I don’t know about you, but here in Western Oregon, all the power outages happen during the winter. They vary from flickers that last less than a second to outages of around three days. Here are some tips that work for us:
- Have a wood stove you can cook on and heat the house with. I have two! If you have propane or city gas, pilot-light-style ranges, water heaters, and some kinds of furnaces will keep working when the power is out. (I don’t have gas.)
- Have a ridiculous number of flashlights and lots of batteries. Trying to get anything done during a nighttime power outage is very difficult without a flashlight! Everyone in the family needs a flashlight, and you need a bunch more because they get misplaced.
- Pick your poison where lamps are concerned. I’ve settled on propane Coleman lanterns even though they are expensive to run. They’re convenient, bright, and clean-burning. Gasoline Coleman lanterns set off my smoke alarms. Kerosene lanterns are too dim for area lighting. I’ve put hooks in the ceiling in my living room and bathroom just for the lanterns.
- Have your water situation figured out. I have a generator and can run my water pump during an outage. Your situation might be more complicated.
- Get a Honda generator. It’s sort of fun to go without electricity for a couple of days in the summer, but it’s a pain in the winter, especially when your basement floods without a sump pump, you have freezers full of chicken, or, worst of all, if you brood chicks with heat lamps during the winter. Honda generators are good. Some other makes are probably just as good, but I don’t know which ones they are. Figure out how to use your generator before the power goes out. Remember to have some gasoline. Buy plenty of extra-heavy-duty extension cords and multi-outlet adapters and store them somewhere sensible.
- Use APC Smart-UPS UPS systems. These are the only ones I know of that work well when plugged into a generator. Put them on your computers and your TV/DVD/Tivo setup. There’s a “sensitivity” adjustment on these to determine how eager they are to switch to battery power. Set the sensitivity to “low.” Your equipment won’t mind. I always buy used units, since the systems themselves last forever, though the batteries (which are replaceable) rarely last beyond five years. See if you can find a local source for both UPS and batteries: they’re expensive to ship.
- Have a good library. Even if you keep the Tivo running during the outage, the loss of power restricts your actions.
- Have a method of brewing good coffee. This is essential! A Melitta one-cup coffee maker and a stack of filters will see you through until the ol’ Mr. Coffee starts working again.
There are plenty of other ways to do it, but these work for us.
We’re probably going to get a super-insulated electric water heater this winter, and we’ll get one that’s twice as big as we need, so it will take a long power outage to run out out of hot water.