How to Troubleshoot Unexpected Power Surges in Older Commercial Buildings


Power surges can cause major problems in older commercial buildings. As the owner or facilities manager, it's important to understand why surges occur and how to troubleshoot issues when they arise. In this guide, I'll provide an in-depth look at identifying, diagnosing, and resolving power surge problems in aging business properties.

What Causes Power Surges?

There are several potential causes of power surges in commercial spaces:

Weather Events

Storms like lightning strikes and high winds can cause surges by damaging lines and disrupting service. Nearby strikes send energy through the ground that can overload circuits. These weather surges tend to be more common in older buildings with vulnerable wiring.

Grid Equipment Failure

Problems with transformers, substations, and power lines can also create voltage spikes. If a transformer fails or a power line is damaged, it can impact the steadiness of electricity to your building. Older commercial properties may rely more on aging grid infrastructure.

On-Site Electrical Issues

Faulty breakers, wiring problems, inadequate grounding, and poor quality extension cords and power strips can cause surges within your building itself. Outdated electrical systems in old commercial spaces often contribute to these kinds of internal surges.

Heavy Load Equipment

Large motors, HVAC systems, industrial machinery, and appliances with high startup power draw can create dips and swells in voltage as they switch on and off. The antiquated electrical systems of older buildings make them prone to surges from cycling heavy equipment.

Potential Surge Damage

Power surges can damage and destroy sensitive electronic equipment and appliances. Some common issues include:

Signs of Power Surges

Be on the lookout for these common indicators of power surge issues:

Testing for Surges

To help diagnose surge issues, consider using:

Troubleshooting the Source

Once surges are confirmed, systematic troubleshooting helps identify the root cause:

Preventing Future Surges

Once the source is found, solutions can be implemented:

When to Call an Electrician

If surges persist after troubleshooting, it's wise to call in a qualified electrician or power quality specialist. They can do advanced diagnostics like:

Professional assessment is recommended for persistent surges or any situation exceeding your electrical expertise. Targeted solutions can then be applied.


Power surges in aging commercial buildings can be tricky to resolve. Careful troubleshooting matched with preventive electrical upgrades offer the best protection. When in doubt, don't hesitate to enlist the help of a qualified electrician. Following these best practices will help minimize disruptive surge damage and keep your older property's electrical systems running smoothly.