Rain causes blackout every time

Hyperbole? Maybe. But I live in a desert, so it doesn’t rain often. When it does rain, the power will usually go out. Sometimes it’s a true blackout, but often it’s what I think is called a “transient fault.” Not a brownout. I lose power for less than one second; enough to turn off my computer*. It need not be storming, but can happen with anything more than a drizzle.

Why does rain (presuming no catastrophic lighting strikes) cause both second-long and hours-long blackouts? Rarity of rain in July = not prepared for it? Sometimes the first significant snow does it too, but the rest of winter usually has good power.

*I have a UPC, but it looks like it’s not working. If the battery dies, is loss of backup ability gradual or sudden? It worked during the last rain, probably not more than a month ago, although the charge time was possibly shorter. Also, the surge protection should still work, right?

Do you call the electric company when the power goes out and if you do do they tell you what was wrong when the power is back online?
When it’s out for hours do you see a truck in the area fixing something?
I’m almost wondering if there’s an exposed wire near a ground (or another exposed wire) and the water is making the connection. That might be enough to cause a short, which flips a breaker that eventually resets itself.

You might want to start calling every.single.time it happens to let them know so they can look into it. You’re not nagging them, these are things they want to know about because they don’t want them to be happening. Not just because they’re annoying to customers but because they’re just going to become more frequent and if it is what I’m guessing it’s eventually going to happen and stay off when the wire corrodes or a small animal makes the connection.

FTR, personally, I probably wouldn’t call when it just blinks, but calling every time it’s out for more than 2 or 3 minutes will help them to narrow down where the issue is. You might even call now just to let them know that you’re dissatisfied with the situation. I did that a few years ago and it prompted them to put some kind of animal guard around a transformer that caused my power at work to go out about 5 times a year…now it only goes out about 2 times a year.

UPC’s contain a large battery, which is what maintains the power for several minutes when the mains power goes out. The mains electrical power keeps this battery charged and ready for use.

These batteries eventually wear out, just like any rechargable battery. Usually last 3-5 years. Generally they first start to lose rechargeable power, in that they will only power your system for a shorter and shorter time. Eventually they won’t recharge at all, so even a sub-second flicker in your electric power will power-down your system. Then it’s time to replace the battery. Get the make & model number of your UPS, and look up the batttery it uses. You can order them online, but they are heavy and shipping is expensive – it’s often cheaper to find a local battery store.

The batteries aren’t cheap, but they are much less expensive than a new UPS. Replace it, and your UPS should be good to go for several more years.

" It need not be storming, but can happen with anything more than a drizzle."

wild guess…rain causes damage at the substation (or some transformer) that serves your area. and given where you live/population density/costs/etc, it may just be cheaper for the power company to let your power go dark, send a crew and replace some cheap parts than to invest in the necessary equipment to handle the rain.

When I lived in L.A., the power would occasionally go out when it rained. I suspect someone crashing a car into a box. I bought a Coleman lantern. The power went out exactly once after that (during rain – it went out with the Northridge quake too) – and it came back on just as I lit the lantern. So about 30 seconds later.

A brownout is when you have a low voltage condition. Your lights will dim but they won’t go out. Fans might not have enough torque to keep spinning, which can be a big issue in electronics where the electronic device stays on (maybe just sorta) but it’s cooling fan stops. I’ve lost more equipment to brownouts over the years than to blackouts.

Blackouts are when the power goes completely dead.

You are indeed experiencing what is called a transient fault. If you overload a circuit in your home, the breaker trips and the line goes dead. Then you trudge down to the basement and figure out which breaker tripped, and turn it back on. The power company has the same thing, except that hiking a few dozen miles to figure out what tipped is a bit more of a pain than going down your basement stairs. So their protective devices have what are called “automatic reclosers” on them. When there is a fault, the recloser turns the line back on. Reclosers are programmable. Usually they are programmed to turn back on a couple of times fairly quickly (within a few seconds) and then they’ll wait a bit (maybe a couple of minutes) and then they’ll try one last time before giving up. If you have something like a lightning strike or a tree brushing up against a line, the fault usually clears fairly quickly, the recloser turns the circuit back on, and all is well. If the recloser faults for its final time, it’s done, and the power company guys get to drive out and figure out exactly where the fault it.

So basically it sounds like you are getting some sort of transient fault and then the recloser is turning the power back on.

One thing about deserts is that they are dry, which may seem like a really smart Captain Obvious thing to say, but where I’m going with this is that the electrical grounds tend to suck. Really dry soil isn’t very conductive. This means that protective grounds, like those that help shunt lightning strikes harmlessly into the earth, don’t work as well. Does lightning accompany these rain storms? Lightning can travel a long way down power lines, especially if you don’t have good earth grounds to shunt it harmlessly into the soil.

Another thing about deserts is that, with the exception of places like Las Vegas, not many people live there. The sparse population density means that power lines tend to stretch longer distances, so a fault a good distance away from you can still take out your power.

I asume you mean UPS (Universal Price Codes don’t help your computer much :stuck_out_tongue: ). When the battery starts to die, the UPS just won’t provide power for as long. If the battery goes really dead, the UPS will often detect it and will beep, if it has a battery monitoring circuit in it. If it has lead acid batteries, they tend to chemically self destruct if you discharge them too much, so use the UPS to ride through short faults and use it to safely shut down your computer for longer outages. Don’t run it until the batteries go completely flat. Often they’ll have an alarm that will let you know they are getting low on battery power. The less expensive units don’t have to much monitoring or alarming.

If your UPS uses lithium ion batteries, those just die an early death no matter how well you treat them. They are small, lightweight, and have an excellent energy storage capacity, but they don’t age well. If they run hot they die an even earlier death. At best, they’ll last maybe 5 years. If they run hot, they may only last a year or two.

Ni-Cad batteries are heavier and have less energy density than lithium ion, but they don’t die as quickly (especially if you treat them well) and they don’t self-destruct if you run them dead.

Less expensive UPS systems don’t have much in the way of noise and spike filtering. Sometimes the spike filtering is just a few metal-oxide varistors (MOVs). Those work by creating a dead short to ground when the votlage gets to high, which clamps a lightning strike to ground and prevents it from doing damage. The MOVs get destroyed in the process though, and cheap UPS systems (as well as power strips, which also use MOVs for protection) give no indication that they have failed and that you have no more protection. The better ones will have an indicator light that let you know that the MOVs are still intact.

Note that surge protection has its limits. A cheap power strip might be rated for a few hundred joules. A better surge protector or a UPS might be rated for a few thousand joules. A high end UPS might be good for a few tens of thousands of joules. A lightning strike contains a few billion joules. There isn’t much that you can buy (at least not affordably) that will protect you from a direct lightning strike. Those are fairly rare, though. More often the lightning will hit a power line somewhere, and you’ll get only a fraction of that energy, which a good surge protector will be able to protect you from.

When looking at surge protection, the lower the clamping voltage the better, the higher the joule rating the better, and the higher the shunt current rating the better.

You are in a desert. There’s something preventing humid air from the coast reaching you, unless there’s some strong system to drive it. So when you get rain its due to a strong system… large difference in air pressure … leads to wind.

Wind blows the lines so they come close together, and blows stuff ( branches, plastic sheets ? tumble weed ?) onto the lines… if they are wet enough they conduct well enough to present as a short… and turn to plasma for a bit.

Are your electric lines buried? Is it possible the insulation is faulty and the rain is soaking the ground and shorting them out outside of your house?

It’s always seemed to me that the first rainstorm of the winter season (or, the first few rainstorms) always precipitate power outages. It’s what rain does. It precipitates.

But then, things settle down and the rest of the rainy season is less of a problem. I always thought it was like a short-lived immune system: Power systems get the chilblains or whatever the first few storms, then somehow develop an immunity that protects them the rest of the winter. But over the spring and summer it wears off, and the next year, it’s rinse and repeat. I always wondered how power systems just, sort of, develop an immunity to rain after the first few storms. And why that immunity, once developed, wears off before the following winter.

Now, if you’re living out in the desert where it only rains once or twice a year, then EVERY storm is going to be the first or second storm of the season. So it stands to reason that EVERY storm is going to knock your power out.

I’ve gotten the impression that this is typical, but maybe you’re right. I think I did once.

No they are not. I picked this one up at surplus for free, so a new one was cheaper :). I’ll check. It’s an APC.

Rating on the bottom is output V and A, and therefore W, but no J. Website is similar except harder to find the exact product.

That would make sense if it weren’t windy all the time.

I’ve seen the traffic accident type of loss. This isn’t it.

More rain than that, it’s just that the slight drizzles make people freak out. We aren’t talking Phoenix here! The rest of what you said is what I suspect.

i’ve found


a good place for batteries. they will match what you need.

A couple of years ago when we were having a really bad drought here in Central Texas, everytime we would get a little sprinkle of rain we would have power interuptions. I remember they had a guy from the power company on the news talking about it and he said the problem was, during extended dry periods, dust builds up on the transmission lines, insulators and circuits. Then with a light rain, the dust would turn to mud and cause a short circuit.
It sounds like maybe this is what is happening in your case.

Not to ask a stupid question, but how many other homes are affected around you? Just to rule out that your home isn’t the cause of the problem.

My earlier post was semi-facetious, but there really is a question there: It has always seemed to be that the first few rainstorms of the winter tend to cause power outages, but then not so much after that. Why is that?

Are there literally just a small finite number of “bad spots” that need to be found and repaired, and then everything’s good for the rest of the winter? And every year, over the summer, a small and finite number of new “bad spots” develop, to be found and fixed with the first storms of the next winter?

We get lots of blackouts if there has not been much rain for a while - something to do with dust. A powerpole nearby my home caught fire earlier this year and the cause was stated as being dust and rain.