We’ve gotten so used to the creature comforts of modern living that something like a power outage can truly be irritating and frustrating. In fact, we’ve taken electricity for granted for so long that when it’s suddenly gone, life screeches to a halt.
Our refrigerator and air conditioning system stop cooling and the lights and Wi-Fi become useless. In short, an outage takes away every good thing about technology. So, if you’ve ever wondered why there are power outages, and if there’s anything you can do to prevent them from happening, here’s everything you need to know.
External causes of a power outage
Outages can happen even when there’s no faulty wiring in your home. The following are external causes of a power outage:
Service providers such as electricity retailers typically disconnect utilities due to missed payments. If you forgot to pay your bill, you need to contact the retailer and update your payment so power can be restored. To prevent this from happening again, try to arrange for direct debits or set reminders using your calendar.
If, however, your non-payment stems from some financial difficulties, you can speak to your service provider to work out a reasonable payment scheme. However, if you do not come to an agreement, you can get in touch with the energy ombudsman scheme in your area for dispute resolution.
Large-scale power outages that affect an entire neighbourhood, city or area are called blackouts, and these can happen due to any of the following factors:
- Animals: Electrical equipment is typically rigged with protection against animals or local wildlife. However, birds, rodents, snakes and other animals can still inadvertently get caught in the system, leading to short circuits.
- Bushfires: During bushfires and other fire accidents, electrical supplies are usually cut off for the safety of everyone.
- Earthquakes: Both major and minor earthquakes can seriously damage both power plants and power lines, depending on their depth and location relative to these facilities.
- Excavation work: In places where power lines run underground, any type of digging or excavation activity can disrupt or damage power lines. This can include something as simple as transplanting a bush.
- Lightning: If lightning happens to hit electrical poles, transmission towers and wires, an outage is highly likely.
- Overburdened electrical equipment:Electrical equipment can get overburdened and end up failing when there is an extreme surge in power demand, This is especially true during the summer when more people use their air conditioning systems, thereby causing a spike in electricity requirements.
- Storms: Extreme weather conditions such as storms are among the most common culprits in large-scale blackouts.
- Trees: When it’s windy during a storm, trees can get uprooted or fall, and possibly end up hitting a power line supplying electricity to a certain area. Badly positioned trees can also grow roots that can end up touching and disrupting underground power lines.
- Vehicles: Motor vehicle accidents sometimes involve a driver crashing their vehicle into electrical equipment, leading to a blackout in the affected area.
When there is a blackout, the best you can do is be patient and remain calm. You can also check your provider’s website or their social media page to check for updates on restoration work.
Internal causes of a power outage
There are also factors in your home that can lead to your household losing electricity. These include:
3. Tripped fuse
Fuse boxes have features designed to detect electrical anomalies, and they trip for safety reasons (such as to prevent overheating in the circuit wires). So all you need to do is to flip the switch back on to restore power.
4. Faulty circuit breaker
If you frequently experience power loss or the fuse keeps tripping, you may need to get your circuit breaker checked by a licenced electrician. Circuit breakers work to protect your electrical system by shutting power off during electrical surges or when an anomaly is detected. However, if it keeps tripping, it may need fixing.
5. Overloaded power boards
If you have a lot of electrical appliances and electronics, or if there are too few electrical outlets in your apartment, you may be tempted to use several power boards. However, make sure you use these with caution as they can get overloaded, too. Avoid plugging too many devices into one power board and always unplug devices that are not in use. Don’t string power boards together as well.
So, to avoid situations where there is no power to your home, make sure to follow this advice.
Problems caused by a power outage
As mentioned earlier, life as we know it seems to stop during a power outage. This is because it can cause several problems, including the following:
- All electrical appliances stop functioning. This includes your television, refrigerator, heating and cooling system, microwave oven, lights, computers, sump pump, certain at-home medical equipment, and electronic gadgets.
- Damage to electrical appliances and electronics can occur during power restoration. When power is restored, it usually starts with an electrical surge that can damage electrical parts and electronic micro components. So, make sure to turn off your appliances and unplug all devices during an outage. For your PC, invest in an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that can control shutdowns and regulate fluctuations.
If you want to be well-prepared for an electrical outage, invest in a backup power supply or battery, candles or emergency lighting, a solar-powered backup charger and similar equipment.