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Saturday, June 3, 2023

What’s the Difference Between a Blackout & a Brownout?

You might have heard about a blackout and or experienced it, but have you ever experienced a brownout? Maybe you have heard these words before, but you might think of both of them as the same. You’re wrong if you think this!

The summers are more prone to brownouts and blackouts in hotter areas. But do you really know what happens whenever the light goes out? What is brownout and blackout electricity?

This article will be discussing how both blackout and brownout are different from one another.

What Is a Blackout?

Let’s talk about blackout first. A blackout means when the electric service for a specific area totally stops.

It is caused by an unplanned service disturbance that suddenly stops the power supply. Blackout mostly happens when severe weather damages poles and power lines. It can also happen when equipment fails for other reasons.

Blackouts last longer than brownouts because they are the consequence of the damaged equipment, and because of that, it can take hours, minutes, weeks, or days for a power company to repair your power.

What Is a Rolling Blackout?

This term is a more planned process from an energy service provider. They are produced intentionally by electrical utilities and are very similar to intentional brownouts to help for the time being to relieve the overtaxed electrical grid or the strain.

Utilities spread these rolling blackouts across numerous areas for a limited amount of time, and this helps prevent you from larger-scale blackouts, and they are generally announced because they occur for a short time.

What Is a Brownout?

A brownout occurs when the voltage level drops below the usual main supply level. It is very similar to sag, which means a short-term drop in the voltage level.

It can last for minutes, hours, and days. They are caused by increased demand for power or extreme weather situations putting an additional strain on the electricity supply.

Brownouts can be initiated purposely. This happens because the national grid intentionally decreases the voltage to ration electricity supplies and helps avoid a possible blackout.

The signs of brownouts are electrical appliances turning on and off quickly, flickering lights, weak internet connections, and so on.

3 Main Differences between a Blackout & a Brownout

Here’s a closer look what causes and happens in a blackout versus a brownout.

1. Different Causes

Brownouts are usually caused by high electricity demand that is beyond the production capacity of a power grid system. It is a planned measure used by the utilities to prevent the system from a total blackout. It can be caused by many reasons such as severe weather situations, overloads in electrical systems, wrong wiring, etc.

Blackouts are caused by natural disasters, and equipment failure at power supply systems, earthquakes, heavy rainfall, storms, and so on.

2. The Conditions

Brownout is also called a dip or a sag when it lasts for less than a second, is an unintentional or intentional drop in the voltage levels in specific areas causing a dimming of bulbs or switching on and off of the electrical appliances. It is a temporary electrical supply failure of the utilities and the grid systems which affects the specific areas without affecting the other areas.

On the other hand, a brownout is an unintentional disruption of electrical services, a total crash of the power grid system that can last for about hours to days and can go much longer than that as well.  

3. Potential Complications

Blackouts and brownouts both can be unintentional and intentional, but brownouts can literally cause more damage to the sensitive electrical equipment that runs on a particular voltage capacity.

So whenever blackouts occur, just unplug the devices once you start seeing the signs to save your electrical appliances from the harm and dangers of a brownout.

On the other hand, blackouts often come without giving any warning, like brownout, but it is less likely to crash your devices because blackouts just turn them off.

Blackouts vs Brownouts: The Bottom Line

When the consumers start using more electricity than power utilities can supply, they cut down the electricity to save the power for the time when it is required the most.

They do it in two ways: a rolling blackout and a brownout. Blackout is a large-scale interruption of electrical services which lasts for between hours and days and can be even extended for up to weeks.

But basically, brownouts are mostly a protective measure forced to reduce the load in order to help prevent the system from a blackout situation.

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