“Most homes that were built 30 or 40 years ago feature circuit breakers that weren’t meant to handle a lot of today’s high-tech electronics and appliances such as toaster ovens, electric frying pans, curling irons, window air conditioners or portable electric heaters,” said Mike Bratcher of Bratcher Electric, (734) 722-0037. “If you have a couple of these appliances on the same circuit, the circuit can blow.”

Bratcher said that even if the circuit doesn’t blow, just using one of these appliances will often make your lights dim because it is overloading the circuit.

He said older homes were outfitted with 15 amp circuit breakers, and a few 20 amp breakers for larger appliances like stoves and refrigerators, or furnaces and central air conditioning. But, too often, people are plugging items into a 15 amp circuit that really requires a 20 amp breaker. In addition, the code for homes built 30 or 40 years ago also didn’t include arc fault circuit interrupters in bedrooms, which are designed to eliminate fire hazards and are part of state code in newer homes.

That’s why Bratcher agrees with DTE’s Kaufmann that adding a whole-house surge protector is the first step to safeguarding your appliances and equipment.

“It’s usually less than $500 to have a whole-house surge protector installed, and that’s a small price compared to the cost of replacing a sump pump, air conditioner or big screen TV because they were damaged by a power surge,” he said.