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Understanding Power Surges in Middletown, MD

Trust Provident Electric for Help

Your electrical utility system in Germantown and Middletown, MD, is continually working to ensure that the electrical production matches the demand and that everything is working as intended. Unfortunately, despite their effort, uncontrollable situations such as weather or sudden spikes in demand can cause an interruption in your electrical service. Complications such as that can also occur from a lack of routine maintenance of damaged components. These complications can take the form of blackouts, brownouts, or power surges. Provident Electric is here to help you understand the difference, the causes, and how to handle these situations seamlessly. If you have any additional questions, contact one of our knowledgeable representatives.

Is It a Blackout, Brownout, or Power Surge?

To determine which electrical utility interruption you’re dealing with, it’s best to have some basic information regarding what they are, their similarities and differences, and some common causes. We’ve put together a list of some general information regarding blackouts, brownouts, and power surges. This is designed to help you better identify and understand how to handle these interruptions. The list is organized first to explain the outage, what causes it, how they happen, and more.

What is a Brownout?

A brownout is an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage in a power supply system. They are used intentionally for load reduction in case of an emergency. Contractions can last from minutes to hours. The name brownout comes from the dimming experienced by lighting as the voltage lowers. The reduction may affect or disrupt an electrical grid or may be used to prevent blackouts. Your appliances will react differently as some are more susceptible to drops in voltage than others. Brownouts are more commonly done by energy providers as an emergency measure against the system failing. If the power company performs these, there will usually be a drop in voltage for a short time.

What Causes a Brownout?

The electricity demand is constantly fluctuating, and companies are using their generators, substations, and transformers to ensure a smooth and even production and distribution of electricity. When the demand is bear or above the utility’s maximum production, the company may intentionally throttle the flow of electricity to certain areas. This is to ensure nothing terrible such as a blackout, occurs. During a brownout, you’ll still receive electricity at a lower voltage than average. You’ll be able to notice that lightbulbs dim. The intentional brownouts may last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. While less common, brownouts can occur due to component damage or malfunction.

What to Do During a Brownout?

If you notice a brownout, the first thing to do is to unplug all your devices. This will prevent your appliances from experiencing an inconsistent flow of electricity. Another option is to reduce power consumption quickly and as much as possible. It’s also essential to prepare for the possibility of a blackout and take the steps needed to prepare for that. Using power strips can help protect your devices in the case of a brownout.

What is a Blackout, and What Causes Them?

Unlike a brownout, a blackout is a complete power interruption in each service area. Blackouts come without warning, can last for indeterminate periods, and are usually the result of severe equipment failure or weather. The nature and cause of the blackout help technicians indicate who is affected. Typically rolling blackouts occur with at least some warning, interrupt service for fixed lengths of time, and are produced by utility companies. Rolling blackouts can cope with peak power demands that existing supplies cannot meet. Planned outages and rolling blackouts are scheduled well in advance and used to handle routine maintenance, while traditional blackouts happen randomly.

What To Do During A Blackout?

Like a brownout, during a blackout, one of the first things you should do is unplug your appliances to avoid any possible damage. Power surges are possible during a blackout and could damage or destroy certain electrical appliances. Another thing to do is to avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer doors. Leaving them closed offers you the best chance of avoiding any spoiled food. If you live in an area where blackouts are common, keeping a blackout kit that includes flashlights, water bottles, candles, matches, and playing cards is best. Depending on the circumstances, it may be some time before the power comes back, and it’s best to keep you and your family safe and entertained during the event.

What is a Power Surge?

A power surge is a surge of electrical power higher than usual. On average, the voltage level of household appliances and electronics is anywhere between 110 to 220 volts. During a power surge, significantly more voltage comes through the wires into devices, resulting in reduced performance, damage to appliances, or, in extreme cases, the appliances will break entirely. Power surges happen in three main ways: an interruption in the flow of electricity when an increased delivery of power is interrupted, when electricity is sent back into the system, or when a sudden increase of voltage is sent through a power system from internal or external forces. There are several causes for a power surge, but the main reasons are electrical overload, faulty wiring, lighting strikes, and power restoration following a blackout. There are some signs to help determine if a power surge is coming:

  • Flickering, buzzing, or dimming lights.
  • Frayed wiring.
  • Discoloration or scorching around outlets or wires near outlets.
  • Smoke is coming out of an outlet.
  • Warm or vibrating outlets.
  • Burning or sharp smells near outlets.

What to Do and How To Protect Your Home From Power Surges?

If you find yourself in the middle of a brownout or a blackout, there are a few steps you can take further to protect your home and appliances from power surges. The first and most crucial step when you realize or identify an outage is to go around and unplug all your appliances when not in use. Another step is to utilize surge protection devices, especially when using a reliable grounding system. These devices will help protect your electrical devices and appliances from the most severe power surges. Surge protectors can easily be found at your local hardware store. After a power surge, there are a few things you should do:

  • Reset, unplug, and slowly repower all your electronic devices. We recommend doing this before resetting your circuit breakers following a power outage after the surge.
  • Review and inspect your home for damages by looking at your appliances, electronics, and outlets.
  • Finally, review your HVAC system to see if any damage occurred.

Brownouts, Blackouts, Power Surges: What’s the Difference?

As you can see, brownouts, blackouts, and power surges resulting from an electricity interruption. The main difference between a blackout vs. brownout is that a blackout is a large-scale interruption of service that can happen due to weather or equipment failure. Brownouts are caused by a high demand for electricity nearby or demand above the utility’s production capacity. While blackouts can occur at random, brownouts are typically planned to avoid emergencies like blackouts. With a brownout, you’ll notice a dimming of light bulbs, specific applications won’t function correctly, and with blackouts, you’ll have no access to electricity. What ties these together is the concern and possibility of power surges. Power surges can occur when a blackout is fixed or when the utility company restores full functionality after a brownout. Both brownouts and blackouts can cause damage to your applications, but the genuine concern lies with power surges. They can cause appliances to short-circuit or break completely.

Who To Call During a Blackout vs. Brownout?

After you’ve gone around and ensured all your electronics are safe, the next thing to do is to check with the local Middletown utility to confirm if the brownout is coming from the grid. If it’s coming from the grid, then everything is normal, and you must wait it out. If the power outage is not coming from the grid, the brownout may result from an electrical problem in your home. When that’s the case, call our team of experts to help identify and correct the issue. During a blackout, it’s best to check with the local utility to report the outage and ask about a possible restoration timeline. Unlike a brownout, there isn’t much you can do besides protecting your appliances and keeping yourself entertained, as blackouts don’t have a determined restoration time.

Protect Your Home With Provident Electric

We’ve tried to cover all the essential information regarding blackouts, brownouts, and power surges. With this information, you should be able to keep your home and family safe from power surges and have an excellent plan to handle blackouts and brownouts. Regardless of the outage type, if any damage is done to your wiring or any appliances, contact our experienced technicians. We have the skills to correct the issue while minimizing any inconvenience or disruptions quickly and efficiently to your lifestyle. Contact one of our knowledgeable representatives today if you have any questions regarding blackout vs. brownout or how to better protect your appliances from power surges.