Understanding Power Surges and Blinks

Llightning and Powerlines, Photo by Pat Gaines

Have you noticed your lights blink during a storm? Perhaps you’ve noticed a blinking microwave clock when you arrive home.

When this happens, you’ve likely experienced a brief disruption to your electric service, which could result from a power surge or blink. While the symptoms of surges and blinks can appear similar, what’s happening behind the scenes can be quite different.

What’s a power surge?

Power surges are brief overvoltage spikes or disturbances of a power waveform that can damage, degrade or destroy electronic equipment within your home or business. Most electronics are designed to handle small variations in voltage. However, power surges can reach amplitudes of tens of thousands of volts—this can be extremely damaging to your electronic equipment.

Surges can be caused by internal sources, such as HVAC systems with variable frequency drives, or external sources, including lightning and damage to power lines and transformers.

Benton REA encourages members to install surge protector power strips to safeguard sensitive electronics. If you experience frequent surges in your home or business and you believe the cause is internal, contact a qualified electrician to inspect your electrical system.

What’s a power blink?

Power blinks are also brief service interruptions, but they’re typically caused by a fault—short circuit—on a power line or a protective device that’s working in reaction to the fault. Faults can occur from a variety of causes, like squirrels, birds or other small animals contacting an energized power line; tree branches touching a power line; or lightning and other similar events. Small animals were responsible for 70 Benton REA outages in 2020 and this year they already caused 74 outages, as of November 1, 2021.

Any of the events noted above can cause your power to blink, but you may also experience a brief interruption when protective devices that act like circuit breakers are working to detect the fault. These brief power blinks caused by protective devices are actually good because that means the equipment is working as it should to prevent a prolonged outage.

Regardless of the cause, Benton REA crews will be on their way to inspect the damage and make necessary repairs after a power outage. And you can help. Any time you experience repeated disruptions to your electric service, please let us know by calling 800-221-6987. 

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