The Difference Between A Blackout And A Brownout

You’re in the middle of having dinner or watching your favourite show on TV when the electrical power supply goes off. What should you do next? Should you reach for the phone and call a 24/7 emergency electrician?

In most cases, a temporary power outage shouldn’t really be too much cause for concern. But what happens when the power outage lasts longer than just a few minutes? Are you experiencing a blackout or a brownout? Believe it or not, they’re not quite the same thing.

Let’s explore the differences between a blackout and a brownout, how they can affect your home and appliances, as well as outline what steps you should immediately take in the unfortunate event of a power outage.


Brownout vs Blackout

A brownout and blackout can often be mistaken as the same thing, however they are slightly different:


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Blackouts typically refer to a large-scale service outage where there’s a total loss of power. Common reasons why blackouts can occur include the following:

  • Trees falling on power lines
  • A peak in power demand which overloads the power grid
  • Damaged transformers
  • Lightning striking power poles, causing a disruption to the electrical flow


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Generally speaking, a brownout is a short-term partial power outage. During a brownout, power is still flowing to homes and businesses, but at a reduced voltage level.

Brownouts often occur when the demand for electricity is high, and in order to prevent a total blackout from occurring (where a rise in demand could overload the grid), utility companies will reduce the flow of electricity by 10-25% to certain areas until demand for electricity decreases.

The main difference between a blackout and a brownout is that utility companies deliberately schedule brownouts and know exactly when they start and finish.

What To Do When The Power Goes Out

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Always remember that safety is paramount during a power outage – so exercise caution around electrical faults. Other things to do immediately after a power outage include:

  • Only call 000 emergency in the event that there is a dangerous or life-threatening emergency that needs urgent attention (e.g. if there are live power lines, or someone has been injured).
  • If you notice fallen power lines, keep yourself and others away from the area and reach out to your electricity company.
  • Report a blackout to your local electrical company and enquire about the restoration of power.
  • Locate the source of the problem to see if the problem is inside your home e.g. a faulty appliance or a broken light bulb that might have blown a fuse. Check trip switches or fuses to determine if your wiring or appliance is at fault. If you’re not sure confident on tackling the above, then perhaps you should call a 24/7 emergency electrician.
  • Turn off and unplug all devices and appliances as soon as you notice a flicker in power. Keep everything unplugged until your electrical power has been restored.

How To Prevent A Blackout Or Brownout

Here are a few small things you can do to prevent power outage situations such as a brownout or blackout from occurring:

  • Reducing household energy consumption by using energy-saving bulbs and using solar power and solar powered devices throughout your home. This will ease the demand on the national power grid and reduce the likelihood of a brownout occurring.
  • Ensuring any large trees are regularly trimmed to prevent them from falling onto power lines.

Being Prepared For A Power Outage

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Taking some precautionary measures in the event of a brownout or blackout can not only prevent damage to your appliances, but also help you to cope with having no electricity in the short term.

A few things you can do to prepare include:

  • Keeping several torches and spare batteries on hand throughout your home.
  • Having some candles and matches available as a backup light source if needed.
  • Installing electrical surge protectors to protect valuable and sensitive devices such as fridges and computers.

Consider getting a backup power generator so you can continue to power your household appliances during a power outage.

Who Should You Call For Help?

Once you’ve confirmed with your utility company that the issue isn’t coming from the power grid, it’s time to call your local 24/7 emergency electrician. Whether you’re looking for help with an emergency breakdown, lighting repairs, safety switch issues or need some help with restoring power to your property, the team at Brisbane Power Electricians are here to help any time, day or night.

For all your emergency electrical repair needs call our emergency electricians anytime 24/7 on 1300 032 003 for an obligation free quote.

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