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At one time or another, we’ve all returned home or woken up late for work to see a blinking “12:00” on our digital alarm clock. You then have to reset every digital clock in your household that doesn’t have a battery backup, from the microwave oven to the answering machine. Usually, this state of “eternal midnight” was caused by a “blink” in the electrical system.
While blinks can be annoying, they show that an electrical system is working exactly as designed. And while Central Electric Cooperative (CEC) has taken steps to reduce the number of blinks across its power system, there are measures you can take as well.
Let’s look at blinks. These momentary power interruptions can occur anywhere along a power system—from the time electrons are generated at a power plant, to being shipped across transmission line to substations, or during distribution from a substation to your home.
Blinks are created when a breaker, or switch, opens along any portion of the power system. The breaker usually opens because of a large, quick rise of electrical current. This large rise, called a fault condition, can occur when a tree branch touches a line, lightning strikes, or a wire breaks.
When this happens, a relay senses the fault and tells the breaker to open, preventing the flow of power to the problem site. After opening, the breaker quickly closes. The brief delay, which allows the fault to clear, usually lasts less than two seconds.
If the fault clears, every home or business that receives electricity off that power line has just experienced a blink. This could include thousands of accounts if the breaker protects a transmission line or a substation.
Reducing the Blink’s Effects
Your co-op employs methods to reduce blink frequency. Tree trimming is probably the easiest and most common way, and one area where you can help. Make sure your co-op knows of any trees or limbs located close to a power line. Call 800-521-0570 to tell CEC about potential problems.
Meanwhile, you can reduce the frustration of blinks by purchasing an alarm clock equipped with a battery backup. This type of digital clock offers “ride through” ability for momentary outages. It will also keep the correct time and sound an alarm in case of a long-duration outage, provided a charged battery is in place. As an added benefit, these devices only use the battery in the event of a power interruption.
Blinks affect all electrical equipment, not just digital clocks. If there is a blink while you are operating a computer, your computer may crash and you will have to reboot, hoping all the while that there will be few corrupted files.
An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) on your computer can help prevent information loss. The UPS incorporates surge suppression technology with a battery backup and provides you some time to save whatever you were working on and exit your computer properly.
The Future of Blinks
CEC operates an active system maintenance program and works hard to identify and fix sources of service interruptions. Even though blinks will never disappear from our electrical energy delivery system, by working together with we can minimize effects of the interruptions and the frequency with which they occur.
Power surges are responsible for millions of dollars of property damage each year, and, over time, they can cause cumulative damage while decreasing the lifespan of TVs, computers, stereo equipment, and anything else plugged into a wall outlet. Being educated is the key to choosing the best surge protection for your home.
How Does a Power Surge Cause Damage?
First, what is a surge?
A surge is a boost in the electrical charge over a power line. This can be caused by lightning, but it’s more commonly caused by motor-driven electrical devices, such as air conditioners and refrigerators, that require a lot of energy for starting and stopping compressors. Some surges can also be caused by faulty wiring.
Frequent, small power surges tend to shorten the life of home appliances and electronics. Power surges come in all shapes and sizes—the most extreme case being a lightning strike because it can destroy equipment and sometimes set your house on fire. But less severe power surges are rooted in hundreds of different causes.
The severity of a surge depends not only on the voltage and current involved but how long the event lasts. Most surges are very short in duration. It’s important for people to realize that surges can happen through any connection on your equipment. If there is a wire connected to your equipment, then it provides a path for a surge.
How Can I Protect my Property?
A surge protection device mounted at your home’s main electrical panel or the base of your electric meter protects equipment inside your house or business from surges coming through “ports of entry,” such an outside electric, telephone, and cable TV or satellite dish line.
Point-of-use surge protection devices do not suppress or arrest a surge but divert it to ground. They’re designed to protect your sensitive electronic appliances, like a computer, and resemble a regular plug strip. However, don’t assume your plug strip offers surge protection unless it specifically says so. You can also install special electrical outlets that offer surge protection, which can be helpful in places like kitchen countertops.
One of the most effective ways to protect your property is a two-tiered approach. A service entrance surge protection device reduces power surges to a lower level that protects large appliances, such as your stove or clothes dryer, while point-of-use surge protectors defend your sensitive electronics.
Remember to be cautious when shopping for surge protection equipment. Some items claim that they can save energy, and these claims are generally false. Surge protection is a valuable tool for protecting your home or business but not for saving energy.