Being Prepared for Power Outages

Are you prepared for a sudden loss of power to your home during winter?

How will you keep your family warm?

Here are the things you need to know to survive during a blackout of several hours or natural disaster that can leave your home without power for days.

To let you in on the stark truth before I get started, you need to know that most household heating systems, no matter what their primary fuel source, need electricity to run. Whether they run on natural gas, coal, oil or wood (or electricity itself), in order to feed the warmth they produce throughout a home, they need electricity to run water pumps to feed radiators or air pumps to provide forced hot air.

Now we can get started.

Are You Vulnerable?

backup heating during a power outageLet's start by looking a little closer at the vulnerability angle of what happens when the power grid goes down. A centrally heated house relies on electricity to run its central controller (turning it off and on automatically via its thermostat) as well as the pumps it uses to distribute the heat around the house.

If the power goes down, for example during a blackout, the central heating system will stop working despite there being plenty of natural gas in the pipes or wood in the furnace. Since modern home heating methods have advanced in recent decades, more homes than ever rely on a centrally controlled system because it is more economical and efficient than the "old" way of burning fires in fireplaces in every room or running expensive, power hungry electric space heaters.

This makes a lot of homes vulnerable to a loss of power especially in winter when the lack of warmth can not only become uncomfortable, but potentially life threatening to the very old or very young. If you are in this situation, it would be a very good idea for you to assess your own family's vulnerability and put in place some contingency measures to avert a possible tragedy.

Contingency Heating

Most households have a spare electric space heater or more lying in the attic or in the garage or tool shed. These are fine for providing spot warmth when needed but are useless if there is no electricity to fuel them.

To be independent of the power grid's potential ups and downs, it makes good sense to be prepared by owning one or more portable propane-fueled heaters with spare gas cylinders at the ready stored safely in the garage or tool shed. For most urban or suburban locations, this is an excellent choice of backup heating provision.

In rural areas, the choice extends to having a wood burning stove in the kitchen that can be used to provide heat and hot water as well as a cooking facility when there is no electricity. This depends on the ready availability of logs which is why it's not always the best solution for homes in towns and cities.

Why a Propane Heater?

Ask anyone about what they find most appealing about using a space heater and they'll tell you "simplicity." Most folks can't be bothered fiddling with a device that needs a lot of fiddling to get it to work and do its job.

Let's assume disaster has already struck and there you are in a suddenly dark house with your children crying and you're worried it's getting cold fast. After you've stumbled around the place and found a flashlight, your immediate need is to get some heat into that room so the kids won't get cold.

A quick trip to the garage and you can instantly lay your hands on that small propane heater that has a full gas cylinder already attached because you made sure you were prepared! It's light enough to carry into the house and set in down on the floor in the center of the room where you can reassure the kids you'll get the fire going for them.

One or two clicks of the starter and with a reassuring flash, it bursts into life and within seconds everyone is gathering around it soaking up the welcome and much needed warmth. This is as much as anyone wants to go through to get things settled and see some happy little faces looking up at you!

Now that you can see why a propane heater is such a great backup solution for emergencies, let's put things into perspective and look at the flip side of such a scenario.

Why You Don't Want a Complicated Solution

The house is dark and cooling rapidly and the kids are screaming. You fumble for a flashlight and head off to the garage. There is an old kerosene heater back there and a can with kerosene in. It smells bad but it's all you have, so you bring both into the room where the kids are crying and try to get it working.

There is no push button start and no kerosene in the tank, so you have to open it and pour some of the bad smelling liquid in from the can you brought with you. Some kerosene spills onto the carpet because you forgot to bring a pouring funnel, but you manage to get enough into the tank to get it working.

Now you fumble around for some matches or a lighter to light the fuse. You strike a match which quiets the kids as they are fascinated by a sudden flame, reach into the unit and try to get the wick to catch fire. Of course it doesn't on the first try but two matches and a lot of frustration later, you now have some heat!

All would be great except you look around and somehow that spilled kerosene is also alight and the carpet with it. Now you really have an emergency on your hands!

Be Safe and Be Secure

If you're wondering why I seem to have a strong preference for the simplicity and safety aspect of propane heaters, I can tell you it comes from past experience as a child. One day, my mother really did manage to spill kerosene on the living room carpet and set it alight, burning our house down in the process. We were luck to escape with our lives.

So I hope you can see why I place the safety and well being of my family before the economy angle of not buying a good, solid and easy-to-operate portable propane heater like the Mr Heater Buddy for backup and emergency situations. I would never have anything as dangerous as a kerosene heater anywhere near my home!

For my needs, a propane fueled heater is easy to operate, safe to store along with reserve fuel cylinders and it provides instant heat at the click of a button with no mess, no bad smell and no worrisome potential dangers that cheap, alternatives can harbor. Maybe you will heed my advice and seek a backup heat source along similar criteria.