What are rolling blackouts?
Rolling blackouts, or rotating outages, are systematic, temporary power outages that help bring balance to the supply and demand of electricity in the market. Usually, the government agency that oversees the power grid in your state will call for rolling blackouts and your electric utility will administer temporary outages to one area at a time to limit the duration of the outages for each area. Rolling blackouts are typically the last step in a series of emergency procedures after a power supply shortage is detected in the market. The utilities normally get little to no notice about the need for these outages.
If the electricity supply margin is low, meaning the supply of electricity is too low compared to the demand, the demand could become higher than the supply and cause a lengthy, widespread blackout. These small, temporary outages help prevent everyone in the area from experiencing an even longer blackout.
The duration of a rolling blackout will depend on the severity of the event. Your electric utility will usually attempt to limit the duration of outages in each area. The rolling blackout will conclude when the emergency is ended.
Most homes in the affected service area will experience a blackout. Some customers could experience multiple blackouts while others could experience no blackouts at all, depending on where they are located. Your electric utility will determine which circuits in their service areas will receive blackouts. Some areas, such as those with medical centers, hospitals or downtown areas may not be affected by rolling blackouts.
Critical care customers may also be subjected to rolling blackouts, so customers who rely on electricity for life-sustaining equipment should always have a backup plan in place in case of rolling blackouts or other weather events that could cause outages outside of the utility’s control.
As with any power outage, it helps to be prepared with the right supplies and know what to do to keep yourself and your family safe and comfortable. Read our tips for what to do before and during a power outage.
When extreme weather leads to an increase in electricity demand, the best thing you can do to help is to lower your own electricity demand by lowering your usage. Use these tips to reduce your energy usage in extreme weather:
Raise the temperature on your thermostat two to three degrees, especially at peak hours of the day, 3-7pm. Set it at a higher temperature when nobody is home.
Use ceiling fans to circulate cool air. Set them to turn counter-clockwise to produce a downdraft that creates a cooling sensation in the room.
Turn off and unplug lights and electronics when not in use.
Avoid using large appliances from 3 to 7pm.
Seal your doors and windows to reduce drafts and keep treated air inside.
Set programmable thermostats to lower temperatures when no one is home.
If you cook indoors from 2 to 8 pm, use a microwave or slow cooker.
If you lose power, turn off your heating, water heater and large appliances to enable smoother service restoration.