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Thread: Weird Power Failure

  1. #1
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    Weird Power Failure

    OK, so I figure that there will be some smart folk here who can explain the following.

    Yesterday I returned home after work (approx 9:15pm, so it was dark).

    Driving along the road to my home, I observed that the streetlights were out - hmmm, no power

    I live in a Strata, so I turn in to our communal laneway and observe that the Bollard lights are still on - strange.

    I open my roller door and drive into my covered carport, and my outside light is on - ok, no power failure.

    Go inside, the inside light I leave on, is still on. Walk into kitchen and turn on light - it winks at me, then sulks. Fridge is not working, microwave light isn’t on = power out.

    Check my circuit boards, 2 switches off, flick them back on, fridge comes to life and the microwave beeps. Great! Get torch so I can see in kitchen, get glass of wine, turn TV on so I can watch Brownlow.

    Then we go into something like a scene from a Steven King Movie/Novel. TV turns off. Working lights start flashing. Open fridge and there’s a dull glow from the so-called light and the fridge is moaning. Push the touch switch for the ceramic cooktop - it moans and displays a few random red digital fragments. Try some water in the microwave and it stutters and moans - gosh! Look out and the streetlights are back on, but my outside light is blinking, as is my one inside light.

    TV randomly turns back on, streetlight ceases working and my lighting stops flashing - rinse and repeat again. At this point, I turn all the switches to the appliances to OFF and go and contemplate my glass of wine, whilst having a vape and a think. Check SA Power Networks, and apparently “their equipment has been damaged” and the power might be back on at 12:15am - so, I’m slightly relieved that it’s not all my fault.

    I haven’t eaten. I have a portable butane cooker that I have filed somewhere “safe”. The butane cartridges are in a kitchen cupboard. I eventually found the cooker hiding in the spare room, some 45mins later - must have had a senior moment when I organised that! It’s now located next to the bloody butane cartridges! I said that for gratuitous sympathy about being hungry

    Can anyone tell me wtf happened to the power supply? I’ve never experienced something like that before. Talking to my neighbours today, they all had similar experiences. I’ve heard the term “brown-out”, is this what happened? If so, what exactly is it? Cheers from a somewhat mystified FX
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  2. #2
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    The fault is one of them half assed ones that sparky's hate so much.
    Sounds like one of the phases crapped itself and the other 2 struggling under the load.

    Least its not one of those pissy pole fuses like in WA, a cow could fart in the wrong direction and trip the power in every house stretching 100kms.

  3. #3
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    What Hoofy said. Therefore you are not getting anywhere near the 220-240 volts required. This is very dangerous for modern equipment such as computers and TV's. These should be unplugged and left until full, uninterrupted supply returns. Simpler circuits like light globes will struggle on using what power is available, but it's still not good for their longevity. Safest thing is to keep everything off until full service is restored. Then hit up the body corp to install off grid solar, and never get caught up in the political game playing that is going to make our power supply so much worse, in the very near future.

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  4. #4
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    One thing to note, if any of your equipment is damaged via a 'brown out', get advice, I say this because an old tutor of mine took the electricity supplier to court when his 'delicate equipment' was fried during a 'brown out' and he won. He was compensated for his losses, costs and damages as well. You South Aussies and your power, not even the AFL side is powerful enough!
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  5. #5
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    We had something very similar here at the end of summer and it was exactly like Hoofy said ...It's the transformer dropping a phase ... how do I know this ?

    LOL well it was stinking hot and suddenly there was this almighty " BOOFFFF!!!!" from the side of the house and the aircon started making some really sad noises ... the fan was running but the compressor struggled to turn over .. " Oh Crap " thought Fatty ... "my aircon has crapped itself " now my TV and DVR were fine , the lights were fine .. everything looked ok ... soooo I pulled the aircon out of the wall and started fault checking and cleaning hoping to god it would kick back to life as it was a 38 degree day ... nope nada crap

    Then I noticed the chest freezer wasnt happy either??? ... so I went to the switchboard with trusty multimeter in hand and I was running exactly 123V
    The TV, DVR , laptop, modem etc and lighting in the place are all 12V and run off adaptors and as such can run on 110v but anything that required things at 240V and a few amps said no ... turns out the BOOF I heard wasnt the aircon blowing up but was the fusible link in the transformer up the road self destructing ... Powercorp blokes were right on it ( amazing) and had the bugger done in less than 4 hours, which is amazing for a rural incident on a weekend ... However I wish they had arrived before I pulled the 40kg aircon out of the wall!!! LOL
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  6. #6
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    Brown out. Low voltage, as has been already mentioned.

    3 phases come from the power station. They're at several hundred thousand volts for long distance travel, and stepped down to mere thousands of volts, still only 3 phases and 3 wires for local distribution. When it gets to the transformer on the street it's stepped down to 240, the supply going to your meter, through your equipment and back to the transformer to a common neutral connection where everyone's neutral is connected together, and returns to the power station through the 2 phases you're not connected to. This is a very simple explanation of how power distribution is done, but should give some idea of how losing one phase will kill 1/3 of the supply and 1/2 of the neutral return. In most cases a phase failure should cut all power downstream of the problem, but if the control gear has failed and can't cut the supply completely, you get serious trouble.

    If you're on the dead phase, you get nothing. If you're on one of the other two you get incoming power, but only half the return line. Basically you're getting all the incoming, only half the outgoing and on average nowhere near enough power to keep the lights on. Fatman's 123V is kind of odd, most times I've found a dead phase I got 170-180V but in a supply failure, 'odd' is 'normal'.

    In this particular case, the streetlights are ballasted lighting and won't fire without adequate voltage and current or could have been on the bad phase. Everything you noted that tripped the breaker has been trying to pull it's rated power from lower voltage, so pulling more current to compensate and popped the breakers. Some stuff, as noted, will run quite happily on anything from 100V-250V, so may run in these conditions provided the current demand isn't large.

    Best thing to do, turn off all the breakers save one. When the circuit with the 'on' breaker returns to normal, switch everything else back on again. Don't be in a hurry, for the first few minutes the demand on supply will be enormous.

    What's really interesting to me is that I've never noted the power to go off over here for more than a few seconds, usually not enough to notice it. I can't recall a single black out for over 10 years.

    Stu, card carrying electrician.
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  7. #7
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    Just water failures here, we had 2 in the last 5 days although they had it back on within a few hours. First time since we moved here over 2 years ago so can't complain.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schtoo View Post
    Fatman's 123V is kind of odd, most times I've found a dead phase I got 170-180V but in a supply failure, 'odd' is 'normal'.



    Stu, card carrying electrician.
    lol so my "normal" 246V supply isnt it drops a few volt under load tho ... one of the benefits of being in the arse end of the regulated power system I think .. they probably up the volts a bit to make up for sag due to line losses and usage over distance
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fatman View Post
    lol so my "normal" 246V supply isnt it drops a few volt under load tho ... one of the benefits of being in the arse end of the regulated power system I think .. they probably up the volts a bit to make up for sag due to line losses and usage over distance
    your power is as bad as mine.

    This duplex used to be one house. The power company being lazy installed a second meter but instead of a second line they gave my unit 1 phase next door got 2.
    Ye old fluke multimeter is permanently attached to the box outside so i can tell when my appliances almost KO my line.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoofprint View Post
    your power is as bad as mine.

    This duplex used to be one house. The power company being lazy installed a second meter but instead of a second line they gave my unit 1 phase next door got 2.
    Ye old fluke multimeter is permanently attached to the box outside so i can tell when my appliances almost KO my line.
    How grand it is that we are living in the lucky country. Gas, electricity & internet probs in this day and age. With all the 'you beaut' technology that drains not a lot of power as yesteryears' did, the infrastructure still doesn't cope.
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