Preparing your home for a power outage

There are many ways your home can experience a power outage.

Common causes are utility equipment failures, automobiles hitting power poles, snow and ice collecting on the lines, high winds and falling tree limbs snapping overhead wires.

The frequency and duration of power outages seems to be increasing – with extreme weather conditions, an aging electrical grid infrastructure and reduced staffing by utility companies.

Consequences of power outages

Power outages can have emotional and financial consequences if you have not prepared for them.

  • Food stored in your refrigerator and freezer can spoil
  • Loss of heat in the winter months can be uncomfortable and cause pipes to freeze and even burst
  • No lights, hot water or cooking ability can make it challenging to stay in your home
  • In some cases, your cold water supply can be affected
  • Garage door openers on detached garages without passage doors can lock you out of the garage to access your vehicle
  • If you use a cell phone or wireless landline only, you can lose the ability to recharge your communication devices

Preparing for the inevitable power outage

Because of the many and varied ways a home can have a power outage and the impact it can have on your emotions and pocketbook, it’s very wise to be prepared for such an event.

Here are a few power outage preparedness suggestions:

  • Install a whole-house surge protection device on your main electrical panel. This will help to protect all of your electronic equipment and appliances from surges, which are common before, during and after power outages.
  • Use a quality surge protection device at the point-of-use for all of your computer equipment and other high-value electronic equipment. The whole-house surge protection device will work with the point-of-use devices to prevent expensive equipment losses.
  • Always keep a fresh supply of batteries for flashlights or other portable battery-powered lights.
  • Keep a battery-powered radio ready in the event there is a sustained power outage and other means of communicating are compromised.
  • Consider buying a portable or permanently installed generator for your home. Even if it’s used for critical loads only, you’ll be able to stay in your home during a sustained outage in extreme conditions.
  • Install the proper home electrical equipment to safely connect your generator to the house electrical system. A licensed electrician will be necessary to survey your needs and install this equipment.
  • If your generator has a fuel tank, make sure there’s an adequate supply of fresh fuel to last for the duration of the expected power outage. In extreme weather events, the roads may not be passable for several days. Running to the gas station may not be an option.
  • Keep an adequate supply of food on hand in case you cannot get out in bad weather or if roads are closed.
  • Make sure you have the ability to cook food during the outage. If you have an electric range, can you cook on your gas grill? If you have a generator, is it large enough to operate a portable cooking appliance?
  • If you have a detached garage without a passage door, make sure your opener has a bypass switch and you know how to use it. This will release the overhead door mechanism when the power is out.

Maintaining your power outage preparedness

Remember, all of your initial preparation efforts must be sustainable.

Be sure to maintain your preparedness by periodically checking the dates on batteries. Check that surge protection devices are still actively working. Test your generator equipment according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Make sure your generator still has enough capacity to supply your critical electrical loads as changes and additions occur. Also, make sure that any fuel used in portable generators is fresh. Use fuel stabilizer additives and do not exceed the useful life indicated on the stabilizer product container.

Enjoy the benefits of being prepared

Being prepared for a power outage will make life much more tolerable and prevent needless financial losses, especially if the outage lasts for several days. Being prepared means the difference between cooking your food rather than having to throw it away.

It means maintaining heat in your home instead of dealing with frozen and burst pipes. It means maintaining lighting and communications for safety.

Being prepared means a quick recovery after the power outage with minimal or no equipment losses. Are you prepared for the next power outage?

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© 2016 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is intended for information purposes only. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content of this article.

John A. Weber

John Weber is principal electrical engineer for HSB. He has over 25 years’ experience in solving facilities and electrical engineering challenges.

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