Mylar Balloons an Increasing Cause of Power Outages

October 05, 2018

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

As Mylar balloons have increased in popularity as party and celebration decorations, they have also become the cause of many power outages.  The latest incident happened in Mountain View, California, when one of the metallic balloons touched a power line, creating a short in the system.  According to PG&E (News - Alert), repairs took about five hours because crews needed to remove the balloons, replace the damages lines, and put in a new transformer. 

While Mylar balloons are attractive and relatively inexpensive decorations, which also remain inflated for much longer than traditional balloons – in some cases for several weeks – they represent a risk for utility companies and residents because of their metallic coating.  When the balloons come into contact with power lines, an electrical surge is created that blows the circuit and causes an outage.

PG&E says more than 450 Mylar balloon-related outages happened in its service areas in 2017.  A similar incident knocked out power at Dodger Stadium while a game was in progress two months ago.

In addition to being a risk for utilities, random outages like this should serve as warnings for businesses.  Most of these outages are relatively short-lived and impact few customers – in this case, about 450 customers were impacted – every outage brings potential for damage to business equipment that is directly connected to power sources. 

The issue isn’t the immediate loss of business – thought that’s an issue, too – but the concern should be the potential for equipment damage and loss due to power surges.  Unprotected technology can easily suffer catastrophic damages from spikes in voltage, even without an outage and, in today’s connected world, losing technology can be devastating for businesses. 

Ensuring such damages – and resultant downtime – don’t occur can be as simple as a properly sized and installed power protection system.  It’s an expense, but, it’s one that can save frustration, unnecessary expense, and lost revenue opportunities that far exceed its cost.

Edited by Erik Linask