Data & Facts About Rolling Blackouts [Safety Tips & Prevention]
You’re going about your daily business when suddenly, everything turns dark, and all your electronics stop working. Power cuts are not new to many electricity consumers. Surges in power demand plus an aging power grid make outages regular occurrences. Still, it’s no fun being left in the dark, and you may wonder what’s happening. There are different reasons why customers like you and me find themselves without electricity. A rolling blackout is one of those.
What Are Rolling Blackouts?
Also called rotating outages, rolling blackouts are temporary power cuts that occur when utility companies turn off electricity in particular areas. Cutting the power supply helps balance the demand and supply of electricity in a service area. Sophisticated computer programs and models are used in selecting the service areas where the outages will take place. The power outages usually last for an hour.
What Causes Rolling Blackouts?
Rotating outages usually happen during periods of peak energy usage. During such times, the electricity supply may not be able to meet the demand. If the demand keeps increasing, the strain on the grid can lead to equipment failure and cause a longer and more widespread blackout. To prevent that from happening, utilities will implement a load reduction by turning off electricity service in one area for a specified period. After restoring the power supply to one service area, the power utility will cut the supply in another area.
Rolling Blackouts: How Long Do They Last?
How long the outage lasts depends on its cause and severity. Your power utility typically restores the electricity in one service area after an hour. However, it can take longer to bring back the supply in some cases. Rest assured that you’ll have an electricity supply once the emergency ends.
You can get the most accurate information regarding these outages by visiting your utility company’s website.
Blackout vs. Brownout
Some customers get confused by the terms blackout and brownout since both are associated with disruptions in the electricity supply. However, there’s a difference between the two.
What is a Brownout?
A brownout is a partial power outage. It occurs when there’s a drop in voltage in a power supply system. The voltage is reduced, but the electricity service is not entirely cut off. Thus, the lights turn a dim brown instead of their usual brilliant yellow, but they stay lit. In fact, that’s where the term got its name. Brownouts are usually short-term, and the utility knows when the supply will be restored to full capacity.
What is a Blackout?
While brownouts refer to partial and temporary reductions in system voltage, blackouts mean a total loss of power in a given area. In most cases, they occur without warning and last for an undetermined period. Increased electricity demand and severe weather are the common causes of blackouts.
Where Do Rolling Blackouts Usually Occur?
Rolling blackouts can happen anywhere, depending on the area’s electricity state. They’re most likely to occur in areas where the grid has trouble coping with the high electricity demand. The lack of power infrastructure to serve highly populated regions makes it necessary for the utility to implement rotating outages to prevent the failure of the grid.
Some homes will experience multiple outages, while others won’t be affected, depending on their location. You can check if your home will lose power using some web tools. In most instances, writing your complete address lets you know if your area will experience an outage.
Areas Exempted From Rolling Blackouts
Utilities determine which circuits in their service area will experience an outage. For safety and humanitarian reasons, they try to avoid certain areas in the power cut. These include hospitals, medical centers, police stations, fire departments, and airports. These are areas where electricity is vital for people’s activities.
Top Safety Tips for a Rolling Blackout
Rotating outages typically occur suddenly. They sometimes don’t last very long, but the power remains out for a relatively long time in some instances. When the lights go dark, there are some tips you can observe for your safety.
- Always listen to local radio and television: You can get more detailed information about the outage from the news.
- Prepare a flashlight: Moving around in the dark can lead to injury, so make sure you have some light source. Flashlights are excellent options. Check that the batteries are fresh or charged to full power even before outages occur.
- Immediately turn off electrical equipment: Unplugging your appliances and devices protects them from power surges that may happen when the power returns.
- Run generator outside your home only: A generator releases carbon monoxide as it operates. Running one inside an enclosed space can lead to a buildup of this toxic gas so operate gen-sets outside your home and at least 20 feet away from open doors and windows.
Preventing Rolling Blackouts: Things You Can Do at Home
Rolling blackouts are starting to become part of our lives. Their impact ranges from minor inconveniences to serious risks to our safety. However, employing some measures can help reduce the energy demand on the grid and possibly lessen the frequency of rotating power cuts.
Set the thermostat temperature accordingly
Air conditioners draw enormous electricity from the grid. The high demand may be too much for the infrastructure to deal with during summer. Setting your thermostat at higher temperatures, especially during peak demand hours, will lessen your cooling unit’s impact on the available energy supply.
Prevent frequent use of large electric appliances
Like AC units, large appliances like dishwashers, clothes washers, and dryers draw plenty of juice from the power grid. Scheduling their operation during periods of low energy demand helps reduce the stress on the grid. Consider drying your clothes on dryer racks to avoid using the clothes dryer, a significant energy user.
Heat escape must be closed
Hot air can leak from small cracks and gaps in your home’s ceiling and walls. During winter, leaking air increases the load of your heating system, which translates into higher energy usage. Thus, closing those gaps and cracks will reduce the demand on the grid. On top of that, you’ll also lower your electricity expenses.
Force warm air into the room
Ceiling fans help circulate cool air into the room. They also keep the warm air down near the floor. This creates a more comfortable temperature in your living space.
Reduce the amount of heat that escapes through the windows
Heat can seep out of your windows. This leads to higher energy consumption. That’s because your heating system strives to maintain the correct temperature inside your home. One of the easiest ways to prevent heat loss is by covering the windows with curtains. The curtains provide an added layer of protection between the cold outdoors and your living space.
What’s the difference between a rolling brownout and a rolling blackout?
The primary distinction lies in what occurs during a brownout and blackout. Brownouts don’t lead to total loss of power. Instead, there’s a reduction of voltage in the electrical system. On the other hand, a rolling blackout refers to a complete power interruption in the utility’s service area.
Why do electric companies do rolling blackouts?
Electricity companies implement rolling blackouts when the electricity demand exceeds the supply. By cutting power in some areas, the utility balances the supply with the demand.
Can a blackout damage a computer?
A sudden loss of power can damage a computer’s hard drive. But the more significant harm can come from power surges that sometimes occur when the current returns. Connect your pc to a UPS battery and provide a surge protector to protect your computer.
What do you do during a rolling blackout?
When power cuts occur, unplug your appliances and electronics. This protects them from power surges when the utility switches on the electricity. Also, keep your freezer and fridge door closed to prevent food spoilage.
Rolling blackouts occur almost anywhere in the country. You may not be able to prevent them from happening but being prepared helps lessen their impact on your life. Have emergency equipment handy and make your home more energy-efficient, so that power cuts will be minor inconveniences at most.