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Today is October 4, 2022

Understanding power surges and blinks

By Abby Berry

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 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 that can damage electronic equipment within your home or business. Most electronics are designed to handle small variations in voltage.

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

Mississippi’s electric cooperatives encourage all members to install surge protective devices (such as surge protector power strips) to safeguard your sensitive electronics. If you’re experiencing frequent surges in your home or business and you believe the cause is internal, contact a qualifi ed 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 through a variety of instances, like squirrels, birds or other small animals contacting an energized power line; tree branches touching a power line; or lightning and other similar events. In fact, when it comes to power disruptions caused by critters, squirrels reign supreme. In 2019 alone, squirrels were responsible for more than 1,200 outages.

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. Believe it or not, 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, co-op crews will be on their way to inspect the damage and make necessary repairs after a power outage. And you can help too! Any time you experience repeated disruptions to your electric service, please call your electric co-op.


Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.

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