A power outage is more than just an irritation; it can force you to perform expensive repairs and could even cause you and your family harm and danger. The following advice will help protect you (and your wallet) during a blackout.
Prepare for Power Surges
While utility companies are working to restore power, the entire network will be unstable. And that leads to surges that can damage or even destroy expensive electronics. To help avoid that disaster, turn off and disconnect everything in your home during a blackout.
Alternatively, it's a good idea to always have your expensive electronics plugged into a surge protector for this very purpose. You can find many cost-effective options at your local discount department store or any electronics retailer.
TIP: Leave a light on to easily know when power is restored instead of depending on that pesky blinking microwave clock.
Bring On the Power of the Sun!
Solar-powered devices are extremely handy in the case of a blackout. If you have solar-powered landscape lights, you can easily bring them inside at night to help give low-level lighting around the house. That'll help save the batteries in your flashlight for more important tasks that need extra lighting. Also, you won't have a fire hazard like with candles so feel free to set that fire extinguisher aside!
Another great idea is a backup solar powerbank to charge your small electronics like your phone or tablet. Every year, a larger and larger amount of homes are ditching their landline and switching solely to a cell phone. Communication is very important during a blackout so having the peace of mind that the smartphone in your pocket is always charged will allow you to focus on other needs.
Keep Carbon Monoxide Detectors Up To Date
Carbon monoxide a colorless and odorless gas produced when something is burned. Often times, it causes people to become ill or even die during power outages. Don't operate generators or grills in confined spaces or near open windows. Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house and that they are working. Make sure to replace the batteries according to the instructions included with the detector.
Keep The Fridge and Freezer Doors Closed
Most refrigerators will keep food cool or frozen for up to 3 days and freezers will usually stay below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for a few more days. In order to keep food from spoiling, make sure the doors are opened as little as possible. As a reminder to everyone put a sign on the doors saying something like "DO NOT OPEN!"
Fill the Sinks and Bathtubs
There's a pretty good chance that when the lights go out, water will stop flowing soon after. Fill your sinks, bathtubs and maybe even 5-gallon buckets with fresh water so that you have a supply for drinking, sponge bathing and using the toilet.
TIP: A typical residential water heater holds somewhere between 40 - 50 gallons of water. That can be an easily overlooked water reserve that will help save the day.
Unlatch the Garage Door
It might seem like the garage door is stuck if there's no power, but you can actually still open and close it. If you look at your door, there will probably be a cord (often with a red handle) hanging from the arm that connects the door to the opener rail. When the door is closed, yank the cord and you'll find that the door is now disconnected from the opener. You can now raise and lower it by hand.
Use the Water Heater to Heat the House
The furnace won't work without a power source, but the water heater could if it natural gas-powered. Fill your sinks and bathtubs up with hot water which will help heat up the rooms they're in. When the water becomes room temperature, you can either drain them and fill up again (if there's hot water left) or keep the water as backup supplies.
Using this method won't heat up the whole house, but could help keep certain areas at a bearable temperature.
Use Your Car for Power
Another excellent option for charging your phone or tablet is to use the auxiliary ports in your car. The battery will hold plenty of power to charge multiple mobile devices and can easily be recharged by driving.
TIP: Make sure you have a proper car charger that your devices' power cables can plug into
Prepare for Freezing
If temperatures are falling and the temperature inside your house is approaching freezing, make sure your pipes don't burst by draining them. Turn off the main water valve coming into the house and open the lowest valve, often the water heater drain or a hose bib on the side of the house. Now, open all of the faucets on all of the sinks, showers and bathtubs to allow the piping to vent and drank. Make sure to plunge toilets, sinks and bath drains to clear water from the traps. After all water has left the system, plug the drains to prevent sewer gases from entering the house.
Blackouts pose several risks. For instance, you're more likely to be injured during a blackout and less likely to immediately get the comprehensive emergency care you need. You could stumble down the stairs in the dark or be hit by a passing car who can't see you because there are no street lights. If that happens, you may find that emergency rooms are beyond full and ambulances are slowed by dead traffic lights or serious car accidents. Now more than ever, think before acting during a blackout.