The Top 10 Causes of Power Outages and What You Can Do About Them

November 19, 2022
Power in Seattle, WA

A power outage can be a major inconvenience. Not only does it leave you in the dark, but it can also disrupt your daily routine and cause lost productivity. While it’s frustrating, power outages sometimes occur for various reasons. There are some things you can do to help minimize their occurrence in your home, although you can’t prevent every outage from happening. This blog post discusses the top 10 causes of power outages, what you can do to prevent them, and how you can be prepared for the outages that inevitably will occur.

1. Severe Weather Conditions

Severe weather conditions, such as high winds, heavy rains, and snowstorms, are among the leading causes of power outages. More than half of all power outages are caused by severe weather. While utility companies work hard to maintain the electrical grid, power lines and poles are susceptible to high winds and heavy snow damage.

In addition, severe weather can also cause damage to homes and businesses, which can lead to secondary power outages. As a result, it is crucial to be prepared for severe weather conditions by having a backup plan in place. Brennan Electric provides power backup solutions for your home, including home generator systems, to ensure continuity of power supply in the event of an outage.

2. Trees and Other Vegetation

Trees and other plants can damage power lines and equipment when they grow into them or when high winds knock them over. Overgrown branches can fall on power lines, causing them to snap or break. In addition, leaves and other debris can clog up the equipment, causing lines to overheat and fail.

As a result, power companies must regularly trim trees and clear vegetation to maintain service. However, even with this preventive maintenance, power outages occur relatively often due to vegetation. To help prevent an outage, regularly trim any overhanging branches around your home and property.

3. Animals

Birds, squirrels, and other small animals can easily climb onto power lines and transformers, causing a short circuit. When this happens, the flow of electricity is disrupted, and the resulting surge can cause damage to equipment or even start a fire. Fortunately, there are steps that utility companies are taking to reduce the risk of animal-related outages.

For example, they install high-voltage breakers that trip when a surge of electricity is detected and put up fences or other barriers to keep animals away from power lines. By taking these precautions, utilities can help to keep the power flowing even when animals are on the prowl.

4. Equipment Failure

Equipment failure can happen when equipment is old or not properly maintained. It can also occur when there is a sudden increase in demand for power, such as during a heat wave. This can cause a ripple effect that takes down other parts of the system. For example, if a transformer blows, it can take out several power lines. As a result, power outages can suddenly occur, leaving people without power for hours or even days.

Utilities must constantly monitor their equipment and take steps to prevent failures. This includes maintaining equipment and upgrading it when necessary. It also includes having backup systems in place so that if one system does fail, another can take its place. In your home, it’s essential to have your equipment checked regularly by a qualified electrician. They can identify any potential issues and fix them before they cause an outage.

5. Power Surges

These are brief but intense spikes in electricity that can damage electrical equipment and appliances. They are most often caused by lightning strikes or faulty wiring. A power outage can occur when a surge protector fails to work correctly or when the electrical grid is overloaded. If you experience a power outage due to a power surge, you should unplug all electronic equipment and appliances until the problem has been resolved.

To help cushion your home from power surges, invest in a surge protector for your electrical equipment. Our electric experts can install highly reliable surge protectors in your home to cushion your equipment from surges and possibly prevent a power outage.

6. Human Error

Electricians and other utility workers can make mistakes while working on power lines or other electrical equipment. They may also accidentally damage a power line while performing routine maintenance. Or an employee might mistakenly overload a circuit breaker, causing it to trip. In some cases, human error can even cause widespread power outages.

From linemen accidentally cutting through power lines to technicians failing to test equipment properly, there are numerous ways that innocent mistakes can lead to sizable outages. The same is true for your home. Brennan Electric advises homeowners to always seek the services of reputable and certified electricians to handle all the electrical wiring tasks in their homes.

7. Theft

Copper wire is a common target for thieves selling it for scrap metal. The problem is that copper wire is an essential part of the electrical grid, and when it is stolen, it can cause widespread power outages. In some cases, the damage caused by thieves can be so extensive that it takes days or weeks to repair. By taking simple precautions, such as keeping track of inventory and securing buildings and equipment, you can help to reduce the incidence of power outages caused by theft.

8. Gridlock

When electricity demand exceeds the available supply, power plants can shut down to prevent damage to their equipment. This can happen during extreme weather conditions when air conditioners are running full blast or when a heat wave causes people to use more electricity than usual. Gridlock can also occur when there is a problem with the electrical grid itself. For example, if a power line is damaged or a transformer malfunctions, it can cause a sudden drop in voltage that can lead to a power outage. Occasionally, gridlock may be caused by a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake.

9. Cyberattacks

If successful, a cyberattack targeting the grid could cause widespread power outages. While the power grid is typically well-protected against such attacks, the increasing sophistication of hackers means that it is only a matter of time before a successful attack occurs. As a result, everyone needs to be aware of the risks posed by cyberattacks and take steps to protect themselves and their systems.

10. Natural Disasters

Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tornadoes, can cause extensive damage to buildings housing critical infrastructure like substations, which help distribute electricity throughout the grid. There isn’t much that individuals can do to protect against natural disasters like these. However, utility companies are working on having more robust facilities that are better able to withstand this level of impact.

Rely on the Experts

While power outages are a fact of life, there are some things you can do to mitigate their risk and effect. By being prepared and following safety guidelines, you can help minimize the impact of power outages on your home and family. At Brennan Electric, we offer the best industry solutions to a power outage in your home, including installing backup generators and surge protectors. Additionally, we offer comprehensive home electrical services, including home electrical inspections, circuit upgrades, light fixture installations, and maintenance and repair in Seattle and the surrounding Puget Sound areas. Contact us today for exceptional electrical services!

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