A brownout is an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage. Usually, in the Philippines, that means there is no electricity, sometimes for hours.
Most brownouts are unscheduled. But the long ones that involve maintenance can take up to 10 hours and are announced. If you are lucky you get informed, if they hit you by surprise you might end up without a charged phone or laptop.
Brownouts happen all over the 24 hours in the day. And the answer to it is using a backup generator or emergency lights. My lights are on a lot. Last night we had 3 brownouts. The day before 2 during the day. Some were 15 minutes others lasted over an hour.
For me, brownout also means no water, since the pumping system switches off as well. And without electricity, there is no wifi either and you have to rely on your phone for the internet.
My first brownout came as a shock when people explained that I had to get used to it, my whole first world brain rebelled against the idea of being depending on the feeble state of service of an electricity company. Now, 3 years later I am kind of used to it. Although I wonder if I ever fully will. You kind of adjust to it. But it is bothersome especially the really long ones from whom I always miss the announcement because of the location of the house. I am too far from the main road to hear the speaker van.
The longest brownout I experienced was 2.5 days. I can tell you that, with midday temperatures around 38 degrees Celsius that does wonders for your fridge, you get a free defrosted fridge on the side. With compliments of the electricity company.
Brownouts also occur due to growing demand from tourism. During high season power outage occurs mostly between 4-7 pm when all the tourists hit the hot shower and switch on the TV and air-con and plug their phones in for charging. Such a huge demand is a big strain for the diesel plants that provide power.
Most resorts have a backup generator, so do stores and restaurants, but most homestays do not have one, neither the smaller shops and local places. There is a lot of candlelight and the old fashioned oil lamp or kerosine lamp is used a lot in the Philippines, especially in rural areas.
There is also something special about brownouts: the world grows very silent
You hear a brownout before you notice it…..
I explain in the podcast:
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