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Power Outages – What Should You Do When The Lights Go Off?

No matter how good your electric company is and no matter how sophisticated and advanced your power infrastructure is, you will suffer from occasional power outages. There are a lot of factors that can potentially cause a power outage and most people do not know how to look for them. In this article I will go over the potential causes of power outages, and what you can do to identify the source of the outage; as well as what you can do to get your power back on as quickly as possible.

Causes of power outages

Generally there are two main causes for power outages, faults and overloads.


“Faults” are things that generally out of your control. So, if a tree branch falls, hits a power line, and causes an outage, then it is considered to be a “fault.” Faults are outages caused by weather, accidents, natural causes, etc. If your power lines are above ground, then you probably have experienced issues like this before. Fixing these types of outages are almost always left to power companies, as there is very little an individual person can do.


As you can probably tell from the name, overloads are when the power system is overloaded with demand and shorts out. So, if you plug in a very demanding appliance, then you can potentially short out your entire house. These types of outages are the ones that you personally can deal with yourself; as they generally only affect your house.

First thing to do

The first thing to do whenever a power outage occurs in your house is to go to your switchboard. Open your switchboard and check to make sure that a fuse has not been blown and that your circuit breaker has not been tripped.

If your circuit breaker has tripped, or you find that a fuse has been blow.

In the event that you find that your circuit breaker has been tripped and/or a fuse has been blown, then the following issues may have occurred.

An overload (you have too many demanding appliances running at once)

Switch off or unplug every appliance in your house and then reset your main breaker. This was not likely a freak accident, many power boards allow you to plug in way more appliances than you really should. So you have two options. First, you can just simply not plug in as many appliances as you usually do. Secondly, if you need that many appliances plugged in at once (say for business reasons), then you need to call a licensed electrician to install extra circuits and power points. Another tip I can give you, is that in the future, sensitive appliances like computers and entertainment systems (which can lose valuable data and short out if they suddenly get shut off) should be on their own circuit.

Defective appliances or defective wiring

If the problem was not a simple power overload, then there is a good chance that the issue may be a defective appliance or defective wiring.
If you suspect that it is a defective appliance that is the cause, then the only thing you can do is trial and error to discover the defective appliance. Unplug your appliances one after the other until you find the defective appliance. Once you have found it, do not try and repair it yourself. Either call a licensed electrician or appliance repairman, or just get a new appliance. Faulty appliances can be very dangerous; for example, lots of kitchen fires originate from faulty kitchen appliances. So do not take a risk, get your faulty appliance fixed or replaced as soon as possible.

If none of the above seem to work, then it likely means the issue was not a simple power overload or a faulty appliance, but rather an issue with your wiring. I cannot stress this enough, do not try to fix the wiring on your own. Plenty of “do it yourself guides” online may advise you to try and fix the wiring on your own; don’t. If the issue is with your wiring, call a licensed electrician to come and take a look, the electrician will identify the problem and fix it in no time.

If you don’t discover a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse

Should you open your switchbox, and see that everything is fine (circuit breaker is not tripped and there are no blown fuses), then the chances are it may be an issue with your power distributor or with your power lines.

Check with your neighbours

The first thing to do is to check to see if the neighbourhood is being affected, or if it is just your house. Check with your neighbours and take a look at your street lights. If either of those are being affected, then you know it is a neighbourhood wide power issue.

Call your power distributor

Once you have established that the power issue is affecting your entire neighbourhood and not just you, then you should immediately call your power distributor. A lot of the times your power distributor does not know there is a power outage, so informing them that there is an issue can make them respond faster, which means your power will come on faster.

What to do while waiting for the power to come back on

If it’s a neighbourhood wide issue, then there is nothing else you can do besides reporting the outage to make the power come on faster. But, there are some thing you should do around the house. First off, bust out the flashlights to make sure people are not wandering around the dark. Secondly, start unplugging appliances; especially powerful ones. Powerful appliances like air conditioners can cause your power system to overload if they are just randomly turned on; it is best for you to manually restart powerful appliances. A word of advice, unless the power outage is going to last for days, then it is best to leave your freezers and fridges closed. The food in there will last for a decent amount of time, as long as you do not regularly open the freezer or fridge.