Even without experiencing an energy crisis in the UK, enough is happening ecologically and geopolitically to inspire panic and general concern. Residents of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are witnessing electrical breakdowns through floods, storms, heatwaves and unprecedented weather conditions.
You’re not alone in feeling anxious that one day you’ll find yourself without access to electricity. Government officials have shared that such feelings are fair due to concerns about gas shortages, rising energy costs and extreme weather.
If you want to take active steps to prevent against a power outage in your home, you’re in the right place. Learn how to prepare and equip yourself for power outages in the UK.
What is a Power Outage?
In simple terms, a power outage is when you lose your electrical power or natural gas supply, typically without warning. Sometimes power outages occur due to a specific fault in one individual home or block of flats, but often they affect the electrical system on a broader scale.
Any prolonged power disruption can impact every aspect of our communities. For instance, without power, you will see a significant impact on communications, water supplies and transportation.
If a power outage were to last a significant length of time, you may not be able to go out into the world and buy supplies from retailers. It won’t be long before food begins to spoil without an operating fridge and potentially limited access to clean water.
Businesses may have to close, and even automotive travel could be difficult without access to petrol stations.
Most of our society now depends on electricity and gas to function. The picture is much more dire when you factor in establishments that host our community’s most vulnerable. For example, local hospitals could be placed in a critical position.
Thankfully, hospitals tend to have a source of backup power, but some smaller facilities, like hospices, or care homes, do not have access.
In sum, power outages are blackouts that affect whole towns, streets or single households — we are all vulnerable.
Causes of Power Outages
A blackout’s fundamental cause helps determine how it impacts households and communities.
For example, a whole town could face a crisis of no power if the cause is related to an issue with the power station. Other causes include damage to electricity cables or electric transmission lines, distribution systems, short circuits, fuse damage or circuit breaker failures.
It might worry some of you that disruptions to our overground electricity lines can cause the grid to break down so easily. However, to protect the central power station, anything significant that comes into contact with a power line will cause the power to cut out automatically. The impact could come from something as seemingly harmless as a tree branch, but the system works this way to prevent electric current from being wasted and stop small problems from becoming big ones.
More significant disruptions can take down power lines completely, usually due to harsh weather and natural disasters like flooding and tropical storms.
Overground lines can fall prey to storms and high winds, while underground energy infrastructure is vulnerable to flooding and heavy rain.
How to Prepare for Power Outages
Some concern is healthy, but fear is not. You can take preventative measures to prepare yourself to the point you feel safe. You can do this first by investing in equipment you can trust.
Create an Emergency Kit
To prepare, set up an emergency bag and store it in an accessible and easy-to-remember place in your home. Include essentials like battery-operated torches, tinned foods, and first aid supplies, just as examples.
Create a checklist of specific items your family couldn’t live without that would tide you over for a few days. If it’s an item that’s not easily packable, now’s the time to source an alternative.
Besides food and first-aid supplies, you might also want to consider a solar generator or portable power kit, enough to power a radio, mobile phone, and internet router so that you can access emergency communications.
The Home Office also announced earlier this year that they are working to streamline the Emergency Services Network so that you have a central location to receive emergency broadcasts. A solar generator would help keep your devices charged for receiving these critical announcements.
Check Your Fuse Box
Every home has a fuse box or circuit breaker panel. Sometimes, when your power spontaneously cuts out, it’s because a fuse has blown or a breaker has tripped.
You can see if this has happened by looking at your box. For a circuit breaker panel, if any of the switches are in the off position, turn them back on. Likewise, replace any blown fuses.
If you can solve the issue yourself, you’ll save a lot of time waiting for your local provider to come out and fix it for you.
Protect Your Home From Water
If a storm or heavy rain is forecast, a power outage could occur due to flooding.
Remove vital electrical equipment from your basement or ground floor. If any of your appliances become exposed to water, it could create an electrocution hazard.
Stop Your Pipes From Freezing
Winter can also bring low temperatures that cause pipes to freeze. During a power outage, your home may be at a significantly lower temperature than normal. If pipes freeze and burst, this can create an even bigger issue that will take far longer to resolve.
To prevent this, shut off your water and turn on the taps to let them run dry. Action like this won’t be entirely necessary if the power is out for an hour or two, but it will be beneficial during a more extended blackout in the winter months.
How to Prevent Power Outages in the Future
Most of the responsibility for prevention falls to energy suppliers and power stations. In 2020, the UK experienced a severe power outage that urged the government to implement measures to protect the UK against future events. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy pledged to implement measures involving enhanced communications, improved support of essential services and a review of necessary improvements.
Even still, you can take matters into your own hands and do your part to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Everything in your home is susceptible to wear and tear, including your electrical system. Without frequent checkups and necessary maintenance, your systems are vulnerable to damage.
Escalated demand during colder months can put a real strain on your utility services. With increased demand, there is a higher probability of power surges and outages.
Power surges can damage your electrical appliances, so if a power outage is on the horizon, it’s a good idea to turn non-essential appliances off ahead of time.
You can take proactive measures to prevent any damage from occurring. Regular servicing of your power systems will help achieve full efficiency and extend their lifespan.
Keep up with maintenance to give yourself peace of mind that your home will remain up and running.
Invest in Electricity Back-up
Just as a hospital has access to backup generators, you can do the same on a smaller scale in your home.
Some people live entirely off-grid, meaning they aren’t provided with electricity by government sources. They utilise renewable energy to do this successfully. The same principles apply to power outage solutions.
Renewable energy doesn’t require fossil fields and naturally replenishes in a quick timeframe. Examples consist of solar and wind.
Solar generators produce electricity using solar panels. The panels harvest energy from the sun and convert and store it as electricity for later use. Household appliances and personal devices can be plugged into the generator and powered easily.
Solar generators are the better choice over gas generators as power backups because they require less maintenance and can work inside the home. Plus, gas generators need fossil fuels to continue running, and you may be in a situation without fuel access. Utilising provides clean, renewable energy — so it benefits the environment in addition to providing a reliable power backup.
Solar power is so dependable that solar technology is suitable as a permanent fixture in your home. Solar generators with a battery capacity of 2016Wh can power an average fridge of 175 watts for 11 hours.
Portable power stations (PPS) are another viable home power backup solution. A PPS doesn’t generate power, but it can store large amounts of electricity from a standard wall outlet, car adapter or solar panels.
Trim Your Trees
As mentioned earlier, fallen branches and trees can take out overhead power lines. An excellent way to prevent any issues due to hazardous trees or branches on your property is to cut these down ahead of time.
Minimising risks of interference will help prevent blackouts from happening in your home and your neighbours’ homes. You don’t need to remove trees entirely, just any branches that are too close to the power lines.
You can contact your local council if you have concerns about trees near your property. Trimming tall trees should be left to professionals.
Power outages in the UK are an ever-increasing threat. Being proactive to prevent your home from being affected is the best course of action.
Backup energy sources independent of the energy grid are the best way to weather the effects of power cuts and blackouts.