We often think of being uncomfortable during a power outage or being caught with a low battery in our cell phones as the worst possible thing that could happen to us. An hour without electricity is annoying. Two or three hours is sheer inconvenience. But what does it really cost to lose power for 4 or more hours?
When the power does come back on it takes hours
When the power does come back on it takes hours for the furnace/AC to heat/cool the interior of your home to the desired temperature. This includes the hot water heater (if it isn’t tankless or gas powered). So if you were thinking you’d save some money on your energy bill because the power was off, think again. What you “saved” was consumed during the catch-up period.
If it’s warm outdoors and the power is off for 4 or more hours
If it’s warm outdoors and the power is off for 4 or more hours (AND you keep the doors shut on the fridge and freezer), you’re looking at having to replace some, if not all, of the food in the refrigerator. Eggs still in the shells as well as food containing raw eggs; meats; poultry; seafood; milk; and – in the freezer - any fruits, vegetables, or prepared foods on which the package instructions clearly state “do not refreeze” should be discarded. If it is wintertime and the outdoor temps are at 35 degrees, give or take a couple degrees, you could set the food in boxes in an enclosed area that is safe from animals to protect it from spoilage. The same is true for frozen foods since freezing temps are 32 degrees and below.
How much is your comfort worth?
If the power is off several days (and nights), and you’re not prepared to “hunker down” at home, you’ve got to go somewhere to keep warm. The winter of 2013, with all of the power outages in the Piedmont Triad, resulted in local motels being booked solid. Families whose homes were without power paid for at least two nights to keep warm but many stayed three nights and some as much as a week. Add to that the cost of buying every lunch and dinner for three or more people the number of days away from home. Conservatively, that cost was approximately $150 per day for three people.
Is your water system a well?
When your power goes off, there’s no running water for cooking, washing dishes, bathing, or flushing toilets unless you’ve stored one gallon per family member for each day the power is off.
Do you or can you work from home?
If you do have a home office and no alternative source of power, you’ll be out of work until electricity is restored. Lucky you if you have plenty of Paid-Time-Off to expend on weather-related days off.
If you’re in business and have no backup plan
If you’re in business and have no backup plan for power outages, you can kiss goodbye any potential revenue that could have been generated on days that the power is out. Manufacturers and retailers suffer most because computers, cash registers, equipment – nearly everything – is dependent on electricity. One day may not be a huge loss. More than one day without power will take a bite out of your bottom line.
If you’re in the food business
If you’re in the food business – a restaurant, a supermarket, a deli, etc., – and have no emergency power source, say goodbye to your perishable inventory when the power goes and stays off. FoodSafety.gov states that perishables kept at 40 degrees plus for 2 hours or more must be discarded.
Ice storms are not the only concern we have in the Piedmont but they certainly stand out in our memories. There are also high winds brought on by tornadoes and straight-line winds as well as hurricanes moving along the coast that bring on power outages in the spring and fall. Cold weather is just much more dreaded when it comes to power outages. You don’t have to dread a power outage or the high cost that comes with it when you have a dependable standby generator.