Blackout vs Brownout (What is the Difference?)

What is the difference between blackout and brownout Overview?

What are Brownouts?

Blackout vs Brownout, the biggest difference between blackouts and brownouts is that blackouts are a complete power shutdown whereas brownouts are partial killings. Instead of the force completely exiting the capacity of the system is reduced. The voltage is usually reduced by 10-25%.

Brownout vs. blackout vs. power interruption

For starters, differentiating the terms above might be difficult. However, most people will easily tell the meaning of power interruption or try to make sensible guesses.

Blackout vs Brownout (What is the difference between?)

And everyone is familiar with power blackouts because it happens on some occasions to everyone.

The most challenging term to illustrate is the brownout, which only the technical people could easily understand.

Nevertheless, we cannot leave you hanging and confused again by the three terms now that you’re here.

Therefore, let’s go into brief details of what differentiates the three terminologies in the next few subsections.


Brownout defines a situation where there is high electricity demand, but the voltage is reduced for some reason automatically or manually on the grid.

Power Interruption

Power interruption occurs where electric power loss occurs in a given area. Power loss could be resultant from a scheduled maintenance works or service improvements. In some cases, they could arise from unscheduled interruptions, especially when it is an emergency question.


A blackout is the last thing you want to encounter or experience. It happens where a partial or a total collapse occurs in the power grid.

Therefore, a blackout is an indefinite loss of electric power, disrupting many aspects of social, health, and economic life in the affected region.

Blackout vs Brownout (What is the difference between?)

Brownout vs. blackout vs. power interruption are all similar because they can happen without human interference or control. Besides, all the events have undesirable consequences to the consumers because they have limited power or no power.

The problems are beyond the end-user control but primary service provider due to its complexity, special technical skills, and the associated high risks.

What is a rolling blackout?

A rolling blackout occurs when a power company turns out electricity in selected areas to save power. It is mainly done to achieve a balance in electricity supply across a specific region.

Areas in which the rolling blackout is applied are selected using sophisticated computer models and programs.

The blackouts may last for an hour before the power is restored and the power is shut off in another area. The following areas are exceptions in rolling blackouts:

  • Fire departments
  • Airport control terminals
  • Hospitals
  • Police stations

Brownout vs. burnout

Burnout describes voltage drop in the electrical power system. Burnout is usually intentional or unintentional.

The short-term events of the voltage drop ensure that the drop happens for a short duration, but the intentional burnouts may extend for several minutes or hours. ‘

Brownout, on the other hand, is reducing the capacity temporarily in the total system. Brownouts are usually partial shutdowns.

The system capacity reduces instead of allowing the power to go out completely.

What causes a brownout?

A brownout is caused by the high demand for electricity that is either above or near a utility’s production capacity.

When this happens, the utility may reduce the flow of electricity to some areas in an attempt to prevent a total blackout. A brownout can also be described as a voltage drop in an electrical system.

One thing to take note of is that electricity is a balancing act. The electricity demand will always fluctuate.

Electrical utilities on the other hand use their generator networks, transformers, and substations to ensure they are distributing electricity at the required levels.

When the power demands are close to or above the utility’s maximum production capacity, the utility is forced to intentionally lower the power supply in certain areas and this results in a brownout.

When there is a brownout, electricity will still be flowing in homes but the voltage levels will be lower than usual.

In fact, a brownout event gets its name from the dimming of incandescent light bulbs.

Brownouts can occur spontaneously due to malfunctions or damage within the grid or a nearby power plant.

Can a brownout damage a refrigerator?

During a burnout, the voltage levels go down and can result in power surges and low voltage fluctuations. These effects can wreak havoc on your refrigerator. It is advisable to unplug it right at the moment when the brownout happens.

Partial brownout in house

The experience you get when partial brownout hits your house is weird. When this happens, there is usually a problem with the power line serving you.

There are instances where the power brownout may be caused by a bad link in your breaker box. If that is the case, you can hire an electrician to fix this problem for you.

What to do in a brownout

When a brownout occurs, you should immediately power down and unplug electrical appliances in your house. Appliances that are fitted with motors are the most susceptible to power fluctuations that occur during a brownout.
The next thing you can do is invest in surge protectors.

They will protect your devices against power spikes and sags during a brownout.

Brownout protection device

It is a device also known as a surge protector. It is designed to protect your appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners against damages in case of a brownout.

It is a power distribution unit that can block excessive power fluctuations before it gets through and wreaks havoc on your electric appliances.

Brownout protection circuit

Just like a circuit breaker, a brownout protection circuit disconnects all your devices when the voltage gets too low.

It helps safeguard your electrical appliances from damages caused by power fluctuations experienced during a brownout.

Brownout reset circuit diagram

A brownout reset is a vital function that helps increase the microcontroller’s reliability when it starts up.

It comes in handy when it comes to solving issues related to the power supply. It will ensure that your gadgets are kept safe.

How to fix a brownout (Step by Step)

Brownout? Well, experiencing unintentional or intentional sag or drop in voltage along an electrical grid occur most often. In most cases, it will happen when there are heavy load times or in cases of huge electricity demands. Similarly, severe weathers cause brownouts.

The electrical services providers do brownout to minimize the possibility of getting your home in a total blackout. During brownouts, homes will usually operate with less power than usual.

A brownout will manifest in the form of flickering lights. Since light bulbs depending on voltages, decreasing the available electricity affects the brightness of the light bulbs.

Rapid switching on and off of the electrical appliances is also a sign of brownouts. You can also notice the issue through the loss of internet connectivity.

Steps for safeguarding valuable equipment in a brownout

Turning the power off. When you switch off the power, you will avoid causing damage to any appliances.
You can also install brownout monitoring for the protection of your equipment.

Keep monitoring the temperatures. Freezers and refrigerators hotter locations because this will make the appliances run hotter because this could take unnecessarily longer durations in maintenance the optimum temperatures.

Cleaning the condenser coil your unit because any dirty could make the compressor run hot for long and possibly cause damage.

Blackout vs Brownout (What is the difference between?)

Offer protection against power surge by installing the appropriate circuit interrupter devices to help with monitoring the electricity that flows into and out of every socket.

The interrupter will shut down immediately where high current flows are registered. Another option you have is to install a protector surge for the whole house in the electrical panel to serve this purpose.

What’s more, most people might be interested to know what they could do to fix the brownout. The solution is to sit back and do nothing. Or rather, they can contact their electricity service provider and ask for the fixation of the problem beyond the consumers.

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