In today’s world, electricity is all but a necessity of life. The accessibility of electricity in developed countries also means that many people, unfortunately, take it for granted. It’s often not until the power goes out that we realize just how much we rely on electricity, and how much of our society revolves around it. Understanding our deep reliance on electricity means knowing how to be prepared for the times when the power fails. Preparation can be as simple or as extensive as you feel is necessary. We’ll lay out some ideas and tips on how to prepare your household for power outages below.
To start preparing for future power outages, it’s important to prioritize what necessary items require electricity, what items are simply for convenience, and what important items don’t require electricity at all. While prioritizing, it’s a smart idea to also make note of the wattage requirements for the essential powered appliances if you intend to use a generator.
An example of a scale for prioritization would be labelling items like medical devices as of the utmost importance, and appliances like refrigerators and freezers as a convenience. Of course, whether a refrigerator or freezer is an appliance of convenience can be dependent on how long the power is estimated to be disrupted. Things such as a gas stove would be at the bottom of the list. The reason for cataloguing important appliances that don’t require power is because then you know what you have access to and don’t have to invest time into finding alternatives. In the stove example, you have a means of heat, access to fire, and safe cooking without the use of electricity.
The light should be a top priority since it is hard to accomplish anything if you can’t see anything. While traditionally people relied on candles for lighting during power outages, they can be dangerous, especially if you light candles in each room and forget to blow them out or carry a candle from room to room. Flashlights have become a staple for power outages since they are safer and more portable than candles, but you may want to consider buying new flashlights if they are over ten years old. Modern flashlights have incredible lighting output compared to older ones, and newer ones are often rechargeable. If you wanted to take your preparations one step further, you could even get rechargeable light bulbs so you don’t even have to use a flashlight.
Use Alternative Power Sources
For necessary appliances like medical devices, it’s important to find an alternative source of electricity to power them. What comes to mind for most people is probably a standard gas generator, but these are loud, bulky, and should only be used in outdoor spaces due to their exhaust and fuel vapors. Generators can also be expensive and you have to have a proper space to store them while they’re not in use.
If you’re trying to save space and money, a standard generator might not be in your best interest, but luckily about 91.1% of Americans already own a generator, and it’s parked right outside. That’s right– your car can be used as an emergency generator if the need arises. Just be sure to acquire a proper power inverter for the amount of power you intend to use.
Although standard generators are invaluable if you have ample space and ventilation, and a car will help in a pinch, not everybody has the space to make either a viable option. In situations where a standard generator or a car isn’t an option, it’s worthwhile to consider a portable power station, which is essentially a large battery that you can directly hook up electronics to. Since they’re fully electric, they make very little noise, though their capacity is much more limited than the other options.
Upgrade Your Home
There are upgrades you can make to your home that will help make it easier to ride out a power outage, such as renovating your home’s insulation or installing solar panels. Insulation is particularly useful for those that live in areas that frequently experience high heat days where the city uses rolling blackouts to help manage electricity. Better insulation will keep the heat out of your home so being without air conditioning is more manageable.
While upgrades at this scale can be expensive, they have uses that extend well beyond the realm of power outage preparation, and they’ll help save you money on your electric bill year-round. They’ll even add to the value of your home, so in order to afford them, it makes sense to consider taking out a loan or choosing a cash-out to refinance if you still have a mortgage. There are government-backed options to help finance these since they’re considered green upgrades and the Federal Housing Administration backs FHA loans with cash-out refinancing.
Of course, there are simpler and cheaper upgrades to make to your home, such as surge protectors since power surges go hand-in-hand with power outages. Even though protecting your electronic devices may not be your peak priority, it’s something that is easy to do and will especially be worthwhile in the event of a power surge. It’s probably much cheaper to purchase and install enough surge protectors in your house to cover everything than it would be to replace half of your appliances because they got fried.
Have A Plan
There are plenty of different reasons that power outages occur, some being much more serious than others. Creating a plan for the different types of power outages can ensure you and your family can keep calm, especially during more severe situations. Plans can include where you keep an emergency power-outage kit, what numbers to call to report power outages and receive status updates, how to set your home up in preparation for rolling blackouts, and how to evacuate.
If a power outage becomes prolonged or is the result of a serious situation such as inclement weather or a wildfire, having a plan that outlines pre-designated locations that you can move yourself and your family to for safety will be invaluable. This is especially because it can be difficult or even impossible to figure out how and where to relocate for safe shelter during a power outage. It’s a good idea to keep at least two copies of your emergency power outage plans, one on your phone and one written on paper in a waterproof container.
In conclusion, since power outages are often unpredictable, you don’t have time to prepare right before one is about to happen. Prioritizing appliances, having access to sufficient lighting, using alternative sources of power, making your home more green, and having a plan in place are all initiatives that can help your household stay safe during power outages.