5 On Your Side

Power Company Pops for New Appliances Fried by Mystery Surge

Posted February 20, 2007 6:26 p.m. EST

— A TiVo, a computer, a DVD player, a cordless phone and even an oven—Chris Johnson says none of it works. He says they did work before Time Warner repairman came to his house in Fuquay-Varina last month.

Johnson scheduled the visit because his Time Warner phone, cable television, and Internet access had stopped working.

While the repairman worked outside, Johnson was inside.

“I'm sitting on the couch here, reading a book, and this light starts flicking and ‘pop, pop, pop, pop’—and the cable box, which was actually sitting where this new one is that they gave me right now, smoke was coming out of that one and smoke was coming out of the TV” Johnson said.

Johnson went outside and got the repairman.

“He pulled out the cable box, and he looks at it and you can smell the smoke where it's fried. And he plugged it in again and he said, ‘It's fried. It's not gonna work’” Johnson said.

Johnson said his electronics didn't work either.

A supervisor came out. So did an electrician, who said there was nothing electrically wrong with Johnson's home.

Johnson has a surge protector on his electric meter, so he called Progress Energy. He says a representative told him that because of the protector, the surge didn't come through the meter.

TWC replaced its grounding wire and the cable box.

Johnson claims the company offered to reimburse him for the electronics and even told him to check prices. When he followed up, however, he was told the company wasn’t responsible.

“I said, ‘I'm not trying to get rich. I just want to get back to living the way I lived,’” he said.

So, 5 On Your Side called Time Warner and Progress Energy.

Time Warner spokesman Brad Phillips tells us he "cannot find any cable-related activity that caused Mr. Johnson's electrical problems."

Progress Energy said that since the company couldn't rule itself out and knows Johnson is not to blame, they would replace his damaged electronics. Progress Energy sent Johnson a check for more than $1,700

After all this, Johnson bought wall-mounted surge protectors from Progress Energy. That way, if a future surge comes through either an outlet or the cable line, his gear will be protected.

After our calls, the power company went back to Johnson's house and found a potential surge problem with Time Warner's new grounding cable. Time Warner promised to check it.

The bottom line, this incident shows the importance of having several layers of surge protection.