Have you ever noticed how quiet your house gets when the power goes out? It always amazes me how much noise all of our electronics make from the fridge to the heater and everything in between!
Is it weird to admit that I kind of enjoy it when the power goes out? Everything gets so quiet, and most of the work stops! I can’t vacuum, do dishes, or even work on my computer! Around here when the power goes out, we usually drop everything and take a walk or do outside chores or find some light and play games. It’s pretty wonderful not having any distractions!
However, if it goes on too long, it’s like a guest that overstays its welcome – it can get tiring and you wish it would just be over with.
Our first winter in Alaska, we had a terrible windstorm (no one ever talks about the hurricane force winds we get up here – it’s crazy!) and our power was out for several days. We were NOT set up for it at all and our house got dark and cold. From that experience, I learned there are a few things we should always have on hand, and a few tips for preparing for long-term power outages.
TIP: Look at what is electric in your house that you use daily and determine what you can live without and what needs a non-electric option. For instance, a can opener, a coffee maker (good heavens, always make sure you have a way to make coffee), the well pump, and water heater are a few of the things that we decided that we wanted to be able to use, especially if the power is out for an extended period of time. (We now have a wood stove for heat and cooking so we don’t have to worry about that.)
Long-term power outages will typically mean you will need to find a light source unless it happens here in Alaska in the middle of summer when we have 24 hour daylight.
In the winter, we have very few hours of light so having a source of light is super important. Of course, candles are an inexpensive light source that can also be decorative. We tend to have several candles in the main part of the house and keep one lit in the bathroom but we don’t allow them in any of the bedrooms because of the risk of fire.
Oil lamps are perfect for the main living areas. Some lamps like the Aladdin lamps are quite bright and they can even be used for reading or playing games.
In the bedrooms, we only have battery or solar lights. Because we don’t have heat in the bedrooms during a power outage, we don’t spend much time in there so they offer as much light as we need for getting ready for bed and getting up in the morning.
Our heat solution was easy. We installed a wood stove. We use it all winter long as our main source of heat because firewood is abundant on our place and it’s free. And it just plain feels good to sit by the fire on a cold, snowy day! I also like to cook on my wood stove, even when power isn’t an issue.
A heat-powered fan for your wood stove can make a world of difference when it is your only source of heat. They help circulate the air and reach even the coldest corners of your house.
TIP: Keep the doors closed to rooms you don’t need to use to keep the heat concentrated to the main part of the house. However, be careful not to close off rooms with water pipes because you don’t want them to freeze and burst.
Having shelf stable food in your pantry that’s easy to fix is vital to your family’s well-being in the case of any emergency or natural disaster, not just a power outage. Start with protein. Make sure you have some canned meat or soups with a source of protein that are easy to fix and are shelf-stable. Freeze dried foods are also super handy to have on hand because they last in the pantry for years and are easy to fix, they are super tasty and nutrient dense.
TIP: To preserve the temperature in your refrigerator and freezer, open them as little as possible. If you must open them, try to do so just once per day and get everything out at once that you need.
If you freeze jugs of water, you can put some frozen jugs in your refrigerator to help it stay cool.
A well pump is one of those investments that may sit around for years but if you need it, it can pay for itself in just one outage. Water is one of the most vital resources that your family MUST have access to, yet it can be one of the most difficult in a power outage unless you prepare ahead of time.
If the power outage is a result of a storm, you likely have tons of snow that you can use for water, but what about water for drinking, cooking, and brushing your teeth? Having a way to filter water is SUPER important if you are unable to use your well during a power outage. Be sure to have filtration tablets, a filter straw, or even a larger treatment system that doesn’t require power and that will keep your family hydrated and healthy.
Around our house, we have a rule. We never let the gas tank get under half. There are several reasons for this rule but primarily, it’s so we can get where we need to go, even in the case of an emergency. In an extended power outage, you may need to use your car to charge your electronics or to warm up or even to use a cooker that can plug into your cigarette lighter. There are so many ways your car can help make you more comfortable during a power outage! However, if you park it with the gas light on, it’s likely not going to do you much good.
TIP: Use the time to make memories. Pass the time together – hike, play games, put together a puzzle, write letters to relatives and friends, or work on a craft. You know that list of things you always wanted to do but you never have time to do them? This is a GREAT situation to make time as a family!
Be sure you are always stocked up on everything you need for alternate power. This would include batteries, etc. Also, if you have an electronics charger (mine will charge my phone 5 times or my computer once or twice. There are solar options, too), make sure they are charged at least once per month. That way you have what you need, when you need it!
If you have a generator, make sure everyone in your family knows how to use it and make sure you have plenty of fuel and oil for it.
A wind up or battery operated hand held radio or another resource to give you access to the outside world is great to have, especially in the case of a storm or natural disaster.
Finally, this isn’t the time to be a lone wolf. Be sure to check on your neighbors. Have them over to cook s’mores in your wood stove, make hot chocolate and hang out! A long-term power outage might be inconvenient but it can also be isolating and/or scary for some. Make sure the folks in your community are doing okay!
With a little preparation and forethought, even long-term power outages can seem more like an adventure than an inconvenience!