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How Heat Waves Can Cause Electrical Issues

Summer is the perfect time of year to go outdoors and soak up the sun’s rays. However, hot temperatures put a lot of strain on electrical systems. While it’s tempting to blame brownouts and surges on the electrical company, it’s not always their fault. Sudden heatwaves in Westminster, CA, are often to blame.

Weather is unpredictable. While experts can forecast temperatures based on past trends, these predictions are sometimes hit and miss. In the summer, an unexpected increase in temperature can leave homeowners looking for ways to stay cool. Unfortunately, a single heatwave can also wreak havoc, resulting in brownouts and blackouts. It’s time to examine the various ways summer heat can cause electrical issues in your home.

Higher Demand on the Electrical Grid

Two main electrical grids service the United States: the Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection. Texas and Alaska both have their own smaller grids. In February 2020, the nation watched as a sudden change in the weather took down the Texas grid, also known as ERCOT. Unprecedented freezing temperatures across the state overwhelmed the grid, and many Texas residents lost power for nearly a week. While a disaster of this magnitude is rare, putting too much stress on a power grid can lead to brownouts or complete outages.

However, it’s not just cold temperatures that can compromise an electrical grid. Extreme summer heat can also overload the grids. As businesses and homeowners crank up their air conditioners for relief from soaring temps, the power grids have to work harder. Many regions will notify consumers to conserve electricity to prevent grid failure. Luckily, the Western Interconnection grid used in Westminster, CA, relies on multiple power sources, such as coal, natural gas, wind, solar, and hydro. Diversifying the power supply helps to prevent grid overload.

Tripped Circuit Breakers 

Not every power problem is the result of a failing grid. Summer heat can also cause a home’s electrical system to go out. As temperatures start to rise, homeowners react by running more appliances. They may leave the central air conditioner on around the clock or run portable AC systems. While these devices help keep residents cool in extreme heat, they can overload a home’s electrical panel.

The electrical panel, sometimes called the breaker box, distributes electricity to the various circuits in a home. However, if the panel pulls more energy than it can handle, it will trip the circuit breaker. While a tripped circuit is a nuisance, it helps to prevent a fire or dangerous arc. During the hot months, HVAC systems are a leading cause of tripped circuits. If a homeowner notices a sudden influx of tripped circuits, it may be time to make a few upgrades to the electrical panel. Older homes, for instance, often have smaller panels that can’t handle all the energy demands of a modern home. Installing a larger breaker box could prevent power outages during summer heatwaves.

Flickering Lights and the HVAC System

Air conditioners account for six percent of the nation’s energy usage, and this amount increases significantly during the summer. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to notice flickering lights whenever the air conditioner starts running. Large appliances, such as the HVAC system, pull more energy than smaller ones. Just because this is a common occurrence, especially in older homes, doesn’t mean it’s something to overlook. Flickering lights indicate an overloaded power system. If left ignored, it could cause electrical safety issues down the road.

The best course of action is to hire an electrician to inspect the breaker panel. An electrician will determine if the home needs a larger breaker box or if it’s time to replace a few wires. In the meantime, the homeowner should reduce power usage before turning on the HVAC system. It’s also a good idea to avoid operating other high-voltage appliances, such as the vacuum, microwave, or hairdryer, at the same time.

Too Many Extension Cords and Power Strips

Many older model homes have a limited number of power outlets. Past generations didn’t rely on electricity as much as modern-day homeowners. People need outlets to power their computers, kitchen appliances, entertainment systems, and lighting. During the hot summer months, many homeowners also need a place to plug in portable air conditioners or free-standing fans.

Extension cords and power strips make it possible to power all these appliances and devices at once. However, doing so also puts more strain on the electrical panel. Homes that run multiple extension cords may experience brownouts or blown fuses. Extension cords and power strips can also overheat and short circuit. Make sure to inspect these devices for frayed or damaged wires before plugging them in. Further, these tools should only act as a temporary solution. Relying on them for extended periods can quickly turn into a fire hazard.

Preparing for Hot Summer Days

There are many ways to avoid electrical issues during the summer, and all of them involve cutting back on energy usage. For example, instead of running the air conditioner constantly, try turning on a ceiling fan. Setting the thermostat one or two degrees higher is another option. Before leaving a room, make sure to turn off any lights or electronics. Switching from incandescent to LED bulbs will also decrease energy consumption. It only takes a few changes to reduce how much energy a home requires each day.

For over a decade, S.E. Electrical Services, Inc. has provided a full range of electrical services to our Westminster residential and commercial clients. We can tackle any job, from installing a new light switch to fully rewiring a home. All of our electricians are both state and OSHA certified, and we proudly stand behind our work.

Stay Cool All Summer Long

While it’s not possible to avoid all electrical problems, there are many ways to prepare for the summer heat. Taking steps to reduce electricity is the best way to prevent unwanted brownouts and blackouts as temperatures increase. Not only will it lower your energy bill, but doing so will also limit strain on the region’s power grid. Making small changes now will ensure your home stays comfortable and cool even on the hottest days.