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Home Power Troubleshooting
Home Power Troubleshooting
Home Power Troubleshooting
Select a topic below for answers to your power problem questions:
Lighting
Q. My lights just blinked. Should I have PGE come and check my service?

No need to call PGE. When the lights blink, it generally means an electrical fault has occurred in your area. Causes include an animal touching energy equipment, a car knocking over a power pole or people digging into buried conductors. PGE equipment restores power so quickly that all you see is a quick flicker.

Q. My lights brightened for a second and then returned to normal. What should I do?

If an electrical fault occurs near your home, you may see your lights get brighter and/or dimmer while the fault protection system is working. If everything returns to normal, you need not worry about your power. To prevent damage to electronics and appliances in the home, consider investing in a surge suppressor.

Q. My lights flickered for a second, and then I lost all power in my house. What should I do?

This generally means a fault occurred in your area and PGE’s automated protection system turned off the power. Outages can be reported 24 hours a day by calling 503-464-7777 or 800-544-1795. But before you call, first check to make sure your main circuit breaker is not tripped.

Q. A big storm made my lights flicker several times during the past hour. What should I do?

Large storms often blow tree limbs onto PGE’s power lines, resulting in a fault that creates a power surge. A power surge can damage your electronics and appliances. If you do not have surge protection, you should turn off your more sensitive equipment like televisions and computers to avoid damage.

Q. My lights dim every time I turn on the washing machine or other equipment. What should I do?

It’s normal for your lights to dim when things that use a lot of electricity — such as your washer — first turn on. Frequent dimming, though, may indicate of a bad connection in the house wiring or a problem with PGE equipment. Call our repair number, 503-464-7777 or 800-544-1795 to verify that PGE equipment is in working order. If it is, call an electrical contractor to inspect your wiring.

Q. My lights dim when my neighbor operates his power tools. Can PGE help me with this?

The voltage going into your home constantly changes depending on electrical loads used by you and your neighbors. We strive to keep our voltage within 5 percent of the nominal voltage. The neighbor’s power tools may cause your voltage to drop outside of the 5 percent range. If it does, we can make changes in our electrical system to help prevent the problem. Call the PGE Power Quality Hotline at 503-736-5750 or 800-270-7016 for assistance.

Q. My light bulbs last only a few weeks. What should I do?

Several factors determine how long a light bulb lasts. These include the voltage rating, the wattage, the manufacturer’s rated life of a bulb, how often you use the bulb and unusual voltage conditions. Here are some ideas to save you the expense of constantly changing light bulbs:
  • Standard incandescent light bulbs are designed to last approximately 750 hours. So, depending on the usage, a bulb may last only a few months. Look in your store for bulbs with a rated life of 1,500 hours or try compact fluorescent light bulbs, which last up to 10 times longer and use up to 70 percent less energy according to manufacturers’ estimates.
  • Try bulbs rated for 130 volts instead of 120 volts. The voltage in your house may be somewhat higher than normal, which causes 120 volt light bulbs to burn out quickly.
  • If your light bulb seems unusually bright, you may have a different problem. Call the PGE Power Quality Hotline at 503-736-5750 or 800-270-7016 to verify your voltage is in the acceptable range.

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Power
Q. Some of my appliances and electronics suddenly quit working while others are running fine. Should I call PGE or an electrician?

Occasionally, a circuit breaker or fuse “trips” in your electrical panel. Make sure all your circuit breakers are on. If they are, call the PGE repair number at 503-464-7777 or 800-544-1795.

Q. On hot days, my air conditioning keeps turning off. What should I do?

Chances are your air conditioning equipment is not operating properly. Contact a repair technician to service it.

Q. The power went off at my house. When it was restored, my television no longer worked. What can I do to protect my equipment in the future?

A fault most likely occurred in your area and shut the power off. If the fault was near your home, it may have damaged your TV. Another possible cause could be a surge when the power was restored. In either case, a modest investment in surge protection can keep your electronics and appliances safe.

Q. We had a storm last night and now the modem for my computer does not work. What should I do to prevent this problem in the future?

Your computer modem may have been damaged by a surge in the telephone line. A surge protection device, with a connection to protect your telephone cable, prevents this type of damage.

Q. The lights blinked while I was working on an important project in my home office. My computer automatically rebooted and I lost all my work. Is there anything PGE can do to prevent this?

A fault in our system may have caused the lights to blink. Although faults occur for many reasons, such as lightning or a downed power line, PGE can do little to prevent them. Protect your computer data with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS automatically provides power when there is a fault in the system, which prevents the loss of valuable data.

Q. I bought a UPS to protect my computer from power disturbances. It “beeps” several times a day indicating a power spike. What should I do?

A UPS “beeps” for several reasons. Every UPS manufacturer programs their devices differently. Something in your house may generate a small surge when operated. When laser printers, furnaces or heat pumps turn on, it creates small disturbances that can cause a UPS to beep. If no other problems are occurring when the UPS beeps you may want to desensitize it. Most UPS manufacturers include the capability to adjust the sensitivity of a UPS, without impacting the protection to your computer.

Q. One of my circuit breakers keeps tripping. The electrician that checked it found nothing wrong and suggested I contact PGE. Who do I call?

Circuit breakers trip for a couple of reasons. The circuit is overloaded, the circuit breaker is defective, or a fault has tripped the circuit. Most likely the problem is with your equipment rather than PGE’s. Try contacting a more experienced electrical contractor to resolve this issue.

Q. A tree fell and knocked down the line that comes right to my house. It also yanked the service mast away from my house and pulled the wiring loose. How fast can PGE make repairs?

Call PGE at 800-544-1795 to report the problem. Our crews will quickly take care of the power lines. However, you’ll also need to contact an electrician to repair the service mast and house wiring. Those items actually belong to you, and PGE is not authorized to make house-wiring repairs. Only a licensed electrical contractor can perform that type of work. See our list of PowerBack PGE-certified electrical contractors who are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Q. I recently started hearing a high-pitched noise when I listen to my radio. Can PGE look into this type of problem?

Many things can affect the AM channels of a radio. A light dimmer switch, a doorbell transformer, and fluorescent lights can all interfere with radio reception. Occasionally, when PGE equipment is degraded, it can produce noise. Call 800-762-8884 to report the problem. We’ll get back to you quickly to help identify the source of the noise and a solution.

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Devices
Q. I purchased a UPS and still experienced surge damage. How is this possible?

Most UPS devices have surge protection built into them. In some cases, however, a surge exceeds the rating of the device. A better approach to protecting your sensitive load is to install surge protection ahead of your UPS. A good transient voltage surge suppressor (TVSS) protects your UPS and any equipment connected to your UPS from failures.

Q. I bought a TVSS and still experienced surge damage. How could this happen?

Each TVSS has limits on how much surge energy it can handle. Many inexpensive TVSS and UPS devices have low limits. Visit our guide to surge protection products to learn about the right protection for your situation.

Q. If I have a panel-mounted surge suppressor, why would I need outlet protection?

Two reasons. First, a panel-mounted surge suppressor will not prevent surges from entering your house through phone, cable or digital satellite system lines. Second, electronics require a higher degree of surge suppression than other devices. Outlet protectors offer tighter voltage clamping, eliminating all surge “noise” and providing cleaner power to devices plugged into them.

Q. I live in an old house and the surge protector I use indicates there is a wiring error. What can I do to fix this problem?

Generally, houses built before 1960 do not have a ground conductor included with their electrical outlets. In other words, there are two holes instead of three. Occasionally, people add outlets to their house so they can plug in three-prong cords, but they do not add the ground wire to the receptacle. This may be the wiring error the surge protector is indicating, or it may be indicating other wiring errors at the receptacle. An electrical contractor can help.

Q. I heat my home with gas, but want to connect a small portable generator to the electrical panel. How should I connect the generator to the electrical panel so I can operate my heat and a few other loads?

The National Electric Code requires that a transfer switch be installed if you want to power some of your house loads with a generator. You should get an electrical contractor to install it.

Q. I recently added a heat pump to my house and now the lights dim when it comes on. What should I do?

The pump’s load may cause the voltage to drop too low. Call the PGE Power Quality Hotline at 503-736-5750 or 800-270-7016 to have someone check your service.

Didn’t find your answer?
If you need more help on finding answers to your power problem questions, call the PGE Power Quality Hotline at 503-736-5750 or 800-270-7016 or email us.

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