There has been a lot of news about the state of the grid lately. In Texas, there was a major blackout due to an unusual deep freeze. California and the Pacific Northwest had some major wildfires that knocked out electricity. And hurricane season on the East Coast seems to get worse all the time with millions without power.
Then there are brownouts that occur with greater frequency than ever before. Many people are going with solar panels to be prepared for both scenarios. Whether you are doing a DIY off-grid solar system or looking for a good way to have a backup to keep the lights on, it is a good idea to be ready.
In this article, we will go over the difference between a brownout and a blackout and what you can do to be prepared for either scenario.
What is a brownout?
There are times in which an area is experiencing very high energy demand. Periods like a heatwave in a major metropolitan area. With millions of people using air conditioners, there is a surge of demand that the power suppliers have a hard time meeting.
They can only produce so much power and when other areas on the grid are producing just enough to meet their needs, there is not enough to go around. In this case, the power supplier has to make a choice. They can either have the grid go down since it can’t meet demand. Or they can lower the output and allow everybody to keep the lights on.
This is preferable to a blackout but still not a good situation. Those that have their own power supply are the ones that can get through this period unscathed.
What is a blackout?
A blackout is when the grid goes down completely and there is no power either being generated or there is no way to get the power distributed to homes and businesses.
It is almost always an outside event that makes the power go out. It could be faulty power lines or substations, or a storm knocked power out for whatever reason. How it happens, though, is a big factor as to when it will come back on. A storm can cause extensive damage that takes days or even weeks to fix leaving people without any power to live their daily lives.
How to Prepare Blackout and Brownout
Brownouts are almost always announced before they happen. When you know one is coming then unplug many of your sensitive electronics as they can be damaged by the low voltage electricity coming in. Leave only the essentials plugged in like your refrigerator and water heater.
There are devices that are equipped with a brownout reset circuit (BOR) that allows them to reset when the voltage is low. This will keep them from getting damaged. If you live in an area where brownouts are common then look for this designation.
For either a blackout or brownout, have a backup energy supply. You can use solar but make sure that it has a battery so if there is a lack of sunlight you will still have some supply. Otherwise, have a propane generator that can provide the kWh that you need to power the important appliances in your home.