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Society as a whole has become extremely dependent on electricity. Power outages can range anywhere from a mere inconvenience to a major crisis. Being prepared can prevent the irritation and frustration as well as help avoid the longer term risks and hazards associated with a blackout. At the time of writing Texas has just suffered through a severe cold snap where people died for lack of power. Don't let that happen to you, be prepared with your our power outage checklist.
Putting an emergency plan in place for your home and family is critical but also much easier than you may think. The checklist below will provide you with all you need to be prepared for outages that last anywhere from a couple of hours to 3 days or more.
1. Emergency Lights
Being without light when a power outage hits after dark is one of the greatest inconveniences but can also be quite scary. There is nothing quite like stumbling around in the dark searching for a flashlight only to find that the batteries need to be replaced.
Emergency lights are a great solution to this problem. The lights can either be plugged into an electrical socket where they will charge or light bulbs with built-in batteries can be used to replace the existing bulbs in light fittings. These lights are designed to detect a power outage and will automatically turn on when the power goes out.
Portable emergency lights are preferable as they can be unplugged from the socket and carried around the house or placed where they are most needed. They also generally have a solar charging option that is very useful for extended outages. It is recommended to choose units that have a USB port too. The lights can act as backup power banks for phones or other devices.
More and more households are turning to backup generators to ensure that they have power when they need it most. There are a number of different options available. The following 3 options are the most popular:
– Portable Generators
A portable generator will provide a limited supply of power. In other words, it isn't designed to power your whole house but only a few lights, an appliance or two and a couple of electrical sockets. It cannot and should never be connected to your home electrical system.
There are a wide range of portable generators available on the market to meet the needs of different types of households. The unit can be powered by gasoline, diesel or natural gas. Natural gas generators are generally quieter while diesel generators are the noisiest.
– Solar Generators
Solar generators work by storing energy that is captured from the sun by solar panels in a battery and then converting that energy for use. The generator consists of a charge controller to regulate the charge held by the battery in order to protect it. It also has an inverter which converts the DC (direct current) that is stored in the battery into AC (alternating current) which is the type of current used to power devices, appliances, electronics, lights, etc. in the home.
Solar powered generators are a great source of renewable energy and can be used either in the case of a power outage or as an alternative to receiving grid power. The generators are also available as a portable option or back-up (whole house generator). Both options are quieter as they run off a battery rather than requiring fuel to turn a motor to generate electricity. The portable version can also safely be used indoors. It is not safe to use gasoline, diesel or gas generators inside a home.
– Whole House Generators
Whole house or back-up generators are the ultimate solution to being prepared for a power outage. The generator is connected directly to the wiring in your home and begins delivering power the moment it detects a power outage. There may be a slight delay between the time the power goes out to the time that the generator kicks in to begin powering your house. The system is designed to provide as much or as little power as is required relative to the capacity that the generator can deliver.
For example, it can run either all the lights in the home or a few select lights. The aim is to provide sufficient power to the home until the grid power is fully restored. Whole house generators can either be fuel-driven or battery operated. The battery versions are usually solar powered.
A back-up generator needs to be professionally installed preferably by a certified electrician. The generator will become a permanent fixture that will normally be located close to the house but not inside the home due to the hazards associated with using fuel-powered generators indoors. When choosing a backup generator it is important to keep in mind capacity, energy requirements of the home, fuel efficiency, and durability as the generator will be located outdoors and need to weather the elements of Mother Nature.
3. Electronics And Devices
Your devices and electronics can become damaged if they are plugged into a wall socket and turned on during a power outage. It is important to turn off all electronics and unplug them from the wall socket as soon as possible after the power goes out. When the power is restored, it can cause a power surge which can be harmful to your electronics.
Alternatively, you can use surge protectors to prevent damage to electronics when the power fails and when it is restored. Surge protectors regulate the amount of power that electronics receive regardless of the amount of power being sent from the grid. Even if you have surge protectors installed, it is still recommended to turn off and unplug electronics.
However, if you have installed a whole house generator with an automatic transfer switch, you don't need to unplug electronics although surge protectors are still recommended to protect the devices when grid power is fully restored.
* If anyone in the household is reliant on life-sustaining equipment, it is critical to have a backup power supply to continue providing energy to the equipment. A whole house, automatic transfer unit is recommended to provide a continuous supply of power.
Your refrigerator will continue to keep your food cold for around 4 hours with no power if the door is left closed as much as possible. A full or deep freezer stores food at colder temperatures and will therefore last longer – between 24 and 48 hours after a power outage starts – depending on how full it is. The fuller the freezer, the longer it will stay cold if the door is left closed.
If you have a full freezer, transfer the food from your refrigerator into the freezer after 4 hours. If not, use a cooler with ice packs inside to keep the food cooler for longer. If food defrosts and warms to a temperature of 40 degrees F for more than two hours, it is no longer safe to eat and should be discarded.
It is recommended to have your refrigerator connected to your back-up or portable generator to keep your food cooler for longer and save having to dispose of it for a power outage that lasts longer than 4 hours. You can cook and eat or store the food to avoid waste.
Most people are unaware that a power outage can affect the safety of their water supply. If the cause of the outage was a natural disaster like a flood, tap water may be contaminated. Make sure to have enough drinking water stored in a cool dark place to last your family at least 72 hours. Turn off the main water supply to the house and run the taps. Water in the pipes can become frozen in winter due to a lack of heating and cause damage and leaks to the internal plumbing of the home.
It is important to stay in communication during a power outage or other type of crisis. Have a backup power supply for cell phones. Modern phones and lines are connected to the power grid and will not work during a power outage. Opt for a wired home phone that connects only to the phone line and does not require electricity to operate. Your Wi-Fi or internet connectivity will probably also be disrupted. However, cellular or network service should continue. It is also recommended to have a battery operated radio on hand to stay updated on any information regarding the power outage.
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