Three Problems To Watch For When The Power Goes Out

Posted on: 26 February 2019

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This time of year, power outages are far too common. Whether it's a windstorm, snowstorm, or freezing rain, the weather can quickly wreak havoc on the power lines, causing you to lose power for a few hours or more. Usually, you can just sit on the couch, play a few board games, and have no major concerns as you wait for the power to turn back on. But if you suspect the outage may last more than an hour or two, the situation is more serious. Here are three common problems that result from prolonged power outages and what you can do about them.

1. Frozen Pipes

As the temperature in your home falls, the risk of your pipes freezing increases. If your home falls too far below 50 degrees and it's below freezing outside, the pipes running along your exterior walls have a high risk of freezing. And once they freeze, they can burst, spewing water all over your home. 

There are a few ways to prevent such a plumbing catastrophe. One option is to fill a few gallons with the water you'll need to drink for the next couple of days and then turn the water main off. Turn on a faucet to drain any remaining water from the pipes. This way, there won't be any water in the pipes to freeze! If you need to leave the water on for some reason -- or if the water main valve won't budge -- you can also leave the water on at a slow, slow drizzle at a tap or two. This keeps the water moving through the pipes, and moving water is less likely to freeze.

2. A Chilly Home

Even if you're able to keep your pipes from bursting, you probably don't want to be huddled up in a 45- or 50-degree home. Some ways you can keep your home warmer without access to power include closing the curtains, keeping the doors shut as much as possible, and closing off rooms in the home where you don't spend as much time. Put on extra layers of clothing now so you don't start feeling cold. Once you get cold, it will be hard to warm up -- but if you can keep yourself from feeling too cold in the first place, you'll be better off.

3. Spoiled Food

Food will stay cold in the refrigerator for about 4 hours once the power goes out, as long as you don't open the door. A freezer will keep food safe for about 48 hours after a power outage, as long as the freezer is pretty full and you don't open the door. If it's cold outside and you're approaching that 4- or 48-hour mark, you could always put the food in boxes or coolers and stash it on the porch. Keep in mind that it needs to be below 40 outside to keep food at refrigerator temps. If items end up thawing but stay below 40 degrees, they'll still be safe to cook and eat once the power goes back on. 

If it's above 40 degrees outside and the power is out for a long time, consider contacting a friend or family member who has a generator. Ask if they have space in their fridge or freezer for your items. A local store may also allow you to temporarily store some items, perhaps for a small fee.

Power outages are unpleasant, but they don't have to lead to burst pipes, spoiled food, and freezing indoor temps. If you do notice any signs of a plumbing leak, contact an emergency plumber ASAP.