9 Power Outage Life Hacks to Help You Live With(out) Power
Whether the result of a lightning storm or downed limb, power outages strike without warning. It’s impossible to predict how long they’ll last, and our reliance on electricity to be productive at work and at home means outages are always disruptive. Calling the local utility to report an outage is an important first step we all can take to restore power, but for outages lasting several hours—or several days—learning a few power outage hacks can bring back the basics and make living without power more manageable.
What causes a power outage?
Severe weather is the number one cause of outages. While hurricanes and earthquakes are less common causes for longer-term power loss, thunderstorms, high winds, and freezing rain and ice during winter months are likely culprits for shorter-term shutdowns.
Lightning strikes regularly cause power loss for a few minutes. This is by design. Specialized electrical equipment instantly opens and closes a breaker to clear the short circuit.
Mother nature is regularly cutting our power in more mundane ways, too. Birds nest in substation equipment. Squirrels chew through wires. Falling tree branches put whole neighborhoods in the dark for hours.
Equipment failures also are common, with cables, connectors, and transformers occasionally failing for a variety of reasons, from faulty components to normal wear and tear. And human error – car accidents, careless tree trimming, digging up power lines – can knock out the electricity for an extended period.
In short, power outages can happen at any time for a variety of reasons. Being prepared so you’re not caught off guard when an outage lasts more than an hour or two is important for any home or apartment owner.
How to prepare for a power outage
A few smart purchases and an hour of prep can prevent scrambling in the dark and rifling through drawers for flashlights, candles, or power banks. Get started by assembling a simple emergency kit to have at the ready during an outage.
A basic outage kit should include:
- The number for reporting outages to your local electric utility
- One roll of duct tape
- One roll of aluminum foil
- AAA, AA, and D batteries
- Candles – votives, tea lights, or jar candles that don’t require a holder
- Matches and butane lighters
- 3-5 LED battery-powered flashlights; bonus: crank flashlight; LED headlamp; LED lantern
- Battery-powered or hand-crank emergency weather radio with USB charger and cable
- Battery-powered fans
- Power banks and charging cables (recharge every two months to keep full)
- One case of bottled water or four one-gallon jugs (rule of thumb: one gallon per person per day—double for households with wells that use an electric pump)
- Single-use chemical or battery-operated hand warmers
- Weather thermometer
- Set of spare car keys
How to prepare for a power outage
With the average outage lasting between 90 minutes and four hours depending on your local infrastructure, a basic outage kit should keep you comfortable until the power comes back. But if the outage moves into overtime, getting creative can help light up the night, protect perishables, maintain connectivity, and keep your home warm.
Fun tips and tricks aside, power outages can be serious business for those affected and those tasked with getting the lights back on. A few smart purchases and an hour of organizing an outage kit can keep you confident and productive when the lights go out.
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