If your power goes out or “blinks” on a calm, storm-free day, you probably wonder why.
In spring and early summer, critters, especially squirrels and snakes, are busy nesting and feeding and they often find their way to power poles and other equipment that is a part of Jones-Onslow’s electrical distribution system. Additionally, despite an aggressive tree trimming program, new tree growth and vines can find their way onto power lines and other equipment.
Blinks occur when an obstruction comes into contact with a power line or transformer. To minimize the possibility of damage to the electrical distribution system or your home, a circuit breaker interrupts the flow of electricity for a fraction of a second. If the obstruction remains on the line, the breaker opens and then tries to re-close and restore power. If the obstruction is still on the line after the third try, the breaker opens and does not re-close automatically. At this point, a Jones-Onslow employee must be dispatched to remove the obstruction and manually reset the breaker.
“Power blinks have always been a part of electric service — they just weren’t as noticeable until sensitive electronics began filling our homes,” says Chief Utility Engineer Tommy Pritchard. “While they might be annoying, without this feature designed into the system, every brief interruption would result in an outage lasting possibly an hour or longer.”
Pritchard suggest installing a battery backup (Uninterruptible Power Supply or UPS) for cable boxes, computers and any other electronics that take a long time to reboot after a sudden shutdown.
Many of the cooperative’s poles have “squirrel guard” technology but these cunning creatures often find ways to get around the guards. The guards are designed not only to prevent outages but to spare a squirrel’s life too. Squirrels are not electrocuted when they run across power lines but when their bodies make contact with more than one wire or a transformer they become a path for electricity. The same holds true for snakes, which sometimes find their way into equipment.
Ultimately, power blinks improve the overall system reliability by reducing measurable power outages, protecting Jones-Onslow’s equipment and actually reducing the total time customers would be without power if the technology were not in place.