how to stay warm when your power goes out

The recently extended power outages in the Greater Toronto Area over the holidays had us all scrambling to make sure we know how to stay warm when your power goes out next. Bathing, preparing meals and finding ways to pass the time was also difficult (if not impossible) to do.

The 2012 outage report from power management company Eaton Canada showed that over 600,000 people were affected by the loss of power that year, with the majority of them living in Ontario.

While the ice storm of 2013 caught many of us by surprise with its severity and scope, you can be prepared for the next one by gathering a few supplies now.

How to stay warm when your power goes out

Let There Be Light

One of the first things you will want in the event of a power outage, particularly in the winter when the sun sets around 4:30 pm, is a light source.

Purchase a flashlight for each person in your household to keep with them. Lanterns, like the ones you used to take camping as a child, are also effective and can be placed in an area where you will be spending your most time during the power outage.

Many LED lanterns have a life of 10+ hours when used on the lowest setting, so use them sparingly if the power outage is a prolonged one. Remember, however, not to use propane lanterns – only lanterns with an LED light bulb are acceptable for use as they do not produce carbon monoxide.

Candles can be a light source (as well as a heat source) but they must be used with caution, especially if small children or pets live in your home. Keep the candles on a solid, flat surface out of reach of little hands or paws. Never leave a burning candle unattended, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Larger candles with a wide base are ideal, as they will not tip over as easily as a classic candlestick style.

Get Cozy

Trying to stay warm in subzero temperatures can be a challenge when your power is out. Layering your clothing is one of the first steps to creating some warmth, usually with a synthetic layer closer to your skin (polyester, silk or nylon). On top of your base layer, you will want to load up on cotton – and lots of it! Even wearing your winter coat inside can help to keep you toasty.

You can try to create a warm room in your apartment by putting up thick blankets on the walls. To do this, you’ll want to choose the smallest room that you would be most comfortable in; A smaller room is much easier to “heat” than a large living room. Keep your window shades drawn to prevent any cold air from leaking in and pouring into your home. Better yet, build a pillow and blanket fort! Not only will you be cozy and warm, but it will be a fun activity if you have children.

Safety First

The quest for warmth can sway us into making decisions that we would not normally make, such as using a barbecue indoors to help heat our apartments. Remember that these solutions that seem too good to be true generally are – using a barbecue indoors is an immense fire hazard as well as a potential source of carbon monoxide poisoning.

To keep food fresh for as long as possible, avoid opening your refrigerator or freezer doors. Each time they are opened, the cool air escapes and your food will spoil faster. If you are able (and if the power seems like it will be out for a long time), you may wish to transfer your most perishable and expensive items to a cooler with ice packs that you purchased. There is nothing worse than a freezer full of spoiled meat!

Finally, unplug as many things as you can around your home. When the power does come back on, all of these electronics coming online at the same time can create a power surge which may result in damage. Instead, plug each item back in one by one, allowing each one sufficient time to power back up before moving on to the next one.

The Government of Canada Get Prepared website offers more helpful tips for handling a power outage with aplomb:

– First, check whether the power outage is limited to your home. If your neighbours’ power is still on, check your own circuit breaker panel or fuse box. If the problem is not a breaker or a fuse, check the service wires leading to the house. If they are obviously damaged or on the ground, stay at least 10 meters back and notify your electric supply authority. Keep the number along with other emergency numbers near your telephone.

– If your neighbours’ power is also out, notify your electric supply authority.

– Turn off all tools, appliances and electronic equipment, and turn the thermostat(s) for the home heating system down to a minimum to prevent damage from a power surge when power is restored. Also, power can be restored more easily when there is not a heavy load on the electrical system.

– Turn off all lights, except one inside and one outside, so that both you and hydro crews outside know that power has been restored.

– Don’t open your freezer or fridge unless it is absolutely necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for 24 to 36 hours if the door remains closed.

– Never use charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment, or home generators indoors. They give off carbon monoxide. Because you can’t smell or see it, carbon monoxide can cause health problems and is life-threatening.

– Listen to your battery-powered or crank radio for information on the outage and advice from authorities.

– Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector. If it is hard-wired to the house’s electrical supply, ensure it has a battery-powered back-up.

– Protect sensitive electrical appliances such as TVs, computers, and DVD players with a surge-protecting power bar.

Stay safe & warm this Winter!

-The Team