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Outage Causes

There are many reasons why the power may go out in your neighbourhood. Essex Powerlines keeps track of these power interruptions, documents the cause and allows us to see where investments need to be made in our infrastructure.

Here are the most frequent causes of power outages:

  • Adverse Weather: This includes, but is not limited to, extreme rain, ice, snow, wind, freezing rain and frost that can disrupt the power system. 
  • Defective Equipment: Includes failures of electrical distribution system components primarily due to aging. This is why its important for us to re-invest in our infrastructure! Equipment failures are one of the largest cause of power failures. 
  • Foreign Interference: These events are caused by things outside of our control. This includes animal contact (mostly squirrel and bird contacts), vehicles hitting power poles, unsafe excavations, and vandalism.
  • Lightning: When lightning hits our distribution system, it causes havoc. We have special equipment that mitigates lightning strikes, however, sometimes it sneaks through and causes damage to our equipment.
  • Loss of Supply: This is Essex Powerlines’ largest cause of power failures. Loss of Supply refers to problems on Hydro One’s transmission system. Hydro One delivers power to us from the Ontario Grid through transmission lines, and then we distribute that power to our customers through distribution lines. If Hydro One has an issue upstream, then our customers can be affected, even though there is nothing wrong with our system.
  • Scheduled Outages: These are interruptions that we plan and manage so that our crews can work safely when they are upgrading or expanding our distribution system.
  • Tree Contact: Tree contact is especially common in our Shareholder Municipalities, such as LaSalle, due to its urban environment. If trees get too close to the conductors, they can cause a power outage as well as a safety hazard!

Other Frequently Asked Questions:

Essex Powerlines has state-of-the-art technology that sends a notice to our Managers when a significant power outage occurs. SmartMAP, a tool designed by Essex Powerlines, is in constant communication with control devices installed throughout the city. SmartMAP will alert our Managers and Operators when the power goes out in near real-time. 

While we heavily rely on our SmartMAP tool, SmartMAP works at a certain threshold of affected customers. As such, we do rely on our customers to help pinpoint smaller outages affecting homes and businesses in their respective area. Customers can call our service representatives at 519-737-6640 or 519-561-6366 during after hours.

Essex Powerlines cannot guarantee a constant power supply because many power outages are due to reasons beyond our control (severe weather, loss of supply, foreign interference, etc.) As such, Essex Powerlines does not reimburse customers for damage occurred during a power outage. 

Please refer to your insurance companies for more details. 

There are many ways to protect your appliances from power surges. Here are some common recommendations:

  1. Unplug valuable electronics when there are severe weather warnings in place.
  2. Avoid overloading electrical outlets by limiting the number of devices connected to a single outlet.
  3. Always use a surge protector for your sensitive electronics, such as TVs and computers. Be sure to choose the right surge protector for your needs!
  4. Consider installing whole home surge protectors. Whole home surge protectors are installed at your home’s main electrical panel. They offer protection and guard an entire household or building from external surges. Before installing, make sure the protector complies with safety codes and regulations. If you are unsure, contact a local electrician.
  5. Unplug additional appliances/electronics that are not in use. Did you know that when an electronic is plugged in but not necessarily turned on, it still uses something called “phantom” power? Not only will unplugging help you save energy, but it will help protect your electronics from possible power surges.

When current exceeding the capabilities of the system are detected, power is removed temporarily to clear the problem. This may happen multiple times in a row. If the temporary removal of power does not help, then the wire/feeder must be isolated and de-energized until the problem can be discovered. This is usually done by patrolling crews.

These types of temporary faults occur all the time. A branch contacting the line in a high wind, an animal making contact with the wire and ground (ex. A squirrel sitting on a transformer and reaching up to contact the energized top of the transformer bushing), lightning, and tracking during a rainstorm (i.e. surface wetness can conduct electricity temporarily shorting out an energized device) are all examples of occurrences that may cause a temporary fault. 

The idea is that the system will react automatically and avoid damage and a lengthy outage for a problem that is very difficult to detect by observation, especially temporary situations. By de-energizing the system temporarily through an auto reclosure, these faults can clear themselves and prevent a device from failing due to overload. 

A brownout happens less frequently than transients or fluctuating voltage but are much more noticeable when they occur. Brownouts seem to occur on those hot muggy days in the heat of summer when everyone has air conditioner turned on full blast. 

Brownouts are defined as longer-term under-voltage conditions lasting from several seconds to several hours, depending on the cause. This type of disturbance can typically be measured with a standard digital or analog voltmeter. They are caused by faults, large changes in the load (such as air conditioners), long-term regulation problems, utility grid overload, or within the power grid.