Power to the People? Not Always

March 28, 2014

By Rory J. Thompson - Web Editor

Power outages are a major pain for everyone. If you’re in an office, everything comes to a grinding halt as people just look at each other, not sure what to do.

At home after an outage you first check the circuit breaker, then call a neighbor to see if they’re out, too. If the power goes out when you’re on the road, watching drivers try to negotiate intersections without a working traffic signal is always … “interesting.”

Yet surprisingly, there is not just one single type of power outage that occurs. According to Samantha Wade, Marketing Coordinator at Minuteman Power Technologies, there are at least five identifiable types of outages.

Writing in her blog, “Newbie’s Nook,” Wade looked at the five types of power outages affecting the modern world and their possible effects.

“Standing as probably the most obvious, a blackout is a complete loss of power,” Wade notes. “It can be caused by downed power lines, open circuit breakers, power plant failures, weather, etc. Blackouts can result in complete data loss, equipment overheating, and even hardware damage.” Yet she goes on to note that while this is one of the more severe types of problems, it’s certainly not the most common, as blackouts only account for about 5 percent of power problems.

“A sag or a surge is simply a short duration change in voltage levels,” Wade says, noting that either is a period of time in which the voltage was at a lower (or higher) than normal level. But “Although sags and surges don’t last for very long they can lead to data errors, equipment overheating, and premature equipment failures.”

Brownouts are the most common type of power problem, accounting for about 88 percent of all power problems. “Similar to a sag/surge, a brownout is an increase or decrease in voltage,” Wade says. However, this change in voltage is more significant (20 percent or more variation from normal voltage) and lasts much longer than a sag or surge.

Next up are spikes and transients, sharp increases in electrical energy as high as 600 volts, lasting up to half a second “While half a second doesn’t seem like a big deal, in the world of power and energy, half a second can be incredibly detrimental,” wade observes. “Spikes/transients can cause data loss and hardware damage.”

Last but not least is line noise, high frequency interference appearing in the AC line. “This can be caused by static transformers, faulty light fixtures and appliances, and can result in corrupted data, peripheral lockups, semiconductor damage, and shortened equipment life spans.”

Despite all these possible concerns, help is available. “Minuteman’s protection and management equipment can not only keep you up and running, but can save your data and precious equipment as well,” Wade writes. “Check out more information on our website and see how Minuteman can help.”

Edited by Alisen Downey

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