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Let’s Talk Low Voltage

Let’s Talk Low Voltage
By Mike Olberding, Operations Manager

About four months ago, we received a call after-hours from a concerned member.  The member stated that he thought he was experiencing low voltage at his house.  He had already shut down his main breaker box, which was a wise decision on his part.  We dispatched a lineman and notified the DS&O answering service that there was a problem in the area.  If additional calls came in about low voltage, then the answering service was advised to tell members to shut things down.

The lineman found that our power supplier, Westar, had one of its high side fuses out.  One transformer was off, but the other two transformers were still on and energizing a three-phase line heading out of the substation.  This led to the low voltage issue, especially for those furthest from the substation.

Low voltage affects both motors and electronic circuitry.  Typically, a voltage drop will cause the equipment to increase the amperage to compensate for the lost voltage, which can cause motors and circuitry to overheat and fail.  And newer appliances and electronics tend to be more sensitive to low voltages than older equipment.  Computers, televisions, HVAC systems, refrigerators, dryers, washers, and freezers are some of the most common appliances and equipment affected by low voltage.

If you experience low voltage, then please do the following:

  • Shut off the main breaker at the meter, if possible.
  • If you are not able to shut off the main breaker at the meter, then shut off the main breaker in the house.
  • If shutting off the main breaker is not possible, or not practical, unplug appliances and sensitive electronics.
  • Avoid using electrical equipment until the problem is resolved.
  • Report the problem to DS&O immediately.

DS&O has a variety of equipment to detect low voltage, but it is not deployed universally throughout the system.  It used to be cost-prohibitive to install such equipment near every transformer, but that has been changing.  The new meters we have been installing have the technology to better detect and notify us of low voltage issues.  We currently have about a fourth of our system switched over to the new meters and plan to have the whole system switched over in 2020.  In the meantime, please continue to let us know if you are experiencing dim lights or other low voltage issues.

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