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Why did my lights flicker?

July 30, 2021

Understanding blinks and surges

Have you ever noticed your lights blink during a thunderstorm? Or 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 blink or power surge. While the symptoms of blinks and power surges can appear similar, what’s happening behind the scenes can be very different.

What’s a power blink?
Brief service interruptions can be caused by damage from small animals or vegetation, like tree limbs, making contact with a power line.

  • Trees are the number one cause of these blinks.
  • In 2019 alone, squirrels were responsible for more than 1,200 outages.
  • Lightning can also cause blinks.

Why does it cause a blink?
The blink is actually a breaker testing the power line to see if the damage was only there for a brief time and the power can come back on. Blinks are good because it means the system is working as designed to prevent a longer outage. If your power blinks several times and stays out, it means the breaker tested the damage and determined that a South Central Power Company lineworker needs to repair the damage.

What’s a power surge?
Surge Protector

Surges are brief overvoltage spikes or disturbances of a power waveform that can damage electronics. Most electronics are designed to handle small variations in voltage and disturbances in the power waveform. Rarely, power surges can reach amplitudes high enough to damage equipment.

  • Surges are most often caused by lightning strikes.
  • Surges can sometimes be caused by internal sources, like HVAC systems, large motors and compressors, welders, or problems with equipment connected to your service.
  • Very rarely, damage to utility equipment may also cause surges.

What can you do?
Install surge protective devices (such as surge protector power strips) to safeguard sensitive electronics. If you’re experiencing frequent surges in your home or business and you believe the cause is internal, contact a qualified electrician to inspect your electrical system.

What else could be happening?
Both surges and blinks can be the result of an issue with other utilities. In that event, our system is to designed to respond to those events, and we work with the other utility provider to get the issue resolved as quickly and as safely as possible to minimize problems for our members.

Regardless of the cause, South Central Power crews are always at the ready and will be on their way to inspect the damage and make necessary repairs after a power outage.

From the August 2021 issue of Ohio Cooperative Living.