Summer means storms and with storms, come power outages. If you haven’t given a thought to how to cope with power outages, there’s no better time than now. If you have vital equipment and fixtures in your home – whether it’s a ventilator for a family member or your prized tank of tropical fish – it’s worth having a plan in place for how to cope with a loss of power due to inclement weather.
Preventing Damage to Devices
Power surges occur in your home all the time, usually due to large appliances turning on and off. A sudden influx, or surge, of current in a short amount of time, can damage household electronics, large and small. Internal power surges are common, but usually not immediately damaging.
During a storm, if lightning strikes near an electrical line, you may experience a power surge far greater than what your home and devices can handle. Save yourself worry and expense by installing surge protectors at the outlets where you plug in expensive devices like your computer, cell phone charger or even your air conditioner. Plug-in power strip varieties are common and easy to use, but in-wall receptacle models are also available for the intrepid, safety-minded DIYer.
Alternative Power Sources
If you can’t survive without power, consider your options for alternative energy. The first step is deciding what’s essential and how many watts of electricity you need to power. Let’s say, as an example, that someone in your home cannot do without air conditioning or risk a life-threatening asthma attack. A window A/C unit uses between 600 and 1,500 watts to run, on average. Check the manufacturer’s manual for specific wattage requirements.
For items with motors, like the A/C unit mentioned, you’ll need to double the wattage requirements to allow for start-up current, in order to ensure the appliance is able to start properly. Next, you’ll need to consider what type of generator works for you.
● Home standby generators are permanently installed fixtures that run on natural gas or propane to automatically provide power to designated circuits or even to your whole home.
● Portable generators use unleaded gasoline to run for finite amounts of time.
● Inverter generators use magnets to convert the flow of electricity from A/C to D/C and back to A/C, providing a steady flow of uninterrupted energy.
Other Considerations During Power Outages
Beyond protecting your electronics and appliances and choosing a source of backup electricity, you’ll need to consider communications during a power outage. A portable hand-crank weather radio can keep you up to date on emergency weather alerts, allowing you to save battery life on your cell phone. If you’ll need to make phone calls and you live in an area where the power goes out frequently or for prolonged periods and worry you might not be able to charge your cell phone, consider installing a corded, landline telephone as a backup – they continue to work, even without electricity.
Preparing for a Power Outage
Summer storms can be a beautiful time — rains cool down unbearable temperatures and ensure your landscaping stays lush during the hottest season of the year. But they can also bring damage, including power outages. The best time to plan for backup power, communications, and other necessary tasks is before a power outage occurs. You’ll be able to make the necessary preparations at your leisure and won’t have to scramble around in the dark, if and when one does occur.