You wake up one morning this summer, and your home feels a little warmer than average even though your AC has been running all night. You shuffle to the kitchen, turn on the lights, and they immediately begin to flicker. You take note of these oddities, but you continue with your morning routine as always. You adjust the setting on the thermostat, hoping that it just needs to be woken up. After that, you plug in the vacuum, turn it on, and that’s when it happens: the first of many electrical failures of the season.
Our Cleveland summers mean electrical failures for several reasons, but some of them are avoidable.
Some Summertime Electrical Failures
Power Outages from Overloading
With the heat and humidity we get during our Midwest summer, we put our air conditioners to good use. Of course, air conditioning units draw a lot of energy.
The energy they need comes from power plants, of which there are far fewer than the homes and buildings that need them. Besides there being a limit on energy conversion, it has to run through transmission lines which have a limited capacity. And when the weather gets hotter, their capacity decreases, worsened by the fact that the power it’s carrying also heats up the line.
As the conductor in the line expands, the whole line begins to sag. At the same time, the transformer overheats and drops in efficiency. If the line drops too low, it gets a short circuit and loses the ability to carry the electricity. The other lines try to take the load, but that also overloads them, resulting in the same thing.
And as the amount of electricity they’re carrying builds, so does the amount of power they lose. The voltage drops and the energy to our homes dips, sometimes even causing outages.
Power Outages from Storms
With summer heat and sunshine also comes summer storms. These storms bring high winds which can damage electrical wires and disrupt the supply to your home. They also can cause power surges which mean overloading and even potential damage to your appliances.
Summer storms can also result in blackouts which leave homes and buildings without power for hours and even days.
If you notice a downed line outside your home, do not attempt to fix it yourself. Contact your electricity provider, and they’ll send a trained professional to fix the problem.
If you see sparks when you plug something into an outlet, see lights flickering, hear buzzing, or witness circuit breakers tripping, your panel is overloaded. If you are using your air conditioning unit every day on top of the appliances you normally use, you may be drawing more power than your system can handle.
You may notice your electricity cutting in and out when you use some appliances. Maybe you’re using your vacuum, and the power goes out for about 5 seconds or so on that circuit before it kicks back on. Or perhaps it happens when you turn on your window A/C unit.
What’s happening is there’s an issue with the connection at the electrical panel from one of the main lines. Due to the rising temperature outside, electrical loads increase which causes the electrical components to expand and contract.
As far as fixing this problem goes, there’s no DIY solution. You’ll need to contact an experienced, licensed electrician.
How to Lower Your Chances of Summertime Electrical Failures
While there’s nothing we can do during a power outage, we can do our part to keep the chances of an outage happening low. And if you follow these tips, it can also help you keep your utility costs down.
Start with an Inspection
Many electrical failures begin with a warning sign. You may not know how to read those signs, but your electrician can. Begin your summer with an inspection from a licensed electrician like Stack.
Turn Off Appliances
If you’re not using an appliance, turn them off. Not only does this save on energy costs but it can reduce the stress you’re putting on the electrical system. And if you have the ability to unplug the appliance, like a computer, television, coffee pot, etc., do it.
Minimize Your Use of Air Conditioning
It’s the easiest way to cool down, but cranking your air conditioner can trigger electrical failures. Try closing your blinds or curtains during the day to keep the heat from the sunlight out, and open windows at night to let cool air in. If that’s not enough, turn on a ceiling fan to circulate air and keep your home from feeling too stuffy – they run on much less energy than an air conditioning unit while still leaving you feeling cool.
Invest In a Backup Generator
Because the chance of electrical failures happening is so high during the summer months, it’s a good idea to look into purchasing a backup generator. There is a wide variety to choose from, from smaller portable generators to whole-house ones. You can cover just the essentials like lights and major appliances, or you can invest in a whole-house one that will add value to your home.
Upgrade Your Electrical Panel
If you’re experiencing electrical overloads from running your AC and appliances too often, it’s time to consider a panel upgrade. You can contact a licensed electrician like Stack for an analysis of the system so you have a better idea of what you’ll need.
Chances are you’ll still experience some electrical failures this year. But if you follow these tips, you’ll be able to cut down on your chances of triggering them and putting your family in the dark.
Start with having an experienced, licensed contractor inspect your electrical panel. Give Stack Heating, Cooling, & Electric a call, and we’ll help you start your summer off right.