What Causes Power Outages?

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From statewide power outages to the dreaded dimming lights around the home, power outages can be caused by a number of different factors. Let’s take a look at some of the most common, and what steps you should take to avoid damage to yourself and property.

Faulty circuit breakers

Circuit breakers have an important job to do. They are switches inside your electrical cabinet that trip when there is a system overload, shutting off power and preventing damage to your house (and the people that live inside it). A faulty breaker, however, can potentially do the opposite. If your home loses power often, or if the breaker cuts off electricity to the entire home instead of just the circuit it is on, then you should get an electrician to take a look as soon as possible. Call us on 1800 752 846 to book an electrical safety check on your home!

Related: What to do when a circuit breaker trips.

Overloaded power boards

The number one sign of an overloaded power board is that your breaker trips frequently. Overloaded power boards are common in apartments and homes where there are lots of electrical appliances plugged into the the boards. Unplug devices that aren’t in use and resist the urge to stack power boards on top of each other. The last thing you want is housefire by an iPhone or Samsung!

Related: Learn how to avoid an overload in your powerpoints.

Electrical storms

In September of 2016 we were all reminded that mother nature is still a force to be reckoned with when freak electrical storms shut down almost the entire state of South Australia. Large storms, cyclones, hurricanes and other heavy weather can knock out power poles, damage substations and generally wreak havoc with the electrical grid.

Related: Staying safe before, during, and after a storm.

Flooding and bushfires

Electrical storms aren’t the only weather events that can cause power outages. Flooding can damage electrical infrastructure and make it difficult for repair crews to access the affected area, while bushfires remain an omnipresent threat to Australia’s power grid. In 2007 around 200,000 people across the state of Victoria were without power after bushfires led to the tripping of the major transmission line between Victoria and New South Wales. When a state of emergency is declared, power can also be intentionally cut off as a safety measure.

Related: Getting your electricity back on after flooding.

Wildlife

Unfortunate fauna can find itself the cause of power outages when coming into contact with transmission wires and other electrical equipment. In 2012 a six foot copperhead snake caused power loss for almost 7,000 people in Gadsden, Alabama when it slithered its way into a substation. The outage was short lived, as techs were able to restore power within a few hours.

Types of power outages

Brownouts

A ‘brownout’ occurs when the supply of electricity temporarily drops in voltage. Brownouts are sometimes intentional, used by technicians to avoid overloading. Unintentional brownouts occur when there is a voltage dip (sometimes referred to as voltage sag) caused by a short circuit or overload. A brownout is usually identified by the dimming of lights in the homes along the street.

Blackouts

Blackouts are essentially complete power loss within a defined area. Blackouts usually last minutes or hours, but can continue for weeks if the root cause is not identified or can’t be solved. A prolonged blackout can leave residents in a community without access to power and cause significant disruption to businesses and public services.

A permanent fault

Usually caused by a fault on the power line, a permanent fault is when there is a massive loss of power to the serviced area. Despite the name, permanent faults aren’t that permanent, and power is usually restored once the line fault is cleared.

What was the biggest power outage in history?

The biggest recorded electrical outage didn’t occur that long ago. We only have to look back to the 31st of July 2012 where upwards of 700 million people across India were without power. 20 of the country’s 28 states were affected as providers struggled to meet growing demand.

What should I do if there is a power outage?

It pays to be aware of your environment and why a power outage might have occurred. In the case of a bush fire or state of emergency, your personal safety is more important than re-establishing the power connection. The first thing you should do is identify if the power outage is local to your residence or place of business. If a blackout is affecting the neighbourhood, there’s not much you can do except break out the candles and a deck of Uno and wait for the professionals to take care of it.
If, however, the fault seems confined to your home, or it’s a repeated problem, you should consider calling a professional electrician to diagnose the issue. Faulty circuit breakers and other local issues can be potentially disastrous, so get in touch with Platinum Electricians and talk to one of our friendly, capable team.