronics, but will probably have to replace entirely : £190
This is just at our own house : fortunately, it seems this time around the two holiday lets seem to have been well outside the zone affected by the power surge. So, yes, it could have been worse. True. But it could also be better.
Power surge protection – at domestic scale, is still quite new in the UK (where the risks are not as great as many places in the world), and the range of products is relatively limited – and expensive. But that’s what we’re now looking into: multi-layered protection : at the consumer unit ; at spur outlets for heaters, ventilation units and such like ; and at sockets for items like TVs, computers, printers and so on. It’s likely to add up to a lot of money – yet still less than just the latest round of replacements.