Electrical systems are essential to our daily lives. They’re responsible for powering vital infrastructure and our homes. Without them, we wouldn’t have lighting. We’d also have to live without AC, Wi-Fi, and many other things we tend to take for granted.
But like everything else, sometimes, electrical systems fail. When they do, understanding how to resolve the issue is crucial. Moreover, we must be able to decipher what caused the problem in the first place. For this reason, it’s wise to explore some common reasons for electric system failures.
Underground Cable Faults
Underground cable faults are widely considered the most common cause of power system failure. One of the ways electrical systems distribute power is through cables. These cables connect through an overhead system (like power lines) or an underground network.
Most modern-day utility entities use underground systems as they’re safer and more efficient. Most of the time, undergrounding is very effective. However, these underground systems occasionally experience issues that inadvertently cause failure and throw power systems out of whack.
Some of these issues include:
- Dig-ins: a person digs too deep, damaging the power cable
- Electrochemical treeing: moisture penetrates cables, damaging cable insulation strength
- External equipment malfunction: transformers, junction boxes, or other equipment malfunction damaging the cables they’re connected to
Of course, there are myriad reasons an underground cable can cause an electrical system failure. But the above are among the most common.
External Factors or Forces
Underground cables are only part of the equation, though. There are still overhead powerlines and other types of systems far more susceptible to the elements. These systems typically experience failures because of the external forces they’re exposed to daily.
Severe thunderstorms, for instance, are a common reason for system failure. Wind, snow, and lightning can cause these power systems to malfunction.
There are also other causes like:
- Tree contact
- Birds, squirrels, rodents
- Insects and snakes
Numerous things can interfere with a power system and cause it to fail. Sometimes, it has to do with the weather, animals, and people who can damage public property.
Transformer Overloads or Failures
Like power cables, transformers are an essential piece of the power system puzzle. This equipment is supposed to transfer electric energy from one alternating current to others in a system. Moreover, transformers regulate the amount of voltage within a circuit. As you can imagine, a malfunctioning transformer can cause issues or total system failure.
But what exactly would cause a transformer to go kaput? Overheating can cause a transformer’s internal parts to break down and become brittle over time. Eventually, this leads to faulty machinery and system failure. Malfunctions can also be due to regular wear and aging of equipment.
Harsh weather, cracks in insulation, and a host of other things can cause a transformer to stop working correctly. Basically, anything—internal or external—that could interfere with the equipment could cause a transformer to malfunction. As a result, power systems could fail.
In short, numerous things could cause power system failures. Luckily, forensic engineering helps us get to the bottom of these issues. This knowledge allows us to find the solutions necessary to fix and prevent these sorts of problems in our power systems moving forward.