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Winter Power Outage Survival: How to Get Ready

how to prepare for power outage in winter

Canada is notorious for its extended, severe winter season, where extreme cold can pose significant property challenges. Most winter power outages occur during freezing rain, sleet, and high winds from winter storms, leading to damage to power lines and equipment. When you lose a reliable power source, not only does it affect you, but your property may also face issues like dampness that can damage walls, floors, and plumbing.

Power outage can occur anytime. Most power outages are temporary, but we cannot assume a longer one won't visit us. Generally speaking, it is advised to have sufficient preparation for an outage of three days or more.

how to prepare for power outage in winter

How to Prepare for the Next Power Outage

  • Invest in a Generator: Choosing the right generator for your property can be a challenging task. We highly recommend to seek expert advice. There are two primary types of generators: standby and portable. Standby generators seamlessly provide power to your entire property during outages using an automatic transfer switch. Portable generators, although not automatic, offer a more budget-friendly option for powering essential appliances. If you plan to use a generator, it's crucial to install carbon monoxide alarms in your property to ensure safety.

  • Surge Protectors: A surge protector plays a crucial role in safeguarding your electronics when the power grid experiences brief interruptions or fluctuations, whether they last seconds or days. When your power supply fluctuates, with voltage levels usually around 110 volts, your electronics can be at risk of degradation or severe damage. Utilizing surge protectors offers a cost-effective means to shield your appliances from potential harm during power outages.

  • Inspect Flashlights & Stock on Batteries: To get ready for winter storm power outages, it's vital to have lighting options readily available. Ensure your flashlights are in working order, replace them if necessary, and have a stash of extra batteries on hand. It's also wise to keep spare batteries for your smoke detector, radio, and any other battery-powered devices.

  • Protect Your Pipes: In the winter season, pipes become susceptible to freezing and bursting, causing significant inconvenience and financial strain. Insulating your pipes is the most effective measure to prevent freezing during a power outage. It's also a good practice to turn off the main valve in freezing conditions to prevent potential flooding due to burst pipes. If shutting off the valve is not an option, leaving the faucets running can prevent freezing, and you can collect the dripping water for later use. Some heat pumps feature a pipe freeze protection mode, which, when activated after power is restored, continuously blows out warm air while consuming minimal energy, preventing temperatures from dropping below freezing.

  • Block Drafts: A significant amount of heat escapes from your property through unnoticed openings and crevices in doors, windows, the attic, fireplace, electrical outlets, chimney, and ductwork. Identify these common sources of air leakage and employ caulking to seal any gaps and cracks. To minimize drafts, consider rolling up towels or blankets and placing draft stoppers at the bottom of doors and windows. For safety around fireplace chimneys, furnaces, and water heater vents, ensure you seal gaps and cracks with fire-resistant materials like sheet metal or furnace cement caulk.

how to prepare for power outage in winter

During a Winter Power Outage

  • Examine your circuit breakers, fuses, and the electrical supply lines to your property. If you observe any damage to the lines or if they are down, keep a safe distance and contact your electric utility company for assistance.

  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by ensuring your fireplace and chimney are cleaned before use. Never utilize gas generators, camping stoves, or barbecues indoors; keep them in well-ventilated spaces, and avoid using them for heating your property.

  • Stay informed by keeping an ear out for updates. Tune in to the latest news on a battery-powered or hand-cranked device. When using your cellphone, opt for texting instead of calling to ensure phone lines remain open, or use your landline. Reserve the use of 911 for genuine emergencies.

  • In case of an evacuation, make sure to deactivate the main breaker, circuit breaker panel, or power supply box. Turn off the water main and completely drain the water system by opening all faucets, flushing multiple times, releasing the basement drain valve, and emptying the hot water tank into the floor drain. If you have a gas heater, extinguish the pilot light, and take the necessary steps to clear valuable items from the basement floor.

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