Blinking Lights And You

From computers, TV's and stereos to microwave ovens and automatic coffee makers, our homes and offices are filled with devices that were only dreams generations ago. Most of these popular modern appliances are controlled by microprocessors with tiny, delicate silicon chips and circuit boards. These sensitive electronic devices operate on precise voltages and are more sensitive to variations in utility power than appliances from a generation ago. When there is a power interruption the microprocessors lose their memory.

Cooperative Protection

Electricity may be affected by wind, lightning and storms. It's important to remember that rural power lines are sited through forests, over mountains and across rivers. The lines are constantly exposed to natural conditions that present challenges for providing uninterrupted power. Activity at neighboring homes or businesses, or events in a home or business can also create power disturbances. You may find them annoying, but those digits flashing 12:00 on your VCR, microwave or clock radio mean that one of the safety devices installed by your coperative to protect you and the system delivering your power has worked properly.

The device, named an oil circuit recloser, acts like a self-resetting circuit breaker. It opens and interrupts power for a moment when a short circuit caused by a tree branch, small animal or weather related problem occurs on the section of line it protects. The recloser waits a short time and recloses, returning power to the line. If the short circuit is gone the recloser stays closed and power flows to your home. If the problem persists after three tries, the recloser locks open to prevent property damage or personal injury until the problem can be investigated. Reclosers and the switches that route power are essential to the safe delivery of electricity. Unfortunately, they may also cause your clocks to blink.

Other Problems

  • Electrical transients, or spikes, are usually associated with lighting strikes.

  • Sags are slight decreases in voltage usually caused by start up of larger equipment, such as a large electric motor in your home or in a business down the road.

  • Swells are slight increases in voltage usually caused by the shut down of larger equipment in your home or in a home or business.

  • Electrical noise, often noticed as static on a radio, is caused by appliances with electric motors such as vacuum cleaners, water pumps, power tools and blenders.

Minimizing Blinks With Power Conditioning

Barring accidents or other unforeseen events, the quality of the electricity available in your home or business is relatively constant. That’s why appliances and light bulbs that function in California also work in Pennsylvania. It’s also why the old radio you found in the attic still plays and electric clocks keep time. Like any product that is mass produced and shipped long distances, electricity varies slightly, even when the system that makes and delivers it is operating normally. The slight variations in electric power delivered to homes and businesses do not affect electricity’s performance in most applications.

Steps can be taken to minimize the inconvenience caused by a momentary power outage. Power conditioning tailors electricity so its properties remain constant. These steps can be as simple as purchasing appliances that have a battery backup system. Other electric appliances such as computers and printers can be plugged into an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system. A UPS system is a plug-in battery backup and will keep a device running for a short time during any power interruption. This provides an opportunity to save data before it's lost.

Like other technologies, power conditioning equipment varies widely in availability, application and price. Devices range from plug in conditioning strips to large generator systems that are used if the power is disrupted for an extended period of time.  These devices are widely available from area retailers.

To protect your investments Claverack recommends that you purchase and install quality surge protection and battery back up equipment as necessary. Although we try to provide reliable uninterrupted electrical service, we cannot guarantee such and are not responsible for loss or damage of member-owned equipment or belongings.