Tips to maximise and safeguard your mobile devices during heightened load shedding

One of the many consequences of load shedding is power surges that cause irreparable damage to electronic circuits in phones Photo: EPA/HARISH TYAGI

One of the many consequences of load shedding is power surges that cause irreparable damage to electronic circuits in phones Photo: EPA/HARISH TYAGI

Published Aug 18, 2023


One of the many consequences of load shedding is power surges that cause irreparable damage electronic circuits in phones, appliances, and other tech equipment. Avoiding these losses, which some research shows are impacting nearly three out of every four South Africans, means taking basic precautions to safeguard the tech that is central to our everyday lives.

With several different levels of power cuts now being imposed daily, the danger of damage to smartphones, routers, modems, desktop computers, monitors, and domestic appliances has increased as people lose track of scheduled power cuts.

Damage to equipment happens when power is restored after load shedding. A sudden current jump can occur as the electricity returns, resulting in a power surge. This upward spike can last for less than a second. Unfortunately, this is all it takes to damage or destroy the circuits of any electronic equipment plugged into a wall socket. If an appliance can't handle the heat produced by a power overload, it can be damaged or completely ruined.

Here are some simple, easy tips to protect your smartphone, tablet, laptop and other electronic links to the outside world:

  • Disconnect your appliances. A power surge can't damage electronics if a device isn't plugged in. Appliances in standby mode still consume power, so unplugging them can also reduce your power bill.
  • Invest in surge protectors. Surge protectors can be fitted to distribution boards by an electrician or can be bought as plug adaptors. They work by diverting power spikes into a grounding wire, taking a surge away from the equipment.
  • Fit uninterruptible power supply (UPS) devices. Connecting your phone and other vital equipment to a UPS, which isolates devices and provides surge filtering, safeguards your equipment and allows you to keep working during load-shedding.
  • Use surge-protection power strips. Power strips that have built-in surge protectors are affordable and offer the advantage of protecting several devices. These strips contain fuses that fail if a power spike occurs. As the fuse fails it prevents the extra voltage from flowing through to the devices attached.
  • Use an alternate charging source. It's worth using a power bank to keep smartphones safe during a power outage. Using a bank means that potential exposure to a damaging surge is eliminated.
  • Power outlets should not be overloaded. Having a phone charging alongside a computer, laptop, widescreen TV, router or modem on the same outlet is not a good idea. These devices use a lot of electricity and also have sensitive circuit boards. A spike could destroy them all.

Besides impacting lifestyles and putting users’ phones and devices at risk, load shedding has had a significant impact on MTN SA. We’re faced with several challenges to ensure our customers stay connected.

Our present priority is to reduce the frustration caused to customers by power cuts. Investments are being made in solar power, batteries, generators, and enhancing security features at base stations to ensure improved network availability during load shedding when thefts and vandalism occur. We have, to date, spent more than R1.5 billion on accelerating these network resilience efforts. Long-term, our target is to take most of our sites off the grid.

Overall, we are committed to safeguarding our role as a vital link in the digital economy. This means providing constant and quality connectivity to all South Africans, and we are working non-stop to ensure that the effects of load shedding are minimised while we ramp up our efforts to ensure that our network and connectivity are safeguarded from the worst of the loadshedding crisis.

* Van Heerden is Chief of Customer Services Operations at MTN SA