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What is a Brownout?

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Summer is here, which means powerful thunderstorms resulting in power outages and blackouts. But do you know what a brownout is? Most people do not, and most people do not know how harmful a brown out can be to their devices. Brownouts are intentional or unintentional sags or slumps in the power. This may seem insignificant, but these sags in power can have detrimental effects on the devices in your home.


Do you know what to do during a brownout? The most important thing you should do is unplug your devices to prevent serious damage.


We all know and dread a blackout. There is no power, sometimes for an extended period of time, often after a big thunderstorm. Almost everyone can recognize what is happening, and should know what to do. But what happens during a brownout? Most people do not even know what a brownout is, let alone what to do during a brownout to protect yourself and your devices.

What is a Brownout?

A brownout is an intentional or unintentional drop, or sag, in voltage in an electrical grid. Brownouts occur, most often, during heavy load times, when too much electricity is demanded, or during severe weather. Electrical providers will reduce the amount of power delivered to each home in order to prevent a full blackout. Therefore, homes will be operating on less power than normal.

First Signs

The first sign of a brownout is flickering lights. Because light bulbs rely on voltage, the decrease in available electricity will affect the brightness of lights. In fact, the term brownout came from the brownish, dim color that lights emit during a brownout. Other signs of a brown out include rapid switching on and off of appliances and interrupted Internet connection. When you are in a brown out, the best thing you can do is just wait it out. Chances are, your electricity provider intentionally caused this brownout and they are aware of the situation, so calling your provider is not necessary. If the brownout continues for longer than a few hours, it is important to call your provider to ensure they caused the brownout intentionally.

Danger from Your Devices

Now, a brownout might just seem like a necessary inconvenience, but there is real danger from brownouts for your devices. The reduced and varying levels of power can ruin appliances and devices, especially computers and TVs. When power levels change dramatically, certain devices are unable to handle the shift and may be ruined. A computer, for example, cannot regulate the amount of power it receives, and therefore, may be ruined or severely malfunction when power decreases then suddenly spikes back up to a high level.

Brownouts can last anywhere from seconds to hours, so it is always best to be prepared. The best way to shorten the length of a brownout is to reduce your personal consumption of power. Intentional brownouts happen because the demand for power is too high, so the best way to stop the brownout is to reduce power consumption, therefore reducing the demand for power.

Here are some tips for what to do during a brownout, so you are prepared the next time your power lags:


Unplug all devices

It is crucial that when the lights start to flicker you unplug your devices, including TVs, computers, printers, cellphones that are charging, and whatever else you may have plugged in. This will protect your devices from the surge of power after the brownout, and this will reduce the amount of power you are consuming, which ultimately will shorten the length of the brownout.


Install power strips

Power strips and surge protectors may help to reduce the strength of the power surge. This will protect your devices when the power is fully restored.


Install a whole-home surge protector

Surge protectors are your best defense against brownouts. A whole-home surge protector will protect your entire home from the power surge after a brownout. If you are out of town and there is a brownout, you will not have to worry about your devices because the surge protector will prevent damage and malfunction.


Turn off devices During a brown out

Turn off all the devices in your home that use power during a brownout, including lights, washers, dryers, microwaves, dishwashers, and ovens. Reduce your power consumption as much as possible to shorten the length of the brownout.


Always be prepared for a blackout

Although a brownout ideally prevents a blackout, it is possible that a brownout can turn into a blackout. Always keep your home stocked  with flashlights, batteries, and non-perishable food in the event of an extended power outage. If the power goes out completely, use your mobile device to report the blackout to your electrical provider.


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