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Heat and Light during a power outage

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Part 2 – Planning ahead will ensure that you have adequate heat and light to provide comfort and safety for you and your family. 

The previous article covered making a general assessment of what you need to cope with a power failure. This article deals with heat and light which can be critical as far as health and safety. 

Heat

A lot depends on the expected low temperatures. A cold house not only affects the occupants but it can lead to pipes freezing.  If you have a heat pump/resistance backup it might not be feasible to try to heat with your generator. Other options include:

  • A wood stove. Fireplaces are romantic, but without an insert, they are not very efficient. Wood burning is not a panacea. You need to have a stove and chimney in excellent condition plus a supply of seasoned wood. Smaller stoves require feeding every couple of hours. 
  • A gas heater. Depending on your building codes, you can consider a wall mounted or free standing gas heater. These heaters start at about $200 for a ventless 30,000 BTU heater. Consider how that compares with the BTUs of your regular furnace. In my case my furnace is 175,000 BTUs. HOWEVER, the furnace does not run continuously. Many gas heaters will work without power. A blue flame will heat the space while an infrared heater will heat objects and people

I have heard of people who thought they had things covered with a pellet stove only to find that they don’t work without power. 

I had a choice of putting my backup gas heater in the living room or the basement. I chose the basement for the simple fact that heat rises. A gas stove in my living room would result in the heat going up the stairs to the bedrooms leaving the first floor bath and kitchen cold. That could result in frozen pipes. Locating the gas and wood stove in the basement might not make the house as warm (that is debatable) but it will keep the critical plumbing from freezing. 

Be sure to check with your Homeowner’s insurance as some companies have severe restrictions on wood burning and may not cover a claim if caused by the stove.

Wood Stove for heat
Wood Stove for heat

Be sure to check your building codes for what is allowed in terms of stoves and heaters. Gas ranges and ovens are not designed to heat a house.

Light

Fumbling around in the dark can be dangerous. Before the advent of inexpensive LED lights, I used candles and oil lamps. They work fine but LEDs are a much better solution in terms of safety and practicality. Of course, if you have a generator, that can be used for lighting. However, a portable generator will have to be refueled. Here are some tips with lighting:

  • Have one place with your collection of LED battery powered lights. Include unopened packages of enough batteries for at least one change of batteries. 
  • There are LED lights that look like light switches. You could mount these in strategic areas. 
  • A UPS of the type used for computer equipment could power low wattage LEDS for a decent amount of time. 
  • A couple of LED headlamps are VERY handy. You can strap one on to your forehead and be able to use both hands for whatever tasks you need to accomplish. 
  • Consider where you might really need light and place a wall mounted LED there. For example, you might need to periodically check the sump pump. A pitch black basement makes that difficult. 

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS – Battery powered lights are only as good as their batteries. Be sure to stock up. The shelf life on brand name batteries is marked and is usually several years.

Part 3 discusses refrigeration and cooking. 

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