Springtime means stormy weather, and storms can cause havoc with power systems. Whether caused by falling trees or branches; wind or water damage, losing power during a storm is always inconvenient, and can also be dangerous. Here are a few tips to help you through spring storm season:
· Know the difference between a genuine power outage and a brownout. An outage will be sudden and widespread. A brownout also may be widespread, but will only happen during daytime hours (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.) and never in the evening or early morning. Be aware that a brownout is the utility’s way of managing the electrical system to prevent a major power outage.
· If your electricity goes out entirely, be sure to turn off all plugged in appliances that could turn on automatically when power is restored; such as space heaters, TVs, microwaves and computers. This will help avoid all of these items coming back on simultaneously when the power returns and causing your individual circuit breakers to overload or even worse, causing a power surge that could permanently damage plugged-in devices.
· Know where your home’s main power switch is located. If there is ever standing water or fallen power lines, it will be necessary to turn off your electrical supply for the safety of you and your family.
· Before a big storm arrives, evaluate your property and see if there are any potential dangers to your electrical system. If trees need to be trimmed, contact your electrical utility company and alert them of the potential danger. Never get within 10 feet of overhead power lines; doing so may put you at risk for serious electrocution and death.
· Label the circuits on your main power box. If you lose power to one area of your home only, an overloaded circuit is the likely culprit and labeling your electrical panel will help a qualified electrician quickly locate the problem circuit. If you find that one section of your home continually has issues, consider adding another circuit or having a professional electrical contractor evaluate your power distribution system.
· Take a look throughout your home and locate your main power box. In many homes, the box is in the basement. That’s usually fine, but if your panel is located below ground level or near a window, you could run the risk of flooding, which can be extremely dangerous. The circuit box should be located at least 12 inches above any potential flood plane in your area and a safe distance from windows. A licensed electrical contractor can evaluate the location of your circuit box and recommend relocating it if necessary.
· If you own a generator, have it serviced regularly according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Please contact your licensed generator/electrical contractor to make sure your generator is in good working order before the bad weather hits.
Of course, always keep flashlights with fresh batteries in an easily accessible location in case of a power outage, and call your utility provider right away if the power goes out for more than a few minutes. In the event of a storm, check carefully for any downed power lines, keep your distance and notify the local police and fire departments to avoid injury. Just remember to be alert, unplug all appliances and equipment that could surge your power system and be prepared to turn off your power entirely.Donna Kolb is co-owner of Kolb Electric. To contact Kolb Electric, please call 443-379-8176 or visit KolbElectric.com.