Brownout vs. Blackout: What's the Difference?


During the summer, nothing is worse than when the air conditioner, and all your electronic devices, suddenly shut down. But, was it caused by a brownout or a blackout? Here are a couple of ways to tell the difference.

Did Your Provider Notify You of a Brief Loss of Power?

If so, chances are you will be experiencing a brownout soon. A brownout is a drop in voltage in an electrical power supply system. When brownouts are deliberate, this means an electric company has decided to account for load reduction in an emergency. The reduction can last for minutes or hours. The term itself refers to the dimming experienced by incandescent lights when the voltage sags.

Are Your Lights Dimming?

Brownouts can also be unintentional. If you notice the lights beginning to dim, you’re experiencing an accidental drop in voltage. Large electrical power draws can cause involuntary brownouts, as can thunderstorms, overloads on the power system, and faulty circuit design.

Did All Your Devices Immediately Turn Off?

If the answer to this question is yes, you are likely experiencing a blackout. A blackout is a complete power loss affecting many users in a large area for an extended period of time. Typically these are unpredictable events that have an unspecified ending, and they are often a result of power stations or industrial facilities experiencing abrupt changes in power.

Is Everyone Using Electricity During This Time?

Blackouts can also occur when many people are using a lot of power all at once. When there is a high demand for energy, and electrical companies fear a total shutdown of the electrical system, they might deliberately shut down the system in various parts of the distribution region. These are called rolling blackouts.

Make sure your home is prepared for a brownout or a blackout. The only way to completely prevent power loss in your home is to look into uninterruptible power supplies. If you need tips on how to get started fortifying your electronic equipment against sudden surges or losses in power, talk to one of our Marietta electricians. We are available for your electrical needs. Contact us at (404) 471-3847 or fill out our online form to request a service today.

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