If you've ever experienced a partial power outage, you know just how weird it seems. You thought you had a steady stream of power, so if it was compromised, you’d experience less power throughout the house rather than half on, half off, right? That’s not always the way it works. From the viewpoint of an engineer or a professional electrician, a partial power outage would be better described as a phase loss.

Although the bulk of your appliances run on 110 volts, your stove and laundry use 220 volts, as does your water heater ad HVAC system. That extra amount of power isn't a doubling of your electric flow, but full use of what's available. Your lights and appliances are actually running on half your available electric source in order to cut your bill by using the electricity more efficiently. The power flow coming into your home is actually two sets of 110 volts, designated as “phase 1” and “phase 2” that share a ground to safely eliminate excess power.

What that means in layman’s terms is that you have two distinct power sources. They run together in what appears as a single line, but that’s why you have a breaker box. There’s more going on in that box than just safety circuits to prevent overflow. It directs the power according to your needs.

In the breaker box, that power that is supplied is magnified exponentially. The full 220 volts is sent to those few appliances that need it. The rest of your home, the lights, outlets, television and hair dryer, well, they are actually only running on one phase, or half the available power. That’s why you think in terms of 110 volts, because your plug-in electric units only use 110 volts.

When you have a partial power outage, typically a line from the power company has been compromised. You only have one phase of electricity available, and therefore one half of your house is being powered. There is the occasion that you simply have a bad link in your breaker box. In that case, the repair is up to you, although it’s likely covered by your homeowner’s insurance. It’s certainly not a do-it-yourself type of repair but requires a licensed, professional electrical contractor with knowledge and experience to conduct the repair efficiently. More importantly, safely. You have to hire an experienced professional who can handle this type of repair with their training and experience.