CAN POWER OUTAGE DAMAGE WASHING MACHINES?

power outage
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Electric light is not always constant. Power outages are so unpredictable. To say the worst, it occurs just when you don’t expect it the most. For some persons though, this is a daily affair. 

Can a power outage damage your washing machine?

No it can not. Power outage, in itself, cannot damage your washing machine. When the light goes off, the machine loses power and stops working. But no damage is done to the system other than loss of power. 

This does not mean that washing machines cannot suffer damage during an outage. But in this event the problem will be a power surge, and not the outage itself.

Now let’s discuss a little about 

  • What is power outage
  • What is power surge, 
  • how does a power outage differ from power outage, and 
  • How can you protect your washing machine from a power surge?

WHAT IS POWER OUTAGE

CAN POWER OUTAGE DAMAGE WASHING MACHINE

Power outage is the sudden and immediate loss of electric power supply to a house, device or equipment.

In most cases, it is caused by the cessation of electric power from a city’s power source. Another word for it is a blackout.

Power outage can also be replicated when a wall switch is turned off.

Or a cable is pulled from an electric socket.

In all of these different cases, a device, in this case, a washing machine loses electric power.

If the device is powered on, or is in operation, this can result in a SUDDEN STOP, due to power loss.

The key word is SUDDEN STOP. We’ll explain the importance of this in the next subheading.

IS POWER OUTAGE GOOD FOR A WASHING MACHINE?

Is an outage good for all devices and house appliances? No.

Some appliances are built to shut down gradually. They’re like a moving vehicle at high speed. A sudden brake in movement can make it flip over. To stop appliances like this, power is programmed to be lost gradually.

For example:

Computer and mobile phones. When they power on, certain programs, called software are installed, or loaded to make this device function fully. 

When they are powered on, these programs and software are shut down first, before the hardware powers down.

These programs are saved in a temporary and permanent memory. Before going off:

  • These programs will have to be closed first,
  • Any information in these memories will have to be stored
  • Before the hardware itself shuts down.

These 3 steps are all part of the shutdown process that the user notices as: gradual power off.

A sudden loss of power to these devices will disrupt one or more of the above steps. And this might affect the operation of these programs when next they’re turned on.

Assuming we’ve understood why gradual shutdown is good with the above example, let us return to our washing machine discussion.

So, is a power outage good for a washing machine?

Not necessarily.

However unlike computers and mobile phones, washing machines do not load any separate software programs before they can function.

It is true, though, that it has washing settings. But these are not computer programs that are saved in a temporary memory.

So an outage simply disrupts the flow of power, cuts it off. And the machine stops working.

But when the power returns, it simply continues from where it stops. 

Sometimes you might have to manually resume or restart the washing process. But one thing is sure, no harm is done to your washing machine.

There is an event, though, that sometimes occurs during a power outage that should be a concern.

This is: power surge!

WHAT IS POWER SURGE

A power surge is a sudden rise or spike in voltage. 

This is always a threat to all devices plugged into an electric socket. Even those that can withstand the surge.

FACT CHECK

An average 7kg washing machine uses 2000 watts, 200 volts (220 – 240v tolerance) and 10amps current. About 70% of this is used in heating the hot water supply . With this power rating, it will take a surge of well over 240 volts to damage a washing machine. 

At this point, most appliances in the home would have been toasted.
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WHY POWER SURGE IS DANGEROUS

All electronic devices and appliances have a recommended current and voltage rating. 

There is also a set amount of electric power that each device can tolerate. Anything above this point, components begin to go haywire. 

Components such as:

  • Capacitors
  • Resistors
  • Diodes
  • Etc.

The summary is, just as the human body has a limit of stress that it can tolerate, electronic components have a limit of electric current and voltage that they can tolerate.

How does this relate to washing machines? They are electronic devices. And like every appliance, they have a maximum current and voltage it can tolerate.

Uncontrolled spike in this case can damage your machine.

HOW TO PROTECT WASHING MACHINE FROM POWER SURGE

  1. 13A fused plug
  2. Circuit breaker
  3. Surge protector
CAN POWER OUTAGE DAMAGE WASHING MACHINE
13A Fused Plug

13A FUSED PLUG

Washing machine power plugs come with an inbuilt protection: 13 amps fuse.

This is to prevent excess current from passing through to the device circuitry.

The fuse is rated to only allow 13 amps current or less to pass through.

So, when there is a surge and a large amount of current is sent down the washing machine cable.

The fuse blows and the machine is disconnected from power.

WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN A PLUG FUSE BLOWS

The fuse in a washing machine power plug is for protection. When it breaks due to high current, do not apply this functional, but dangerous fixes:

  • Replace blown fuse with one of a higher rating
  • Short the two ends of the fuse with an electric wire

Replacing a fuse is easy. But this also comes with its own dangers. 

Each fuse has a rating, this is the maximum current it can allow before blowing up.

In the event of a blown fuse, do not replace the fuse with one of a higher rating.

If you do, will it work? Yes. Very yes.

But there are consequences. By increasing the rated fuse, you’re increasing its current tolerance. In the event of a power surge in the future, the fuse will hold its own.

It will not break. The large current passes through and your washing machine circuitry takes a beating.

The same applies with manually shorting the connections of a blown fuse with electric wire.

Will this fix the problem? Yes it will. 

But it will create a far bigger problem.

These wires usually have a large, large current rating. Large enough to fry any electronic board. 

If increasing your fuse rating is dangerous to your washing, shorting with wires is even more so.

So 

  • Never replace a washing machine plug fuse with a higher rated fuse.
  • Never short a washing plug with electric wire.

CIRCUIT BREAKER

Just like a fuse, circuit breakers help to protect your circuit from high current and short circuit.

Unlike a fuse, it has a higher capacity and is connected to an entire building’s circuit instead of a cable plug.

It serves the same purpose of disconnecting your circuit from high current.

It is far more reliable than a fuse. Usually you don’t have control of an installed circuit breaker, unless you own your house.

But in the rear event it’s not, you can install one in your apartment. Of course, you’ll need the service of a qualified electrician.

SURGE PROTECTOR

Surge protectors are electronic devices that do what it’s named after, protect an appliance from surge.

These devices are built to switch off once there is a spike and current goes beyond a fixed limit. 

It is similar to having a circuit breaker, except it only works with appliances directly and cannot be connected to a house wiring. 

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POWER OUTAGE AND POWER SURGE

POWER OUTAGEPOWER SURGE
Sudden disappearance of electric powerSudden increase or spike in the current and voltage in a circuit.
Does not harm your washing machineCan damage your washing machine.
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WASHING MACHINE LOCKED AFTER POWER OUTAGE

Does your washer lock after a power outage? Do not worry, this is not a fault. It is a protective mechanism that helps to keep your washer, especially front load washing machines from the door accidentally opening.

When your machine looses power, the door hook stays shut for about 5 minutes (sometimes more), and then it auto-unhooks.

In rear cases though, the door might stay locked far longer, in this case you should consult a technician to help in unhooking it.

While not recommending doing this yourself, so as not to damage your washer door, pushing your door handle, inward and backward simultaneously can also unhook the door latch.

Ultimately, the door unlocks when power is returned to the washing again. and in most cases, the machine simply resumes (or can be resumed) from where it stopped before the outage.

WASHING MACHINE NOT WORKING AFTER POWER CUT

The biggest problems usually have small solutions. If your washing machine does not power on after an outage, try the following:

  • First, verify that there is power in the building or apartment. A tripped circuit breaker can disconnect power to an entire apartment.
  • Check that your machine is not turned off from the wall socket.
  • If it is connected to a GFCI or RCD, ensure that it hasn’t tripped off.
  • If you are good at handling electrical equipment, then check the machine plug fuse. A broken fuse can break current to the washer. This should only be handled by a professional. You should call a technician to do this check instead.
  • If all does not work, you might be dealing with a power surge instead. Do not attempt to fix this, call a technician to verify and handle accordingly. Also remember to remove wet fabrics from the washer in the main time.

Power outage is unpleasant. But it does not mean the death to your washer. While an outage does not damage a washing machine, good appliance etiquette should be applied at all times.

This includes:

  1. Turning off all switches after a blackout.
  2. Protecting a building or apartment with circuit breakers, and
  3. Turning off your washing machine when not in use.

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