Douglaston appliances fried by electrical surge

TimesLedger Newspapers

A number of Douglaston-area residents said they were shocked to find some of their household electrical appliances had been damaged last week by an apparent electrical surge.

TimesLedger Newspapers cartoonist Tip Sempliner said he noticed the lights in his home start to flicker in the early afternoon Nov. 23, and soon after his security system, backed up by an uninterruptable power supply, started to go off.

“After it all stopped, I went to the grocery store and there were some fire trucks all up and down Bay Street,” he said. “There was one by the Manor Apartments and I asked the fireman, ‘What’s going on?’ and he said, “There’s a power surge, don’t worry about it.’”

A Con Edison spokesman said the company had received reports of flickering lights, but could not confirm any power outages and was still investigating the incident. He said anyone can submit a claim and that every claim is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Sempliner said he returned home and his housekeeper said she smelled something in the house burning.

“A little while later I went to cook dinner, and the stove was fried,” he said, “on the day before Thanksgiving.”

The cartoonist and inventor said he has a double stove, one of which is operated by an electronic dial.

“I looked at the wiring diagram and it turns out this little computer that controls the oven costs $258,” he said. “If you’re supposed to protect yourself against Con Ed, they should publicize it.”

Sempliner said he was directed to contact a Con Ed office in Brooklyn, which told him the company was not responsible for damaged electronics.

“It’s dangerous,” he said. “Instead of frying electronics, you could burn down a house.”

Douglas Manor resident Robert Coddington said Nov. 23’s episode was the first such experience he had had since moving to the neighborhood in 1973.

“Almost everybody in my neighborhood was affected. All the small appliances in the house blew out and I lost my microwave oven,” he said. “I lost a small television set that began smoking.”

Coddington said his lights began flickering as well, and after hearing a couple of “pops” coming from his wall, he learned that his surge protectors had blown out.

“People are now putting surge protectors on the main line to their house. It seems like a reasonable thing to do, but you have to hire an electrician,” he said.

The homeowner said that he, too, was told he was responsible for protecting his household appliances.

“It was one of those things where somebody said, ‘Well, report it to your homeowners insurance,’” he said.

When asked if his homeowner’s insurance covered power surges, Coddington replied, “Not mine, I have a deductible!”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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