We often overlook how much of the daily operations in our lives require electricity. That is until we are suddenly without it in a power outage.
Power outages are increasing across Canada. Extreme temperatures, destructive weather, and utility companies struggling to keep up with aging infrastructure leave hundreds of thousands stranded without electricity, sometimes for days.
If you’re interested in what you can do to prepare for a power outage or how to prevent them from impacting your home in the future, keep reading!
What Is a Power Outage?
A power outage is a temporary disruption in the electric supply to a particular area. It can be local or widespread, and the duration can vary from seconds to days.
A single building may experience an outage due to a faulty circuit breaker or wiring. However, large areas can also experience widespread blackouts when there are problems with multiple circuits or power transmission lines.
Causes of Power Outages
When your power goes out, it’s crucial to know what’s behind the outage. Outages can result from many different things, such as a storm, an accident, or just plain old wear and tear on the system.
Weather is one of the most common causes of power outages. Storms, wind, and rain can all cause power outages when they knock down tree limbs and branches onto power lines or if the tree itself falls on an overground cable. The deadly Canada thunderstorm in May 2022 left almost 1 million customers in Ontario and Quebec without power.
The wind can also blow over utility poles that carry power lines. High winds are hazardous for wires strung between structures like houses because they tend to whip back and forth in the wind more than wires hanging from poles do. These wires are sometimes called “aerial” or “overhead” lines and are more prone to breaking during high winds than underground cables are.
When the sun flares and sends highly-charged particles toward Earth, it can disrupt electric equipment in our power grid. The flares cause a domino effect that leads to massive outages across Canada and North America.
Earthquakes and floods are natural disasters that could damage transformers and underground cables carrying electricity from dams through hydroelectricity plants.
Hurricanes also cause widespread damage when they hit land. Their winds rip down overhead transmission lines along with other infrastructure supporting them. Downed power lines can cause more damage in addition to knocking out your lights for days at a time, depending on where you live.
Sometimes human error causes problems. Operators might accidentally shut down or damage equipment without realizing what they’ve done until too late.
Unfortunately, human error can also refer to inconsiderate vandals who seek to intentionally sabotage others by cutting off wires that deliver electricity safely into homes.
Power Grid Failure
This outage occurs when the utility company’s equipment fails, causing a loss of electricity throughout an entire region. These failures are rare and typically originate from within the utility’s network.
A grid failure might result after heavy snowfall or extreme winds knock down trees onto power lines. It results in a chain reaction where multiple poles along the same path become damaged. With a grid failure, you’ll need to wait for utility companies to complete repairs before they can restore service to your area.
Other reasons for blackouts include animals that have eaten wires and other parts of the electrical system. Squirrels create havoc with electrical equipment, sometimes by chewing through wires or climbing onto poles with live wires hanging down.
High Energy Demand
Excessive electricity demand can lead to problems with generating enough power, so the utility company will shut off electricity until they can get additional capacity up and running.
Surges in demand are more common when there’s a sharp increase or decrease in temperature or humidity. The environmental changes increase the energy demand for heating or cooling residential homes and businesses.
How to Prepare for Power Outages
To be prepared for a power outage, you must have enough supplies. While it’s not always possible to anticipate when or where outages might occur, it’s always better to overprepare than not prepare at all!
1. Invest in a Solar Generator
If you don’t have access to one already, consider investing in a solar generator. A solar generator generates and stores power that you can use as a home backup solution.
Solar generators work by creating energy from solar panels. They provide power during an outage without the need for fossil fuels, which can be hard to come by in some areas during disasters.
Portable solar generators are also easy to transport. Portability is critical if you need to evacuate your home due to flooding or other dangers associated with severe weather conditions such as tornadoes or hurricanes.
2. Install Backup Power Systems
A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t live without something, ensure it has its own backup power source.
Many people rely on their smartphones and tablets for internet access and entertainment. In an emergency, these devices can be a lifeline and source of the most up-to-date information. If you don’t already own a backup power system, at least have a battery pack or — better yet — a portable power station to provide a charging solution for your devices.
3. Keep a Flashlight and Radio Handy
A flashlight is a must-have in case you have to go outside or navigate around your home during a power outage.
It’s best to have an LED flashlight with rechargeable batteries. If your flashlight runs out of juice, your backup power source can quickly charge it back up.
Even during the internet era, a radio is another critical device. It lets you stay updated on developments within your local community and beyond.
4. Stock Up on Water and Food Supplies
The first thing you should do when preparing for a power outage is to stock up on food. You want enough to last you and your family for at least three days. Consider non-perishable snacks like nuts and granola bars alongside canned foods.
You’ll also want to keep a water supply in the house. Again, keep enough on hand for three days.
Keep all these things on hand before a blackout occurs. You don’t want any delays when it comes time to hunker down and wait out the storm.
5. Re-Up Your First Aid Kit
Keep a first aid kit handy! You never know when someone will get hurt during an emergency like this, so everyone in your family should know how to locate the kit. This way, they can take care of each other without needing assistance from others outside.
6. Make a List of Important Phone Numbers
In the age of smartphones, it’s not so common to have the phone numbers of your loved ones memorized or even written down. In an emergency like a power outage, it’s essential to have contact lists with all important phone numbers written down for easy access.
How to Prevent Power Outages in the Future
Although many external factors are beyond your control, there are some ways you can prevent a power outage in your home.
Set Up a Backup Generator
A generator provides an alternative power source when no electricity is available and will help keep you safe during a power outage.
Generators are available at most hardware and home improvement stores and online. Solar generators provide clean, renewable energy and can be kept inside your home. Fossil fuel generators create toxic emissions — like carbon monoxide — so they must be used outdoors.
For those who live in areas where ice storms occur frequently, solar generators are one of the best ways to protect yourself against power outages since they run on renewable energy and require no on-grid electrical hookup or shore power.
Install Surge Protectors
Install surge protectors or uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) to help protect sensitive electronic equipment (like computers) from sudden fluctuations in voltage. They prevent damage to devices such as computers and televisions from surges caused by lightning strikes or faulty wiring. While a UPS can give you enough backup power to shut down your devices properly, potentially saving you from devastating damage to your sensitive equipment and data.
If your home has been affected by severe weather, we recommend replacing old surge protectors with newer models. These offer more protection against extreme weather conditions.
Keep Power Lines Clear of Debris
Debris is the most common cause of electrical fires, which can lead to power failures or damage your home’s electrical system. Keep trees trimmed back and clear from your house’s power lines to avoid this hazard.
You should also clear any plant matter from around your home’s electrical panels and other areas where water could collect and cause corrosion issues with your wiring system.
Call your utility provider immediately if you see something blocking your power line (like a tree branch). They’ll send someone out to clear it up before an outage occurs.
Install a Home Battery System
A home battery system such as a portable power station provides stored backup power during an outage. You can continue using lights, appliances, and more without having them go out when there’s no electricity from the grid.
Plus, installing a portable power system will also help reduce how often you lose electricity during storms. Its batteries are designed specifically for such situations.
Knowing the facts and preparing for power outages in Canada can be a life-saving decision. Power outages happen more often than you think and can cause severe damage if not handled properly. By being prepared, you’ll be ready to deal with an unexpected outage quickly and efficiently — and hopefully, avoid any unnecessary damage or injury! For more on solar-powered generators and backup power systems to keep your family and home safe, visit EcoFlow for industry-leading portable power solutions!