Updated: Jun 14
Do you remember the old adage, “You can’t fix a leaky roof while it’s raining?” Well, in the spirit of that wise insight, right now is an excellent time to prepare for winter; while the weather’s warm, the sky is clear, and the sun’s still shining.
There are plenty of things that can and do go wrong in the winter, the most common of which are power outages associated with snow and ice storms. These outages can leave whole neighborhoods without any heat or electricity for days, sometimes even weeks. At worst, you’re snowed in, and you can’t leave your cold, dark home. At best, you can dig out to try and get supplies, only to find disrupted supply chains and empty store shelves.
Every winter season, panic buyers will clean the stores out of food, bottled water, ice melt, flashlights, candles, and other essential survival items within minutes of a storm forecast. “Oh, but that only happens in places where they’re not used to snow,” you say. Not so. Our cold-weather clients will tell you that pre-storm panic buying and hoarding can happen anywhere, anytime. The Great Toilet Paper-mageddon of 2020 ring a bell, anyone?
So let’s talk preparation. By taking these five easy steps, our expert heat tracing and freeze protection technicians promise that you and your family will be ready when the lights, and everything else, go out.
1. Stock Up on Blankets, Warm Clothing
We can’t say enough about blankets – big ones, small ones, fluffy ones, thermal ones, etc. When your heat is out for an indefinite period, you’ll want to have several blankets readily available for everyone, including your furbabies.
Additionally, suppose you know you have a day or at least several hours before a big storm is due to hit. In that case, you might consider getting your clothes washed and dried immediately since you won’t have access to those appliances if the power goes out. This way, your really warm sweater or your child’s favorite blanket will be nice and clean and ready to go when you need it.
2. Don’t Get Left in the Dark
Growing up, the thing to do to prepare for power outages was to stock up on candles and matches. Today, candles are still a good idea to have around, but they probably shouldn’t be the light source you reach for first in the interest of fire safety. Flashlights and battery-operated lanterns are your best bet for safe lighting, especially around pets and young children. Be sure to also keep a stash of fresh batteries in a place where you can find them.
3. Start Building Your Food (and Water) Supply
Assuming there’s any left, food and water are useless to you if they’re sitting on a shelf at the local market and you’re snowed in with no power. Consider putting together an emergency food and water supply. The amount you gather can be enough to tide you over for as little as a couple of days or for as long as several months.
To be clear, we’re not advocating you put a second mortgage on your house to buy four months’ worth of special winter survival rations. Start small by picking up an extra case of water bottles each time you go grocery shopping. Stock up when your family’s favorite non-perishable foods are on sale. Do the same with canned goods. Buy in bulk at your favorite wholesale warehouse store and freeze whatever you don’t use.
A little bit here and there throughout the year will add up to quite a large cache of food when an emergency finally arrives. It will be a lot easier to head to your storage room or basement to pick up food for dinner than it will be to go to the grocery store in a blizzard.
4. Plan for a Little Indoor Camping
Some people see power outages as an adventure – a chance to camp out in your own home and do things the old-fashioned way. Owning a gas-powered camp stove with a few extra gas canisters is an excellent way to heat up whatever you have in your fridge and pantry when your oven’s out of commission.
Your outdoor grill is also a great cooking asset, so it’s important to check your propane tank early in the fall to make sure it’s at least half-full. Unless, of course, you’re a regular cold-weather griller. In that case, you’ll want to start sweater season with a full tank.
As for your fridge and freezer, open them as little as possible when the power is out. The longer they stay shut, the longer the cold air will remain in the unit and keep your food from spoiling. Try and plan out what you might need for your meals and snacks so you do not constantly have to get in and out of the fridge.
In the worst situations, where the power remains down for more extended periods, and the temperature outside is still below freezing, put your food in a cooler and pack it with some chunks of ice or snow in slide-lock bags. You can store the cooler in your garage (if it’s not insulated) or on your backyard deck or patio. Check the ice every few hours and replace it if it’s melted.
5. Spring for a Generator
Back-up generators can keep everything on or power just the essentials in a blackout. It simply depends on how much money you want to spend. A small gas-powered generator producing between 11kWh and 25kWh will take care of basic functions, such as powering a few lights, your gas furnace, and maybe a self-regulating roof heat trace cable. It will cost you anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000. On the other side of the spectrum, a whole-home gas generator will power everything in your home, but it will also set you back between $15,000 and $20,000.
If you don’t want to go the whole-home route, but you do have critical appliances that you want to keep turned on, you’ll need to do a little math. One way to determine what size generator you need is to go through the appliances you want to have on and look up their hourly electrical usage amounts. Then add them up and multiply usage times the approximate number of hours you’ll likely be using them. That should give you a pretty good idea of how much energy you’ll need.
As you can see, a few precautions will go a long way in keeping your family safe, warm, and fed during a winter power blackout. For more winter safety and de-icing tips, check back often at heatcable.com.