You probably want to be curled up indoors with a good book and warm socks on a cold winter day, not shivering through a power outage. Winter blackouts are as prevalent as they are dangerous. To stay cozy and safe during winter snowstorms, you should take a few steps to prevent the electricity from going out — or at least to get it up and running again if it fails.
What Causes Power Outages?
These are the most common reasons winter snow storms cause blackouts:
- Snow and ice accumulate on power lines, causing them to break.
- High winds and heavy snow loads snap tree branches. The branches then fall on and destroy power lines.
- Ice accumulates along tree roots, damaging underground electric lines.
- High winds blow down telephone poles.
- Extreme cold causes electrical components to slow down or stop functioning altogether.
- People use more power in the winter, which burdens the electrical grid.
Power outages are more than just an inconvenience — winter storms and extreme cold caused 120 deaths in 2021 in the U.S. That’s why it’s in your best interest to keep the electricity on during a blizzard.
Tips For Preventing Power Outages
Blackouts aren’t always within your control. However, you can maximize your chances of keeping the lights on with the following tips.
Trim Your Trees
Overgrown trees often interfere with power lines and cause outages. Similarly, falling trees can take power lines down with them. Take note of any trees growing around the power lines on your property. If they’re getting dangerously close to the utility poles, contact your local energy provider or the city to send someone to trim them. Always leave this job to the professionals.
Reduce Your Energy Consumption
Minimizing the burden on the power grid can prevent blackouts. It may be tempting to crank up the heat and turn on all the lights on a cold, gloomy day, but being frugal with your energy usage can help you avoid a power outage — and lower your power bill.
Here are some ways to save energy:
- Unplug idle appliances. Even unused devices can be an energy drain if you leave them plugged in.
- Shut off any lights you aren’t using.
- Turn down the heat at night by a few degrees and layer extra blankets to make up for the cooler temperature.
- Use thick curtains over your windows. Glass is a poor insulator, so covering the window reduces heat loss.
- Make sure your furnace only has to heat the space you’re using, not the whole house. Shut the doors to any unused rooms.
If you’re connected to the grid, other people’s high energy usage can make it more likely for the power to go out in your home. Generating and storing your own electricity eliminates that possibility altogether. Install solar panels connected to a battery bank so even if the grid goes down, it won’t affect your home.
Though solar panels may not be cheap to install, you’ll save money in the long run thanks to a lower energy bill. Plus, solar energy is better for the planet because it produces no carbon emissions.
Buy A Generator
Sometimes the electricity goes out despite your best efforts. If you have a backup generator, you can quickly get the power up and running again in case of an outage.
A whole-house generator is the most expensive yet reliable option. However, you may only need to keep the refrigerator or a heater running if the power goes out. In that case, you can get a smaller, portable generator to keep one or two appliances running for much less than one that powers your whole house.
Staying Warm In A Winter Storm
Power outages aren’t always within your control. However, planning and being proactive gives you the best chance of keeping the heat and lights on during a blizzard. Take note of any trees near the power lines, lower your energy usage, buy a generator and get off the grid if you can afford it. Next time a storm rolls in, you might not even notice.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.