During winter, blackouts tend to come during the worst storms. Often, this is due to stress on the local electric grid: more people stay home, run more appliances, and use more electricity to run their heating systems. Meanwhile, wind and ice accumulation punishes power lines with more weight and force than they can withstand.
Higher demands on the grid make you vulnerable to a winter blackout. If you rely on electricity for heat, It can leave you out in the cold on some of the frostiest nights of the year.
If you aren’t ready for the lights to go out, your and your family’s health and safety are at risk. As winter approaches, you need to prepare yourself and your home to withstand potential blackouts.
Preparing for a Potential Power Outage
The worst time to start preparing to deal with a power outage is when the lights go out. Winter and its perils arrive every year. If you prepare yourself and your home for a potential outage, you can navigate even an extended blackout.
Creating an Emergency Plan
Almost any situation becomes manageable when you have a plan. A winter blackout is no exception.
If you plan to shelter in place, your blackout plan should include preparing all the materials necessary for when the lights go out. Stash essential supplies, such as flashlights or other light sources, in an easy-to-find location. Also, make plans for keeping warm and eating and drinking safely.
You also need to create a list of emergency contacts. Friends, neighbours, and local hospitals are all sources you should be ready to call on if the blackout persists or if someone gets sick or injured when the lights go out.
If the situation gets so dire that you must evacuate or transport an injured person to the hospital, make sure you have plans to access emergency services safely. Think about who you will contact, how you will get there, and what supplies you’ll need to take with you on the road.
Stocking Up on Emergency Supplies
Surviving a blackout requires stocking up on emergency supplies. You’ll need batteries, a power source, and an ample supply of any crucial medications you take. Beyond this, you should have a first aid kit.
Be sure you have enough food and water. Stock up on non-perishable foods and bottled water when winter approaches—plan to have at least a gallon of water (4 L) per person in your home. Items in your refrigerator can stay safe for at least four hours and in the freezer for two days. Non-perishable food options keep you from having to go into the fridge and keep you eating safely during the blackout.
Having a Backup Heat Source
When a winter storm knocks your heating system out, you should have a backup on hand. A kerosene or propane heater can help heat small spaces in your home but also runs the risk of emitting harmful fumes. Having a room designated to keep everyone warm lets you maximize the impact of a small number of heaters.
If you have a whole home backup power solution integrated with your home’s electrical circuits, you may be able to run your central electric heating. Still, it makes sense to restrict usage to as few rooms as possible to conserve the energy you have stored. EcoFlow’s Smart Home Ecosystem can provide even more customizable options to keep your family warm for longer.
A DELTA Pro portable power station or solar generator can power backup heat sources like electric space heaters with off-grid electricity. Electric space heaters are a much safer option than any fossil-fuel alternative, most of which can’t be operated indoors.
Protecting Your Pipes from Freezing
Burst water pipes are a frequent casualty of winter blackouts. When water freezes, it expands; doing so in the pipes can lead to the pipes splitting or bursting open—a plumbing disaster that will be expensive to repair.
To protect against frozen pipes, wrap any exposed pipes in foam tubing or old clothing. Anything that provides a layer between the cold and the pipes helps. Let your faucets run at a drip or trickle when the power goes out, as moving water is less likely to freeze.
Keeping Warm and Safe During a Winter Blackout
Once the blackout comes, you should work to keep yourself warm when the heat is out. Aside from the steps you can take to prepare the home itself, you can respond in ways that keep you safe. From how you dress to how you react to the cold, you can maintain some control over your safety, even on the coldest nights.
Dressing in Layers and Staying Active
Dressing in layers provides extra protection against the cold. The layer closest to your skin should be moisture-wicking or breathable to avoid trapping sweat against your body. Sweating in cold weather puts you at risk of hypothermia. Extra layers mean extra protection, and you can add or remove layers depending on the effectiveness of your alternate heating methods.
Keep moving in the cold. You may feel an impulse to huddle in; cold weather makes people sluggish. However, the more you keep moving, the warmer you can keep your internal temperature.
Exercise makes your heart beat a little faster, which keeps you warmer. Stay active—without breaking a sweat—to keep your blood pumping and your body temperature up.
Closing Doors and Blocking Drafts
Keep your doors closed as much as possible. Warm air escapes quickly, so the fewer open doors and windows you have in your home, the safer and warmer you will remain.
If you feel drafts under doors or around windows, block them with towels, duct tape, or other barriers that keep the warmth in and the cold winter air out. Keep your distance from windows and doors to the extent possible to avoid drafts.
Using Backup Heat Sources Safely
Gas and propane heaters specifically designed to be used indoors can help keep you warm during a power outage, but they come with risks.
Fire hazards are the most obvious; keep flammable materials away from these heaters or any open flame in your home. In addition, be careful not to run them for too long, as the fumes and gases they give off in the combustion process can create an unsafe environment in your home.
In a blackout, damage and injuries related to combustible heating sources are more likely to impact your home than hypothermia. Pay attention to how you are heating your home and how long you run any fossil-fuel heating sources—even if they’re deemed safe for indoor use.
Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a particularly dangerous threat if it is present at high levels in your home. Test your carbon monoxide detector regularly. Detecting carbon monoxide early gives you the best chance of avoiding sickness from toxic emissions.
A gas range, a portable stove, or a propane heater can give off carbon monoxide during use. Keep an eye out for anyone acting sluggish around these devices, and avoid using them for long periods inside your home—if you must use them at all.
Powering Your Home During a Winter Blackout
Fortunately, you can provide supplemental power during a blackout. Portable solar generators and power stations can power most appliances and electric heaters. If you have enough electricity storage and output capacity, you can keep the essentials running in your home. Even so, you should conserve in case the blackout becomes more prolonged.
Using a Backup Generator:
A backup generator can help meet your essential electrical needs during a winter blackout. The generator’s capacity determines how many appliances you can keep going and how long.
If you have a gasoline or diesel-powered generator, you must operate it at a safe distance from your home. Battery backups or solar generators are safe to operate indoors. DELTA Solar Generators, for example, can provide between 882 Wh and 25 kWh of power during a blackout, depending on the model and add-ons you purchase.
Investing in a Portable Power Station
A portable power station is a safe, convenient backup electricity source that you can operate indoors. Portable power stations don’t generate electricity on their own. Instead, you can keep one plugged into a household wall outlet, so it’s always charged and ready when the lights go out.
With DELTA portable power stations, you can monitor your usage with the EcoFlow smartphone app and avoid unexpectedly running out of power while powering many devices and appliances. It provides an ongoing tally of how long you can run it based on what is currently plugged in and using energy. A portable power station can help keep you comfortable well into a winter blackout.
Maintaining Your Batteries and Power Sources
If you have backup batteries, you should check their charge and keep it to 100%. When the grid goes down locally, having a backup power source ready and fully charged is critical to meeting your ongoing energy needs.
Check and service any of your generators, batteries, and power stations. Many newer technologies have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities, with options to monitor energy usage, battery charge levels, and more.
Using Your Power Wisely and Efficiently
Even with fully-charged batteries and power sources, you don’t want to waste electricity. If you aren’t using a device, don’t let it drain your backup power supplies.
While most power outages end quickly, you shouldn’t assume that will be the case. Use what you need, but do your best to avoid waste.
Focus on the most critical uses of electricity and save mere conveniences for later. Prioritize needs over wants.
Coping with a Prolonged Winter Blackout
While most blackouts only last for a short time, some last much longer. The catastrophic 2021 blackout in Texas claimed at least 500 lives before power was fully restored.
If you have downed power poles, impassable weather conditions, or extensive grid malfunctions in your region, you may have to settle in for an extended period without power.
In these situations, communities must unite against the elements and the circumstances. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or provide it where you can.
Checking on Neighbours and Vulnerable Individuals
Take time during a prolonged blackout to check on those around you. The elderly and other vulnerable individuals might struggle for warmth or food—and lack the means to get either.
Look in on them when you can, and offer help when you can give it. Neighborly assistance might mean something as simple as providing extra food, water, or blankets or offering to help them find shelter or medication.
Don’t assume that all of your neighbors are okay during a winter blackout. Call them, or check on them if you can’t reach them by phone. When it comes to a blackout, you’re all in it together.
Finding Temporary Shelter and Warmth
You may need to find somewhere else to shelter during a blackout. If you have friends in places where the power is still running, don’t be afraid to ask for help for yourself or your family. Other opportunities might include a community shelter or even a hotel.
Look for options for shelter that might be available to you. While some people may have it harder, you still need help occasionally. Look for places you can get warm if your house doesn’t provide that.
Keep a compact backup power solution in your vehicle in case you need to be on the road and get stuck in a blizzard. The RIVER 2 portable power station is an inexpensive option to ensure you have enough power to keep your smartphone and other small devices powered if you find yourself snowbound.
As much as possible, stay off the roads.
Seeking Assistance from Local Authorities and Organizations
Some organizations have missions dedicated to helping in emergencies. The Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations may have a response team in place or the ability to form one if they haven’t yet done so.
Similarly, your local government should have disaster response plans for winter blackout scenarios. Check your local resources to see what help is available, and don’t hesitate to make suggestions.
Staying Informed about the Blackout and Power Restoration Efforts
Today, we are accustomed to having any information we want readily available on our smartphones. If you have a signal and a charge, keep connected to local news updates and efforts to restore power.
If not, accessing a battery-operated radio can keep you in the loop for any new or developing efforts to help or respond to the blackout.
Up-to-date information is almost always helpful in the face of fear and speculation. Understanding restoration efforts can also help gauge if you have enough resources to ride out the blackout.
Monitoring Weather Conditions and Updates
Keep track of any weather updates you can. Knowing when the temperatures might rise or if winter precipitation is incoming can help you make more effective decisions and plans.
Follow reliable sources for updates, and share information with your friends and neighbors.
Winter storm hazards don’t end when you get out of your car and into the house. In a winter blackout, people who are unprepared face loss of heat, loss of connectivity to the world, and a shortage of safe food and water.
Make your plan now to respond to–and cope with–the next winter blackout. By preparing ahead of time for the worst, you can get yourself ready for whatever emergencies a winter storm brings with it.
A big part of preparing for blackouts is lining up backup power sources. EcoFlow provides numerous safe options for backup power to keep you ready—and warm—in a winter blackout.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the risks of a winter blackout and loss of heat?
You risk hypothermia and related illness when you lose heat in a blackout. You also face the risk of making unsafe heating choices, such as carbon monoxide poisoning and fire.
How can I prepare for a winter blackout?
Wrap your exposed water pipes, and purchase non-perishable foods and bottled water. In addition, setting up a backup generator or portable power station can help you keep electricity running when the grid goes down.
What should I do if the heat goes out during a winter blackout?
Dress in layers and use alternative heat sources to keep warm. Be careful with fossil-fuel-powered heaters that put you at risk of both fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
How can I power my home during a winter blackout?
During a winter blackout, a backup generator or portable power station can provide electric power for some or all of your appliances.