It’s something we all worry about. You wake up and your alarm hasn’t gone off. In fact, your digital clock is dark. As you try to turn on the lights, nothing. There is a sense of dread when you realize you are without power. Sometimes a power outage is over just as quickly as it started–and sometimes it can last a long time. There are many causes of power outages from weather events, construction crew mistakes, and even rolling blackouts. And it’s true; most of these reasons are out of your control. But there is something you can control, which is how you deal with the situation when a power outage occurs. Preparing for a power outage is going to be an investment in time and resources, but you know it will be worth it. Losing power doesn’t mean you have to live without power–if you take the right steps.
Before: Getting Your Home Ready
As a responsible homeowner, it would be wise to learn what you should do before, during, and after a power outage. As you probably know, losing power could be dangerous if you aren’t ready for it. If you’ve ever gone camping and tried to function in the dark, you know how easily one can hurt themselves. Prepping for a power outage will be your “before” action. Here are the most crucial elements to get prepped.
- Make a power outage kit by filling a duffel bag or, better yet, a large plastic bin with emergency items. Things such as flashlights, extra batteries for flashlights, candles and a flame source such as a lighter, a pocket knife or multi-tool, scissors, and of course a first aid kit.
- Invest in an emergency weather radio to keep you up to date on news and possible emergency announcements.
- Toss a food thermometer in your emergency kit. The last thing you need is someone getting food poisoning due to undercook meat.
- Get a portable generator. Whether you choose a gas-powered one or a solar generator with a large battery pack, the peace of mind that comes from having a power source even in a power outage is priceless.
- Check to see if you have a way to connect your heating source to power. Portable power stations sometimes have electric ignition. Also, your circulation system fan will need power.
- Besides your central air system, you might consider using a wood fireplace. It’s imperative that your eliminate the build-up of creosote in the chimney to avoid a chimney fire.
- If you plan to use electrical space heaters, make sure you have enough to keep your entire family warm. Make sure they are for indoor use. You’ll need some way to provide power to these units. A non-gas generator, such as a solar powered generator that can be run indoors, would be ideal.
- And always, check the power requirements of all your HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)equipment so you know how much power you will need for each piece of equipment you want to use during a power outage.
- Summertime might be a little easier on you–if you can stand the heat. Having a power source for small fans would be a life-saver.
- Access to water is critical during the hot months. If you have a fridge that provides a filtered water source, you’ll need to power your fridge. Otherwise, it’s tap water for everyone.
- Again, instead of trying to run a cable from outdoors through a door or window that is cracked open allowing the elements to impact your living room, a generator that can be run from indoors would be best.
During: Tips To Keep You Safe
First, find out if you are alone. The power outage might be just at your home, which could simply indicate an electrical problem. See if your neighbors are also experiencing the outage.
Next, if it turns out the entire neighborhood is without power, you should call your electric company to report the outage. Sure, someone else might have done this–then again, maybe not. Plus, you can find out any news on why there is an outage and possibly get an estimate on how long power will be out.
After that, take some time, if possible, to turn off any appliances by unplugging them to avoid damage in case the power returns with a surge. It’s a good idea to turn your heating thermostat down or off. Electronic devices should also be turned off. This can avoid power surge damage, but also helps when there’s not a heavy load on your electrical system.
Finally, turn off all of your lights except for one inside the home and one outside the home. This will help crews determine if power has been restored–and alert you that your ordeal has ended!
Once you’ve completed those tasks, your biggest goal is to stay safe during the power outage. Here are a few ways to achieve this.
- The less you open the freezer and refrigerator doors, the longer your food will remain edible and safe. Only open these doors for a brief time and as infrequently as possible.
- If using candles, avoid them becoming fire hazards. Keep open flames away from curtains and blankets. Use proper candle holders. Don’t leave a lit candle unattended and always put out the flame before going to sleep.
- Charcoal and gas barbecues and grills are not to be used indoors! You should only cook on your gas stove if it’s working properly.
- Have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. You never know what might be filling the home with this odorless poisonous gas.
Another issue is dealing with the psychological impact of a power outage, especially with children. The goal, after making sure everyone is safe and secure, is to keep everyone calm. As much as you can, try to continue routines, such as reading bedtime stories and sticking with the normal bedtimes. During the day, treating the power outage as a chance to have a little fun will have an enormous impact on everyone. Playing board games, creating fun activities, and working together to keep the house clean and organized all help.
The Need For Electrical Devices
There is no denying that electronic devices have become an integral part of our lives. Besides the recreational use via apps and games, our phones are sometimes our only access to communication with the outside world. Making sure you have a way to keep your phones and tablets charged could make all the difference. Small battery chargers work fine until they run out of juice. What then? There is an easy solution to this, so read on.
The Power of a Home Generator
One of the best ways to avoid the danger and pain of a power outage is with a home generator. Not only can they keep your appliances running, your food cold or frozen, and your lights on, but they can also keep your devices charged and connected. There are many options available to you, so you need to determine your power needs to help you decide which backup generator is right for you.
The Whole House Generator
A qualified electrician will be needed to install a whole-house generator since it will connect directly to the circuit board of your home. It will typically automatically turn on in the event of a power outage. It’s called “whole house” because it will keep all of your appliances running, your AC and heat working, and provide power to your entire house.
There are plusses and minuses to the whole house generator as a solution. First, they are very expensive. They also are typically large taking up a lot of space. You will need to keep your unit up to spec with maintenance to make sure it will work in the critical time it is needed. The biggest plus is, within limits, you can keep all your electrical equipment working in your home. No fear of food going bad or not being able to charge your cellphone.
The Portable Generator
Most people find the portable generator the perfect solution to a power outage. Although you won’t be able to run your entire household with it, you can at least keep your most crucial items working. These units are much smaller and much more affordable than a whole-house generator. You also have a lot more options to choose from, whether you want a gas powered, natural gas powered, solar, or diesel generator.
Any unit that burns gas will need to be accessed from the outdoors; they can not be used indoors. This means running power cables from the generator and into the home. You will also need to refill the fuel supply periodically. With the price of gas and diesel and depending on the length of the outage, this could get expensive.
Solar generators are great because you can use them indoors with no issues. With today’s technology, they are powerful enough to run your lights during the night and your technology like computers and tablets, and appliances like your refrigerator. You will need to recharge the unit during the daytime when the sun is out, so you will need a good location for your solar panels. Finally, since solar energy is free, there will be no fuel costs.
Generators are the most obvious solution when preparing for a power outage. In some cases, they will be a must-have if you have a loved one who has medical equipment that runs on electricity. If your only mode of transportation is an electric vehicle, you will need some way to charge your car. Getting a generator should probably be the first step in preparing for a power outage.
After: Welcome Back Power!
When the power returns, there are some important safety steps and tips you will need to keep in mind.
The first step is to take your time. You should give your home’s electrical system a chance to stabilize before returning to your typical electrical consumption. If you turn on your HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) unit first, it is a good idea to wait 10 minutes or so before replugging your refrigerator. There’s no sense in straining your home electric system nor the local grid itself.
Next, be very cautious about entering any wet rooms or using any wet items. Sometimes basements have electric powered sub-pumps that keep them from flooding. If you happen to have a flooded basement, do not enter the water! There could be a chance for electrocution. Also, any appliances that have built up water pooling in the unit or are generally wet, there could be a chance of electric shock. Proceed with caution.
It’s time to turn on your hot water. There could be air in the pipes, depending on your system. Let the water run until hot and there’s no sputtering. Also, if you have a hot water heater tank, be sure it’s full of water before firing it back up.
If you were good and followed the “During” advice, your freezer and fridge food should still be safe, typically 24 to 36 hours. Still, once power is restored, you should check for any signs of spoilage. Any defrosted food should be cooked to a safe temperature and then consumed or placed back in refrigeration.
Finally, be sure to reset all your clocks, timers, and alarms. If you’re like me and can not live without coffee, make sure it’s reset to your needs! Also, if needed, restock your emergency kit with any supplies you might have extinguished.
Plan Ahead and Be Prepared For A Power Outage
It doesn’t matter where you live. If you’re in a hurricane zone or thunderstorm central or tornado alley, there’s always a chance your house could lose power. Heck, even someone trimming their trees in the backyard could drop a heavy branch on the lines causing an extended power outage in your neighborhood. Blown transformers, car crashes hitting power poles…the list goes on and on. Since we are all susceptible to the potentiality of a power outage, the above steps are a no-brainer. Of course, you can also pay attention to local policies to deal with unexpected power outages. Be sure to take the time to get prepared for a power outage, for you, for your family, and for your community.
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