TOP 3 WAYS TO FULLY PROTECT YOUR OPERATIONS FROM BROWNOUTS
3 Aug 2022
Est. Reading Time: 13 minutes
It is not unusual to lose power for extended periods where people might have to go without electricity. Often this could be due to a lightning storm hitting a transformer, or strong winds knocking down power lines. But sometimes, such interruptions may occur due to reduced levels of electricity, rather than power issues.
Brownouts represent one of the biggest threats around the world, especially for manufacturers or industrial facilities. With increasing power interruptions causing massive inconveniences worldwide, many facilities have opted to install voltage solutions to safeguard essential equipment and maintain productivity even under such harsh conditions.
The inconveniences caused by power cuts are evident. According to ABB, over a third of businesses lose over $50,000 in just an hour. Some other companies have accumulated losses of up to $6.5 billion. Manufacturers and industrial facilities which produce cars, electronics, food, drinks, or even pharmaceutical equipment, are especially vulnerable to power supply anomalies. Even a moment of electrical loss could damage sensitive equipment, resulting in costly and time-consuming maintenance. These interruptions often result in ruined yields and wasted expensive materials. Even once everything is back to normal, it will take a massive effort to clear all the mess caused by brownouts and having to restart your systems.
In this blog, we examine what is a brownout, as brownouts can be different from other power irregularities. We will also be looking at the ideal solutions to help combat it so that we can take the necessary steps to safeguard against them—without wasting excessive time and money to overcome it.
What is a brownout?
brownout vs. blackout
The question which may come to your mind right now is: “What is a brownout? And how is it different from a blackout?”
As quoted from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an electrical brownout is a period where the voltage of electricity is reduced due to high demand, which results in reduced illumination.
So what does that mean as a whole? In other words, brownouts are caused due to a drop in voltage to a lower voltage and return back to their normal level, resulting in flickering or dimming lights. Brownouts often happen during severe weather conditions or heavy load periods. Therefore, brownouts are most likely to occur due to increased power demand or when a power grid or power plant suffers from damage or malfunction.
Despite the confusion between brownout vs blackout, these terms are different. Brownouts are most similar to voltage sags, where there is usually a “sag” in voltage levels before an eventual return to normal levels. During brownouts, devices can still get power, albeit at a reduced level, and are more likely to malfunction than fail.
On the other hand, a blackout is a large-scale interruption when the power goes off completely, resulting in a total loss of electrical power. An example is when in-line voltage drops from its normal level of 120 volts to below 80 volts, as most electrical equipment will not operate below these levels.
Compared to brownouts, blackouts typically happen due to severe weather or equipment failure at power plants and could last for an indefinite period of time. They also occur without warning in unpredicted events such as natural disasters, avalanches, unnatural occurrences, or even when a car strikes a power pole.
However, different causes lead to brownouts – sometimes they are caused by bad weather like blackouts. Brownouts also occur due to poor electrical design or a heavy power draw in your facility or area. Common symptoms of a brownout can be flickering lights, quick switching on and off computer appliances, and intermittent internet connections.
Consequences of Electrical Brownout
If a Brownout is left untreated, it could wreak havoc on your digital control circuits. It would also cause reduced voltage, bringing control signals below detectable levels where logic circuits can reliably detect the represented state. Brownouts could cause a motor to start running backward, with expensive repercussions, such as increased motor failures and lost production. The impacts are staggering – a study from Inside Energy found that in Pennsylvania and Illinois, over a million residents were affected by power problems caused by severe weather (ice and snow) and thunderstorms respectively, over two days in 2014.
Any one of these affected residents could be your next business opportunity, which explains the importance of acquiring the knowledge and tools needed to combat such power outages and low voltage events. Appliances with electric motors are prone to brownouts because the motor will draw more heat when the voltage declines, resulting in overheating. Components could also be easily damaged if underpowered, and once full voltage is restored, they could blow up due to the resulting power spikes.
How do you prevent a brownout?
While Brownouts can happen, we can take quick response techniques and proactive steps to counter them.
So how do we combat brownouts?
Keep reading on as we provide simple and quick response techniques that you can apply to solve your brownout woes. For those still looking for a voltage solution to combat brownouts, we got you covered.
Take fundamental precautions
You should take steps to prepare your business against brownouts before they happen. You can constantly monitor the supply voltage and train your personnel to respond quickly whenever the voltage drops below desired levels. For critical applications, you should install thermal or condition monitoring devices that can shut down motors whenever an abnormally high winding temperature is detected. If it doesn’t work, reduce the load by partially closing a valve during a brownout.
pull the plug during brownouts
Power surges cannot affect equipment that is not connected to power. Therefore, if the power goes out, you should unplug any equipment or high-value loads. Power during brownouts is unstable, so it is advisable to wait for 10 minutes or so before you plug your equipment back in. It would be better to wait longer to be sure that your equipment receives stable electricity.
check the source of brownout
For facility managers, you should check with your local utility to see if the brownout you are experiencing is actually coming from the grid. If everything is normal, the brownout issues you are encountering could be due to an electrical problem within your facility. If you are unsure, do not attempt to fix any electronics and always call the electrician for emergency service.
investing in voltage protection solutions
Since it is better to be safe than sorry when combating brownouts, it would be worth investing in voltage solutions to safeguard your facility or operations, which we explain more below.
Top 3 voltage solutions to combat brownouts
Whether you’re completely new to voltage solutions, or an experienced electrically trained personnel, let’s take you through these 3 proven voltage solutions.
Constant voltage transformer (CVT)
Also known as Ferroresonant regulators or Ferro, constant voltage transformers (CVT) leverage an interesting principle of the magnetic solution to produce high-precise voltage regulation. It features a magnetic core driven to saturation and a tank circuit to negate the potential side effects of a transformer operating in saturation. With no moving parts, Constant Voltage Transformers are not subjected to mechanical wear and tear.
They remain a popular option for applications that demand near-flawless regulation. For example, they are commonly used in film developments, cable TV, and battery charger, where there’s very little tolerance for supply voltage deviation.
In order to understand how Constant Voltage Transformers work, you can refer to the ferroresonant saturation curve.
Constant voltage transformers operate on the non-linear part of the curve, where the output voltage remains constant despite huge changes in the input voltage. This is in contrast to regular transformers that operate in the normal range and will produce an output voltage proportionate to the input voltage.
As Constant voltage transformers operate using magnetic flux saturation, there are no sensing circuits, mechanical components, or a feedback loop involved. However, there is secondary winding in parallel with one or more capacitors acting as an LC resonant circuit, preventing the byproducts of core saturation – distortions and harmonics – from affecting the regulated voltage. It also serves as temporary energy storage that helps to smoothen the output voltage.
Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)
Widely known as a source of backup power and surge protector, the Uninterrupted Power System (UPS) has an array of batteries or a flywheel compartment that provides it with power also acts as a surge protector that protect connected devices from power problems such as brownouts, which could damage, reduce healthy lifespan and affect sensitive electronic equipment or devices.
There are a few uses for the UPS, such as:
The UPS filters incoming power and helps detect and stabilise changes in the electrical current to prevent your equipment from being harmed. Most importantly, it ensures that you will have complete surge protection against unreliable voltage that could damage your equipment through noise filtration which prevents data corruption.
It is important to ensure your UPS is of the correct size and design. This is an important factor in determining the size of the power and ensuring your UPS is large enough to support all the equipment plugged into it. Undersizing your UPS could create immediate problems but oversizing it would waste energy, money, and valuable space for your facility or building. While it is possible to size a UPS yourself, it makes life a lot easier by consulting with a reputable manufacturer to take a site survey—so that they can assess your requirements and ensure you get UPS that’s on point, and on budget.
Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR)
An Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR) is engineered to ensure that the output voltage remains consistently at a predetermined level irrespective of all voltage irregularities that may be present in the input voltage.
Built with control components that sense changes in the output voltage and compensate for the difference accordingly, AVRs ensure that connected systems receive a constant and stable voltage supply at all times.
AVRs help prevent your entire system from experiencing uncertainties or voltage problems such as brownouts, voltage spikes, sags, and fluctuations. When your facilities experience substantial voltage drops, AVRs help prevent operational disruptions and promote optimal performance, thereby increasing the component’s lifespan.
The voltage regulation and protection that AVRs provide can help save businesses from costly repercussions, such as production losses, rejects, delayed deliveries, and other indirect issues. Thus, to protect your business operations against brownouts, it is vital to install an AVR.
If there is anything we can learn from brownouts, it is that the damage caused by even a moment of power interruption can be devastating.
Power supply problems aren’t going away anytime soon and have become increasingly frequent and severe. With a growing population and an increasing reliance on advanced electrical equipment, there has never been a timelier need to protect our industry against blackouts, brownouts, voltage sags, and spikes on our precious equipment.
There is an increasing need to be vigilant against such power outage events and take the necessary precautions to safeguard against them. We can start by being informed about brownouts, such as what causes them and what can be done to protect ourselves from them. The next step would be to invest in voltage solutions to help mitigate the damage caused by brownouts and protect both the businesses and lives at stake.
Investing in the ideal voltage solutions will help you safeguard and protect your business against unexpected brownouts – allowing you to avoid losing data. This also helps you eliminate costly emergency repairs and replacements of your equipment, giving you peace of mind and providing more productive uptime for your operations.
Looking for more information on choosing the right solution for your application? Consult with our Voltage Specialists, and we’ll guide you through overcoming your power challenges.
Since 1977, Ashley Edison continues to deliver total power protection with top-of-the-range customised AVR solutions that dependably optimise facilities in multiple industries—across the world.
Speak to our Voltage Specialist for a comprehensive consultation, or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discover how you can effectively solve your power problems—permenantly.
To learn more about Ashley Edison’s Automatic Voltage Regulators, visit our product page here.