What Are Brown-Outs?

Almost everybody knows what a blackout is. When the power shuts off and leaves your home completely in the dark, this is colloquially referred to as a “black-out.” However, it’s not the only type of power outage there is—you could experience what is known as a “brown-out.” While blackouts are certainly annoying and can be bad for your home, brown-outs are particularly problematic and can have a whole variety of further issues, and that makes it important to protect your home from what they can do.

What Is a Brown-Out?

A brown-out is the term for when your home’s electrical demand exceeds the amount of available electrical energy. When this happen, lights will start to dim and flicker, electric-powered appliances and devices may temporarily shut off, and computers may turn off as well, all from a lack of available power. Brown-outs never last long, often disappearing after no more than a second or two. However, they cannot stabilize, your power might go out completely, giving you the dreaded blackout.

But wait, you might say, how can your home’s demand outpace the available amount of power when power plants need to be able to serve hundreds or even thousands of homes? This is true, and it shows an important quality of brown-outs: they typically happen over a wide area and affect multiple homes all at the same time. Homes all rely on transformers, and more often than not brown-outs happen when there is excessive demand on a transformer. In other words, when all of the houses on a particular transformer are demanding more energy than the transformer can supply, brown-outs can occur. If this demand isn’t reduced, the brown-out can turn into a total blackout.

What Causes Brown-Outs?

As we stated previously, brown-outs will typically occur during periods of heavy use and high strain on the public electrical grid. This makes them significantly different from a power surge. Whereas a power surge happens when there is a sudden spike in current and voltage, usually due to a failed regulator or other important piece of infrastructure, brown-outs are what happens when there isn’t enough power to go around.

Brown-outs are a pretty common occurrence almost everywhere, particularly during periods of extremely high electricity consumption. This happens pretty frequently during summer months, particularly on the hottest days of the year. When air conditioning becomes more than just a luxury, the electrical grid can suffer as it struggles to send enough power to keep each of these high-energy appliances running in every home and business. Therefore, summer is easily the most common time to experience a brown-out each year. However, they are also plausible during particularly cold stretches of winter, although overnight consumption means fewer electrical devices running and the prevalence of gas-powered furnaces typically means more power is available for heating.

Damage from Brown-Outs

The damage a power surge can do to your home is well-documented. However, brown-outs are not something you should just ignore as they happen either. Sensitive electronics and components may experience serious or even irreparable damage as a result of electrical brown-outs. These devices are designed to run at a particular voltage level, and any major fluctuations will damage the critical parts that these devices need in order to run. In much the same way, a brown-out (not having enough power) could have the same effect as a surge (a sudden spike of too much power).

Likewise, when brown-outs correct themselves, voltages can fluctuate rather wildly for a few seconds. This fluctuation could cause surges that can also cause damage to your home’s electrical equipment. For this reason, it’s extremely important to make sure your home is protected from brown-outs, and that you have surge protection to make sure you are protected against the after effects of a brown-out period. We strongly recommend a whole-home surge protection system that can prevent any wild swings of excessive voltage from damaging any of your extremely important electronics and equipment. Likewise, we also recommend surge protection power strips for your most sensitive equipment, such as computers, televisions, and more.

Want to keep your home protected from a brown-out? Call Lightning Bug Electric at (404) 471-3847 today.