Brownouts vs Blackouts: Preparing with Emergency Solar Power
Blackouts, brownouts, power disruptions, power failures, power outages, dimouts, grid interruptions...whatever you call them, power failures are annoying, inconvenient, and downright dangerous. And they are happening more often in more places lasting more time than ever before. The only thing worse than a blackout or brownout is being caught off-guard by one.
Thankfully, there is a power source that is far more reliable than the grid. Solar energy! Now, you might think that solar power is expensive, or complicated. You might even think it’s overkill. But when the grid goes down, you’ll be glad you had some form of solar energy to keep your appliances going when the lights go out. You don’t need that much, either.
A solar generator and portable solar panels can mean the difference between sitting in the cold and dark and enjoying a hot meal with the lights on during the next winter storm. It’s affordable, it’s flexible, and it’s easy. Plus there are other handy solar devices to make your next emergency safer and more comfortable.
If you don't know much about solar but would like to find out, check out our emergency solar power FAQ, our emergency preparedness learning center, or download our Emergency Solar Power 101 guide to become an expert in keeping the lights on when the grid goes down.
Brownouts vs blackouts
Both brownouts and blackouts mean a power disruption, but they are different. A power blackout is a complete loss of power, while a brownout is a partial loss of power so you'll still receive some power but only at a very low voltage.
What are brownouts?
A brownout is a partial voltage reduction intentionally put into place by utility companies to prevent a total blackout. Brownout conditions include flickering lights, electrical appliances turning on and off repeatedly, and a spotty internet connection. It’s not advised but you can keep your electrical appliances running because a sudden power surge can damage your sensitive electronic equipment.
Brownouts are usually caused by periods of high electricity demand, such as the demand we see during winter when more people start using their heaters or a summer heatwave when everyone cranks their air conditioner up to 11.
Brownouts are particularly damaging to sensitive electronics like computers and smart TVs, as well as causing the electronic motors found in air conditioners, fans, dryers, fridges, and freezers to become a fire hazard.
What are blackouts?
Whereas your local utility company might plan a brownout to avoid total power outages when peak power demands or natural disasters require it, your run-of-the-mill blackouts are unplanned and lead to a complete loss of power that could last indefinitely. Blackouts are usually caused by an unplanned and uncontrollable situation, which is why there's no way of knowing when the power will be restored.
Blackouts can be caused by things like storms, lightning strikes, damaged power lines or transformers, ice build-up on power lines, or a sudden rise in usage that places too much pressure on the power grid.
We should also mention rolling blackouts, which are planned outages. Unlike blackouts that last for an indefinite amount of time, rolling blackouts rarely last more than a few hours. During a rolling blackout, your local utility will purposefully but temporarily cut the power to ease the pressure on the grid. They'll usually warn customers so that they can prepare.
Brownouts vs blackouts: What to do
When you experience a brownout or a blackout, stay calm and make sure you take the necessary steps to protect your home and your family. This includes:
- Unplugging your electronic devices, including TVs, microwaves, fridges, and computers. The sudden spikes in power or low voltage can damage the sensors and motors.
- Sign up for alerts. Your utility company may have an emergency alert system that will let you know once power levels have normalized and power is restored.
- Avoid using your phone. Your phone may or not work during an outage, but it won't last very long if you can't charge it. You may need it during an emergency. It's a good idea to buy a portable power station so that you always have a fully charged phone on hand.
- Use flashlights: Flashlights are always handy to have around and far safer than flammable candles. Make sure you have spare batteries nearby.
- Keep your fridge closed. Depending on how long the power outage lasts, you may lose all the food in your fridge. Eat perishables first and keep your fridge closed as long as possible to preserve everything inside.
- Stay away from power lines. If power outages were caused by a bad storm, there might be fallen trees, tree branches, or downed lines outside. Stay inside and avoid power lines that have been damaged by debris.
- Do not run your gas generator inside. A generator is a great way to keep your essential devices going during a power failure, but they use gas to run, which produces deadly carbon monoxide. If possible, opt for a solar generator that doesn't emit toxins or fumes if you need power indoors.
Brownouts vs blackouts: Preparing with emergency solar power
Brownouts and blackouts can happen at any time and with climate change they happen far more frequently. According to CNN, power outages have gone up by 64% in the last ten years, led by states like Texas, Michigan, and California. These outages are more than just an inconvenience. They can damage your appliances and even increase the risk of house fires.
So why risk it? Portable solar generators provide an uninterruptible power supply that keeps your appliances going. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, safely stored in the generator when you need it most.
They are safe, easy to use, pollutant-free, quiet, and fully rechargeable with solar panels so that you never have to be left without power when a disaster strikes, no matter how long that disaster lasts.
Solar kits: your best all-in-one solution
You can prepare for brownouts and blackouts by buying a camping stove, a battery-powered radio, a portable power bank, surge protectors, and all kinds of camping gadgets. Or, if you really want to minimize the inconvenience and possible damage, you can buy a solar kit so that you can keep generating your own power, independent from the grid.
Emergency solar kits contain everything you need to prepare for brownouts or blackouts, without the exorbitant installation cost you can expect when you hire a solar company. Installing the kit yourself also means you are better able to do the maintenance and diagnose possible problems, which can be a lifesaver during those times where you are cut off from the rest of civilization in an emergency.
With solar generators and panels you can generate and store solar power all day long. Solar kits make it simple and affordable to run your electronics during intentional brownouts and unexpected blackouts alike.
Don't be caught unawares in an emergency. Get in touch with a solar kit expert to find out how you can prepare for the next (inevitable) power failure. Our team at shopsolarkits.com can give you the advice and guidance you need to find a kit that suits your needs and provide a fast and reliable quote so that you can easily shop and compare.
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