Blackouts and brownouts happen often in the summertime as air conditioners throughout the city tax the electrical grid. While most power grids are designed to handle such fluctuations in usage, they can still be overwhelmed with the demand for power as ACs throughout the city kick on to combat the heat. Some utility companies may also have scheduled or rolling blackouts or brownouts by neighborhood in an attempt to spread the load around the area. There are also many weather related causes for power outages, such as lightning.

When blackouts and brownouts happen, it can leave you without AC for hours or days. It is important to make sure that you are staying cool and following safety precautions while your power is out. People went without air conditioning for centuries, so there are plenty of effective ways to stay cool enough to be safe without AC.

Blackouts and brownouts happen often in the summertime as air conditioners throughout the city tax the electrical grid.

How Blackouts and Brownouts Affect Your Cooling

Blackouts and brownouts affect your cooling in different ways. A blackout is a complete lack of power to your home and/or the area. When a blackout occurs, you don’t have any power at all, which of course means that you don’t have any cooling.

Brownouts are a bit different. A brownout is simply a reduction in the power coming into your home. You may still have power, as evidenced by lighting, but it won’t be enough voltage to run your HVAC system effectively. This means you will have to turn off your AC, but you may be able to use other smaller appliances to keep cool, such as desk fans.

Blackouts and brownouts are more common in areas not built to function without AC. In some regions, homes or larger buildings use passive cooling and other measures so that they are not reliant on air conditioning. Most regions expect the majority of homes to use air conditioning.

Important Note!

It is very important that you turn off your AC when a blackout or brownout occurs. In a blackout situation, the AC could become damaged when the power comes back on. If you have a brownout, the decreased voltage coming into the system could also cause damage.

Power surges and fluctuations can also cause extensive damage to the HVAC unit unless you have an AC surge protector installed. These repairs can be very expensive, and you may have to replace the unit completely. It is best to take preventative measures and make sure your AC stays off during any power outages or fluctuations.

Preparation is Key

Of course, the better prepared you are for a power outage the better you will be able to keep cool while your AC is off. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, recommends that everyone be prepared for a power outage as blackouts and brownouts can happen at any time, anywhere.

The federal government gives some guidelines for things you should have on hand to be prepared for a power outage. Not all of the recommendations they offer are related to your air conditioner, although they are all important. Here are some recommendations to be prepared for keeping cool during a power failure.

  • Purchase a few battery-operated fans and flashlights, as well as a large pack of batteries for both.
  • Keep extra plastic containers filled with water in your fridge or freezer, especially if you know a planned blackout or brownout will be happening in your area. You can use them to cool off, stay hydrated, or keep your food cold.
  • Talk to your HVAC provider about upgrading your system to include surge protection.
  • Evaluate your electrical needs such as life sustaining medical equipment. Purchase and install a generator that will operate these basic necessities.

Some other preparations you can take for your family’s safety include:

  • Have an emergency kit prepared for the household or each family member.
  • Sign up for local weather and emergency alert systems so that you get up to date information.
  • Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors that operate on backup battery power to protect your family.
  • Set aside enough shelf stable food to feed you and your family for at least three days.
  • Keep a jug of frozen water in your fridge and freezer in case of outages.
  • Keep your phones charged and your gas tank full for emergencies.

The more prepared you are, the better you will weather the storm when power failure strikes. Depending on the number and ages of people in your household, you may also want to prepare some additional items such as toys and activities that do not operate on electricity or batteries. You may also want some extra snacks and beverages.

Staying Cool During a Power Failure

No matter how prepared you are, how you react when a power outage actually happens will determine how well you and your family cope without electricity. There are a lot of measures that you can take to ensure that you and your family stay cool during this time.

Here are some steps you should take when you first lose power in a blackout or brownout.

  1. Close all of your curtains, drapes, and blinds to keep sunlight from heating up your rooms.
  2. Close exterior and interior doors, and when there is no door between rooms hang a blanket over the open doorway. This will make it so that you are only cooling the main part of the house.
  3. Turn off all unnecessary electronics, even those that run on battery power.
  4. Turn off all of the lights but one, even if it is a brownout. One light will let you know when the power is back on.
  5. Turn on your generator only if you need it for immediate use, otherwise save the power.
If water droplets containing the bacteria are sucked into the HVAC system, they can be pushed back out into the common indoor environment

If you are experiencing a brownout with some electrical service you may be able to run a fan as well, but keep in mind that the voltage coming into the house may not be enough to sustain the fan, lighting, and other items as well.

You and your family can take some additional measures to cool your home. Placing ice or a wet sheet in open windows cools the air coming into your home. If you are able to run a fan pulling cooler air into the home, you can further cool it by placing a bowl of ice in front of the fan.

You can also take some measures to keep yourself cool when your home is hot. Some things you can try include:

  • Place a small bowl of ice in front of your personal battery-operated fan so that cooling mist blows on you.
  • Place ice or a cool cloth on your pulse points (inside each wrist, back of the neck, inside the elbows, behind the knees, on the feet, and in the groin area).
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Take a cold shower to cool off when it gets unbearable.
  • If you have a finished basement or garage that you can hang out in or sleep in, that will be ideal because heat rises, and lower rooms will be cooler.

The best ways to keep cool during a power outage are:

  • Strategically open and close your windows. Open up your windows in the cooler mornings and evenings so that you can cool off the house naturally. Try to keep windows covered at other times so that sunlight doesn’t heat up the house. Opening windows as the sun moves away from that side of the house is a good idea, while keeping windows in full sun closed and completely covered.
  • Do not cook using your stove or oven, even if you have some power coming into your home. If you have some type of power or power backup, try cooking with electric skillets, griddles, or crock pots. Better yet, and especially helpful if you have no power at all, you can cook your meals outside on the grill to avoid heating up the house.

Your AC and Blackouts/Brownouts

As previously mentioned, blackouts and brownouts can have a negative impact on your HVAC equipment. Power surges are common during brownouts, rolling blackouts, or when power comes back on after an outage. These power surges can cause significant AC repairs to be necessary, as well as cause other issues that will shorten the life of your unit.

If your air conditioner was running when the power went out and you did not manually turn it off, there is a chance that it could have been damaged when the power came back on, even if you are unaware of it immediately. If this happens to you, it is important to contact an HVAC professional to come inspect and repair your unit.

One of the best things you can do to protect your HVAC equipment is to install an AC surge protector. These can help minimize or eliminate damage to your AC caused by power fluctuations and surges. We can easily upgrade your unit to include installation of an HVAC power surge protector.

If we can provide these or any other services for you and your family this summer, contact us today for additional information and assistance.

Expert Consultation – Only A Call Away!

Carolina Comfort, Inc. has been serving the neighborhoods of Columbia, South Carolina for over two decades. This means that when it comes to air conditioning systems, we really know our business.

From assessing your cooling requirements to bringing down costs associated with faulty air conditioning units, Carolina Comfort, Inc. can serve all your AC related needs.

The best part is that we pride on being available 24/7 for our customers.

After all, air conditioning systems can stop working any time, and so our technicians are always available to deal with any AC related emergencies – whether it is a weekend, holiday, or the middle of the night!

If you have any questions, need a consultation, or someone to repair your air conditioning unit – call us now!



5636 Bush River Rd.
Columbia, SC 29212
SC License – #M104545
NC License – #32356

Phone: (803) 794-5526