In case you wanted to know what a smart home is like during a brownout…

In case you wanted to know what a smart home is like during a brownout…

Our lights were intermittently flickering at our house today, so I called the utility company who sent somebody out at record speed to investigate. After finding no issues with our house or meter, he started looking upstream at the various taps in our neighborhood.

The utility worker found a tap that needed to be replaced because a rubber sheath had melted (likely because of a poor connection) and he let us know that we should not lose power during the replacement process because they were wired in parallel (whatever that means in the context of power distribution).

Unfortunately, in the process of replacing equipment, we ended up with a rare brownout. For those unfamiliar, this is where you get only a portion of the voltage to your house. All sorts of weird shit happens with electronics, and lightbulbs will operate at a reduced brightness.

I’m speculating we only had 1 hot leg of 2 and some electricity was going to neutral, but I’m not super well versed on household circuits.

But to get to the point… I have about 10 smart dimmers and smart outlets and I can confidently report they do not tolerate brownouts well. At least half of them started spazzing out, clicking on and off rapidly. Some of them have an air gap you can pull, and some of them do not. I was really confused, because some of the LEDs in my house were working just fine but other stuff was not. So, I ran out to my breaker panel and shut off the main service disconnect to the house.

Fortunately, every piece of decent electronics and every computer in my house had already been shut off and unplugged earlier when I noticed the lights flickering. That said, I was keeping my fingers crossed that none of my smart switches were fried from all of the power flickering and subsequent brownout.

When the lineman was done, he came and turned our service back on at the panel and everything resumed working like normal. I thoroughly tested out every device in the house and was relieved that nothing was bricked.

Moral of the story: always know where your main service disconnect is, and only buy smart switches that have air gap breakers. And, I suppose, don’t hesitate to call the utility company when things are fishy with your service.

Published at Mon, 23 Nov 2020 02:51:00 +0000

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