There’s never a perfect time for the power to go out while you’re at home, especially when you’re in the middle of watching your favourite TV show, running your laundry, or heating up dinner in the microwave.
Electricity has become such an integral part of our lives and we realise this most when we don’t have it!
Common causes of power outages
…and how to fix it!
Power outages occur due to one of two reasons – an internal cause (something that happens on your property) or an external cause (something that happens to the public power grid). This article looks at:
- Why do residential power outages happen?
- What causes power outages?
- and what can you do to get blackouts fixed?
Determining the source of the blackout
The quickest way to find out the source of the power outage is to see if your neighbours’ power is also out:
- If it’s night-time, are your neighbours’ lights on?
- Are the streetlights on?
If the street and your neighbours have power, then the cause of your power outage is most likely internal or coming from a fault within your property. Look through the common internal causes of power outages outlined below and check your switchboard to see if you can figure out the source of the outage.
Some causes of power outages require a licensed electrician to fix them. Check your local state or territory regulations to be sure.
Sarros Electrical is your local trusty and fully licensed electrician ready to help you 24 hours a day 7 days a week if you live in South West WA, Perth or the Peel region! Run through our checklist to see if you need an electrician to help with your internal fault – or call us, we’ll walk you through a few basics for free – you may not need an electrician after all!
If the power outage involves more than just your property, it’s best to notify your local power distribution company or power utilities company. If you live in South West WA or Perth, you can visit the Western Power website to get the latest information on current power outages and planned outages in WA. Unfortunately, once you have identified that your power outage is due to a wider blackout, all you can do is wait for the power company to resolve it and turn it back on.
Read on to see common external causes for power outages.
Internal causes of power outages
Unpaid electricity bills
Before you dive into finding out why the power is out on your premises, you need to ensure that you have paid your electricity bill. Thankfully, in Australia, Electric service companies must attempt to contact you in person before cutting the power, so you will have received phone calls and warning letters in the mail. If your electricity provider has cut off supply to electricity, it is best to get in contact with them and discuss your outstanding bill to revive your service. Often you can arrange a payment plan and get your power reconnected. More assistance can be found at the Australian Energy Regulator.
Faulty Circuit Breakers
Circuit breakers are installed to ensure the electric circuits in your home are safe. They prevent short circuits (such as a child placing a knife in a power socket) and possible damage that comes from overloading circuits. Circuit breakers immediately shut off a specific circuit once a fault has been detected to protect us from electric shock and to reduce the chances of starting an electric fire.
You can tell if a circuit breaker is tripped or off by going to your switchboard and checking each circuit breaker. Up is on, down is off.
Try unplugging devices connected to that circuit, then turning the circuit breaker back on. If it stays on, perhaps you simply overloaded the circuit (the next section, ‘overloaded power boards’ has some tips here).
If a circuit breaker refuses to stay on and keeps on shutting off again, it can be one of two things – a circuit malfunction (such as exposed wires or water damage) or it’s a faulty circuit breaker. You will need to call a fully licensed electrician to safely determine the cause of the short circuit and fix it. If you live in Perth, the Peel, or Southwest WA, you can call us, your local, fully licensed electrician on 08 9226 7900 for a trustworthy electrical safety check! For residents in other places, call your local, licensed electrician to organise an electrical safety check and fix.
Overloaded power boards
Many Australian households use power boards to increase the number of power outlets in their homes. Unfortunately, plugging a massive amount of appliances into a single power point or circuit can cause your circuit breaker to trip, shutting down the power to the circuit, or to your entire home. This happens when the maximum allowed amperage (electrical load) of the circuit is exceeded. If your circuit breaker didn’t work in this way, the excessive electrical load may melt wires and cause an electrical fire – so whilst it’s inconvenient, it’s a safety measure we should be grateful for.
What to do when your circuits are overloaded
- Don’t stack power boards or plug power boards into power boards!
- Unplug all unnecessary devices or appliances that are not in use and do not require constant power.
- Plug appliances into other power outlets on a different circuit. Often, one circuit covers one area of your house or one wall in your house – try plugging into a power point from a different wall or section of your home to spread the load across multiple circuits.
- A more expensive but permanent solution is to get a fully licensed electrician to upgrade your circuits and add in more power points.
External causes of power outages
Bad weather & electrical storms
Large storms such as thunderstorms, cyclones, and even just heavy rain can damage the power grid and shut down the electricity supply for an entire city. Electrical storms can cause wind, floods, and trees to knock down electrical poles, damage electrical networks, and disrupt high voltage power lines that can cause immediate power outages in your area.
What to do when bad weather causes a power outage
- Determine if the power outages affect just your home or are affecting the neighbourhood.
- Find alternative lighting and ensure everyone is ok.
- Request help if your property is damaged or report the power outage if it’s a neighbourhood blackout.
In general, before any bad weather event, it’s a good idea to have a few candles, matches, or battery-operated torches handy in the home. A great idea is to have some winding torches – if their battery is flat, you can recharge them with a quick wind up! In the event of any power outage, you can set these up for lighting.
If the blackout is due to damage to your own property, you may need to organise for immediate assistance to secure the damage, in Australia, you can request assistance from the SES by calling 132 500. Here’s a guide on when to call the SES. Contact your insurance provider to quickly organise repairs or call a trusty emergency electrician to restore power. In Perth, the Peel, or Southwest WA, you can count on Sarros Electrical to quickly restore power to your home. We’ll even help you organise other trades if they’re required (such as arborists).
According to South Australia Power Networks, power outages in Adelaide have grown due to the night activities of the common grey-headed flying fox. Other parts of Australia are also experiencing power outages caused by our diverse wildlife. Many utility and electrical companies have been monitoring outage reasons, and it is safe to say that it’s not uncommon for our wildlife to damage our electricity network and create power outages.
What to do when wildlife causes a power outage
If you witness wildlife causing a blackout by shorting powerlines, it’s best to notify your power service provider. In South West WA, power faults and outages can be reported to Western Power on 13 13 51.
Before touching or assisting any animal or person that’s electrocuted, ensure that they are not in contact with, or within 8 metres of electrical wires or water that’s touching electrical wires, they should be well clear of anything electric before providing assistance. Even if they’re not currently being electrocuted, you could trigger an electric shock to yourself and them if you reach out, endangering your life.
Bushfires, flooding and other events
Bushfires can damage power poles and other electrical equipment and could bring down vital transmission lines, resulting in power outages to local communities. For example, in December 2019, major bushfires peaked in South East Australia, burning an estimated 18.6 million hectares of land and destroying over 5,900 buildings, including 2,779 homes. A huge portion of the state’s electrical infrastructure was damaged and needed to be replaced due to this disaster.
Flooding can also cause damage to both above and below ground electrical equipment which can result in power outages. During floods, live wires can become submerged, requiring that the power supply be cut off to prevent further damage and to protect people from possible electric shocks.
Numerous other events can trigger blackouts, such as car accidents and other unforeseen disasters.
What to do when bushfires or some disaster causes a power outage
In emergencies, your personal safety and the safety of others are more important than immediately re-establishing power. In Western Australia, you can visit the DFES emergencies map (Department of Fire & Emergency Services) or contact 13 3337 for more information about emergencies in your area. Other states of Australia have similar services. For fire or life-threatening emergencies in Australia, contact 000. Australians can also call 132 500 for SES assistance with non-life-threatening emergencies.
Once everyone is cared for and safe, you can report the damage to the power grid to Western Power (in South West WA), or your local power service provider.
Damage on your own home or property may require you to call your insurance or a trusty emergency electrician. If you live in WA’s South West, Peel, or Perth, call Perth’s best emergency electricians now at 08 9226 7900 or make an online booking and we’ll be right on our way!
Calling for help?
24 Hour Emergency Services
- 000 – Fire or life-threatening Emergencies in Australia.
- 132 500 – SES Emergency Assistance in Australia.
- 13 3337 – General Emergency Information in WA.
- 131 151 – Western Power for Emergencies & Power interruption in South West WA, the Peel, and Perth.
- 08 9226 7900 Fully licensed emergency electricians (available 24/7) in WA’s South West, the Peel, and Perth.