Brownout VS Blackout: Definition, Dangers & Precautions [Difference Explained]

Imagining life without electricity is a horrible scenario. Just imagine, you come home after a long and tiring day at work and found no cold water to drink, no air conditioner to chill you out in summers, and no TV to watch your favorite shows. Unfortunately, we get to see such spells for a short period ranging from hours to maybe a day or two.

This article will discuss the two types of common electrical outages known as blackout and brownout. We will explain the reasons behind each and what precautionary measures you can take during the occurrence.


partial power failure

Since the summers are here, it means that you might already be experiencing electrical problems. Most people are aware of blackouts but very few people know about brownouts. Brownouts are intentional or unintentional sags, slumps, or drops in the electrical voltage. This seems to be insignificant on the outlook but it can be very damaging to your electrical devices and can cause them to work poorly and ultimately go bad. Brownouts can happen due to a thunderstorm, rain, or any other natural disaster; these are unintentional causes of brownouts. Sometimes the electrical suppliers will reduce the voltage supplied to each place to reduce the amount of load consumption. This is done to prevent a total blackout. In such a situation of heavy load times, homes and businesses operate on less power supply than usual.


It is easy to look out for the signs of brownout. The first sign of a brownout is the dimming of lights at your place. Flickering is also a major indication of a brownout. This happens because the lights are supplied with less voltage. The name brownout comes from the light brownish colors light emit during a brownout. Other signs include irregular working sounds of your appliances like refrigerator, air conditioners decreased output, and stressed sound of water pumps. Disruption of internet connection and speed is also considered to be a warning sign of brownout.

Dangers from Brownout

You may consider ignoring a brownout, but it can be very dangerous to appliances that require a precise voltage to run. When power levels change greatly at once, appliances may not handle the dip or surge and may end up burned or malfunctioning. It is also possible that the power supply cables, capacitors, and exhaust system of television, computer, and refrigerator go rogue. Lights, bulbs, and fans usually withstand sessions of brownouts.

Dealing with Brownout

Dealing with a brownout is easy, and you can save your devices from any danger. All you need to do is rapidly take some measures to avoid the immediate impact of blackout and some precautionary measures to avoid dangers lurking from further sessions of brownouts.

Unplugging – Unplugging your devices is the most important thing to do when you notice a flickering in lights or notice a change in reading at the voltmeter. It would help if you took off the devices like TV, computer, fridge, water pumps, air conditioners, heaters, and chargers instantly from the main system. It will not only protect your devices but will also reduce the amount your premise is consuming. If all the electricity consumers follow this practice, a brownout session can end in minutes instead of hours or days.

Power Strips and Surge Protectors – Installing power strips and electrical stabilizers help control the power fluctuations by supplying your devices with a constant voltage for a few minutes so that you can turn off the devices when you are done working with them. Power strips are limited to a certain device. To protect your entire home from the impacts of a blackout, you can install a whole-home surge protector. If a brownout occurs in your absence and your devices are running, you do not need to worry about their safety with a home surge protector. Surge protectors are available in the market, or you can also get a custom-built according to your specifications.

Brownout Leading to Blackout – There are very few chances that a voluntarily induced brownout will lead to a long term blackout. However, it is better to be prepared for one. Ensure that your generator is working fine, your gas or propane reserves are up, and your emergency flashlights are in working condition. Also, make sure that you have all the necessary supplies at your home to last for the period of a blackout.


Complete power failure

As compared to a brownout, a blackout is the complete stopping of electrical power in an area for longer periods of time. It can last from hours to days and can extend into weeks in case of a serious emergency or a natural disaster like thunderstorms, floods or God Forbid earthquakes. Blackouts can also occur due to a technical problem at the grid stations, the electricity production site, some issues with transmission lines. Such problems may require hours to deal with and the consumers will have to suffer from a complete blackout during this time. Blackouts are also caused due to scheduled maintenance.

Dangers from Blackouts

Blackouts come without warning and there is almost zero chance that a blackout will impact your devices as it is just like shutting them off.

Precautionary Measures

It is recommended that you turn off your devices during a blackout session. When the power is restored, the voltage might not be full and t is also possible that some equipment in the grid station may malfunction at that specific time. Such an event can produce a high fluctuation in the voltage and there is a high chance that devices that are left on can malfunction.

Shore Up Your Reserves – You need to shore up your reserves of generator fuel. If the blackout is due to a natural disaster, all the gas stations in your area will already be having long queues. Propane suppliers will also be busy at this time. So, in such an event, hurry up and fill your fuel reserves.

Rolling Blackouts and Planned Outages

Another term associated with an electrical outage is rolling blackouts. When power companies assess that the demand will increase by manifold during intensely hot temperatures, they introduce rolling blackouts. Rolling blackouts are cutting off power in one area to reduce the load and burden on the grid station. After a couple of hours, the power is usually restored, and some other area is cut off. It helps keep the gird station stress free, and it is also ensured that no particular area has to undergo large periods without power.

The best way to deal with this situation is the use of electrical generators. It is better to keep your fuel reserves filled up during the summer season.

Planned outages are announced sessions of forced blackouts by electricity suppliers. They are easy to deal with compared to rolling blackouts, as you already know about their time, duration, and frequency. You can prepare yourself beforehand and get your generator ready or tolerate a few hours without electricity.


Now you not only know about brownouts, blackouts, you are also aware of rolling blackouts and planned outages. We hope that you will be able to deal with them more effectively in case of any emergencies.

Leave a Comment