Blackout fried their electronics, PNM customers say - Albuquerque Journal

Blackout fried their electronics, PNM customers say

Several home supply stores in the Albuquerque area on Tuesday reported brisk sales of evaporative cooler thermostat/controllers and motors, with customers attributing the need to replace burned out components to Sunday night’s lightning strike, power surge and blackout.

Public Service Company of New Mexico said Monday it was unaware of any damage to businesses or residences as a result of the power surge at a substation at Ouray and Unser NW, which tripped circuit breakers and caused seemingly random electrical failures from Los Lunas to Santa Fe.

PNM said the system performed exactly as it was designed to do and shut itself down to minimize damage to customers or to the electrical grid.

The power surge apparently did affect some PNM customers.

Area resident Jesse Sollien told the Journal in an email that “when the surge hit my house, my thermostat made a loud buzzing sound and burned all the plastic and rubber inside.” Smoke could be seen rising from the thermostat, and his swamp cooler motor “was also fried,” he said. Replacing the controller and the motor set him back $150, “plus my time.”

A plumbing department sales associate at the Home Depot store on Renaissance NE said he sold 20 cooler controllers on Tuesday alone. “At this time of year we wouldn’t sell that many in a week,” he said. The store’s remaining stock of about 25 likely will be sold in the next day or two. Customers told him the controllers went bad following the power failure, he said.

At the Home Depot store on Coors Bypass, near Cottonwood Mall, a plumbing associate said that sales of cooler controllers and motors was up by as much as 20 percent on Tuesday. Customers also cited the power surge as the source of the damage.

Sales of controllers and motors more than tripled since Monday at Samon’s Electric & Plumbing Supply on Southern Boulevard in Rio Rancho. Sales associate Richard Jackson said some customers told him that the power surge also caused the electrical cords inside the evaporative coolers to burn, he said.

Digital thermostat/controllers cost from $40 to $50 to replace, while swamp cooler motors range from $65 to $150, depending on where they are purchased and their horsepower.

PNM spokeswoman Karen Scott said Tuesday that fewer than 10 customers called the utility company asking about damage reimbursements. She did not have information on what specifically had been damaged or if those customers were residential or commercial. In any event, they will not be reimbursed.

“There is a New Mexico statute the exempts PNM from damages when it’s caused by something out of our control, like wind, hail, fire or lightning – what some people might call acts of God,” she said.

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