Since most power outages occur during the spring and summers months, this article will focus on power outages in warmer weather. If you experience an outage in cold weather, make sure you have an alternative heat source such as a propane-powered heater and lots of fuel! Either that, or you’ll need a generator.
This past weekend we had some beautifully terrible thunderstorms that knocked out power for the better part of two days. Though the outage was a pain in the butt, the experience provided us the rare opportunity of being “unplugged” and turned out to be a real blessing in disguise.
Like so many other unexpected situations, involuntarily living without power caused us to think outside the box and to brainstorm ways to prepare in the event that something similar happens again. We were slapped in the face by the reality of our sheer dependence on grid living, and quickly began to revert to products and techniques employed by our ancestors in the pre-electricity era.
We thought about renting a generator but decided against it and chose to “tough it out” instead. Over the last 2 years, we’ve had to rent a generator three times, costing us around $50 each time. We considered purchasing a generator but due to the high debt repayment plan we’re following, we haven’t been able to delegate the $700 needed to purchase one. Instead, we’ve put a few great fundamental precautions in place to prepare ourselves for situations like these.
How to deal with a power outage
- Stay informed. Know your power company’s phone number and call them immediately to report the outage. They will also be able to give you an estimate of how long the outage will last. Another thing you’ll need to stay informed is a crank operated radio.
- Maintain a good first aid kit. Be sure to include a few days supply of any prescription medications.
- Ensure you have a good water source. If you have an electric well pump, you’ll lose water pressure, so be sure you have enough drinking water ready.
- Create an old time refrigerator. Keep ten or more two liter bottles or half gallon milk containers filled with water in your freezer. When the power goes out, place five or six of the frozen bottles in your refrigerator to keep things cool. This is actually how the original refrigerators worked.
- Pack a cooler of food. Take a few essential food items out of your fridge and place them in a camping cooler with two or three more frozen containers, or with some of the ice cubes from your freezer.
- Tape off your fridge and freezer. Put painters or masking tape over your fridge and freezer doors so you don’t absent-mindedly open them. This will help keep all the precious cool air inside where it belongs. You can also put heavy blankets over them for added insulation.
- Candles, lighters, flashlights, and batteries. Stockpile twenty or more large, cheap candles for use as light sources. Keep several candles in each room and give each person (but not your kids!) a lighter. When anyone enters or leaves a room they can light or blow out the candle accordingly. You’ll also want to stockpile batteries and give each person in your house a personal flashlight. I suggest investing in a good flashlight such as a Surefire. There’s a high initial cost, but these lights are virtually indestructible and will last forever as long as you don’t lose them.
- Have a camp stove ready. If you have an electric stove, invest in a propane powered camp stove and a few portable propane bottles so you’ll have a way to cook if needed. Just be sure to read the instructions for your stove and cook outside if necessary.
- Prepare your pantry with a few quick emergency meals. An example of a meal that you can whip up quickly and with minimal effort is black bean spaghetti. Mix together a can of black beans & a can of spaghetti sauce, boil up some noodles and voÃla, you have yourself a healthy and cheap emergency meal. Some other quick & easy options are soup, crackers, beans, and peanut butter & honey sandwiches (my wife’s favorite).
- Have a collection of non-electric games. These will give you something fun while the power is it. Consider things such as Yahtzee, playing cards, dice, trivia, charades, Monopoly, etc. My wife and I played Yahtzee by candlelight. Very fun and actually quite romantic.
- Make sure you have “car chargers” for cell phones. This will ensure that you can keep your battery charged even when the power is out. Just be sure to plug your phone in during any car trips during the power outage, no matter how short they might be.
- Disconnect garage door opener. Make sure you know how to disconnect your garage door opener so you can get the car out of the garage.
- Go outside. If it is still light and the weather is nice, go for a walk or a bike ride, or any other activity to get you out of the house. Sometimes my wife and I go for a nice relaxing drive in the country. Just be careful with gas usage if your local gas stations are also affected by the outage.
- Internet access. If you need internet access and have a laptop, take it to your local coffee shop. If you don’t have a laptop, go to your local library. Of course, if the outage is widespread, you might be out of luck.
- Maintain a positive attitude. This is crucial for keeping spirits high… Especially if you’re the head of the house.
These tips, when employed as directed above, will help you wait out a two or three day power outage without losing all the food in your fridge to spoilage. If you are out of power much longer than this, you will likely need a generator.
Life without power
During our recent outage, my wife and I realized that we actually enjoyed our “time in the dark.” The time we spent without electricity was some of the best we have spent together in months. We talked for hours, went for a long bike ride in the rain, and played Yahtzee by candlelight. We had so much fun together, and were able to truly pay our full attention to one another, that we enjoyed each other’s company on a deep and unusual level without all the interruptions of modern life.
Because of this, and as an additional way to lower our monthly expenses, we’re considering going “Off The Grid” one day a week. We’re actually going to turn off all the breakers in our electric panel and live as though we have no electricity (with the exception of our refrigerator and freezer of course). But that’s another post for another time!