Power outages happen for any number of reasons. For us it’ll almost always be related to the weather, but occasionally someone hits an electricity pole, or some other unfortunate event and we lose power. This post introduces some of the easiest and fuss free ways you can prepare your homestead for short-term power outages. It certainly is the season for it!
With that in mind, it is important to be prepared for emergency power outages regardless of your setup. I mentioned before we are about 80% off-grid and have been living this way for many years. The biggest thing we learnt, and quickly, was having backups and backups of systems to restore or give us temporary power in an emergent situation.
There are a number of simple steps you can take to learn how to prepare for power outages whether it’s just for a few hours, a day or even a week.
It also always seems to be the worst time. Incoming huge rainstorm, there is no work you can do outside, so you finally decide to catch up on some Netflix or do some gaming and next minute you’re using the light of your phone to navigate to where the candles are stored.
This is why having systems in place to make these inconvenient times a little less stressful is key.
Here are some of my top tips for being ready for those power outages, whenever they happen.
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I’ve found we mostly lose power where we are during the day. Sometimes it’s just a flicker, and the only way I can tell is the clock on the oven has been reset and is bright red. Sometimes it will be for a few hours if a branch has fallen on powerlines or some other event.
So, daylight power outages can sometimes be ok. Not always, but sometimes. Not when it’s the middle of summer and it’s 30c and 85% humidity. Not when you rely on the airconditioner to keep you sane and alive.
But on a pleasant Spring Day like today, the day I write this, losing power today would be much more manageable.
We have invested in a number of different lighting systems and plans for when we lose power.
Solar powered sensor lights
We have the power of the sun to help fuel us for many days. And this is why when it comes to external lighting, solar powered lights have been our go to.
We purchased independent solar powered sensor lights off ebay a fair few years ago now and they have been magnificent. We placed them at multiple points around the house and sheds. It’s great because at nighttime when the dogs need to go out or there’s a critter racing around the yard, we’ve got sensor lights that turn on when you approach a certain coverage area and stay on for a couple of minutes.
At the time we purchased them I believe it was something like 4 for $80 or $90 and so we bought a couple packs straight up. They work brilliantly and so far, (touch wood) we have not had any issues with them not working or needing replacement.
I’d highly recommend considering solar powered sensor lights for common outdoor areas near doorways, shed bays, windows etc, especially if you do get a good amount of sunlight throughout the day.
I mentioned ours are independent, so they have their own solar panel and are not hard wired to any other power sources or need any other requirements to work. They simply get mounted at the location with the solar panel facing up to the sun and voila!
There’s a few different options when it comes to lanterns, that being the practical and the pretty.
To the best of my knowledge, you can get battery and solar powered lanterns with LED lights to light up huge areas. Tentworld, Bunnings, BCF and even Target have battery powered lanterns currently for sale.
These battery powered lanterns are a great option. They light up inside or outside and often come with rechargeable batteries, making them very useful and portable for a number of situations.
The other lantern option is the garden lantern option. This is most likely only suitable for outside, or a very specific area as they don’t emit a lot of light and need oil to fuel the flame – however – they are still an alternate option especially if you need garden lighting or pathway lighting and you really don’t have anything else.
Battery operated floodlight
A high-powered floodlight is critical on a homestead like ours. We currently have an Ozito one which does the job, but my husband mostly uses it for when he’s working on the car as he can hook it up in such a way that he’s not having to handle it and it gives him the extra light he needs to see what he’s doing.
Generally, these types of floodlights use LED lights which are incredibly energy efficient but superior in brightness.
The key things to look out for with these types of lights is the lumens (brightness), battery charge time, light use time, dim switch, use of tempered glass or heat proof material so the light doesn’t overheat for longer periods of use, and, if buying a brand name like Ozito or Makita, that the battery is compatible with existing battery systems you have that you can use across multiple tools.
Candles tend to be indoor options for us, and I have a small stash in every room. You never known when you will need to light up an area and all you have is candles!
Whilst they don’t light up a huge area or provide a lot of bright light, they do provide some ambient light and are a great option if you know the power outage is only a short one.
Who doesn’t go to Bunnings and buy a spare square torch when they’re in a bundle sale?
I have about 5 of these around the house. The issue I have is some are older, and some are newer, so the newer ones have brighter LED lights, and the old ones have those older globes that emit that off yellow colour.
But these are reasonably cheap to buy and use heavy duty 6V batteries to power which are easily purchased online or at the supermarket or hardware store.
Recently, Serge went and purchased these very small rechargeable torches with a magnetic clip. And they are small enough to fit in your pocket and bright enough to see 20m away.
Torches of any kind are an excellent portable lighting option and a must have for any property type.
Generally, in QLD we have mild winters compared to our southern counterparts. But that’s not to say it doesn’t hit 3c and below on some very cold night!
Other states do have to contend with colder temperatures. Perhaps not as cold as places in Europe or North America, but it does snow here and does get chilly cold.
There are a number of different heat sources that can be of benefit in Australian homesteads for when there is a power outage.
We do have a wood heater in our home and whilst we used it initially, we stopped using it when we upgraded our air conditioners. For us it isn’t as useful because we don’t get extended cold evenings where we currently reside, but there certainly are places in Queensland where you need to have wood heaters.
We keep our wood heater as a backup but to be honest we haven’t fired it up in years at this point.
Regardless, when it comes to heating the home and even needing a low-level light source, a wood heater is the way to go. It is a good idea if you do have a wood heater as a backup that you have some dry wood ready for it for an emergency.
Worst case scenario is you don’t use it and store it for the next season or alternately burn it off at your next burn off. (An alternate use could be to use it to make your own biochar!)
You know the ones they fire up at all the cafes in winter? Well, you can actually pick these up for home!
I wouldn’t hesitate having one of these as they also use BBQ canisters as fuel sources, so it is a good option to have a spare canister in rotation for.
However, these heaters are NOT for inside the home. I would really only resort to using this if you had absolutely no other option or you knew your power wouldn’t be too far off.
These types of heaters are ideal for warming up outdoor spaces by using radiant heat targeting directly what’s in vicinity. This is why they are best placed in the middle of a room. Generally, at full heat, a gas bottle will go for 8-9 full hours, so definitely lots of time for short term power outages.
As you’d need to be outside for this and likely with added layers on to keep you warm from outside, this would only really be suitable for a temporary solution.
External fireplace or fire pit
Going onto pinterest and looking for garden fire pit designs is something I love doing. In fact, I do have a bit of a plan to get a firepit going here at this property!
But, if you do have instances where temporary power outages occur or your colder times are milder, then maybe a good idea would be to have a permanent fixture or place on your property for a firepit or external fireplace.
Another thing I dream of having is an outdoor kitchen. These can be planned to be semi enclosed with old fashioned style woodfire pizza oven heaters which generate a great amount of heat. The one I had planned for this property would’ve been semi enclosed and attached to our kitchen and dining area via window and double door, so it essentially would’ve been like another room of the house.
If you do decide to go down this route, then it’s a good idea to have a well thought out plan. You don’t want that space to take in rain or wind or heat, but you also need to determine if fully enclosing it is a viable option or if you still want it to be an outdoor space. All of these factors will influence what type of heating you have.
Regardless, whatever you decide will be an excellent heating option (and cooking option!) if you have a power outage.
If you don’t currently have a backup electrical setup, one of the quickest and easiest ways to get power to your house is with a generator that has multiple outlets and some extension cords.
When we upgraded the power at our property, we put the cabling underground and added a new switch box which included a changeover switch for the generator. What this means is that if the power goes out for any reason, we can simply plug a generator into the switch and turn it on and it will power the house up with no issue.
We’ve done this in the past and it works fine if you think you may lose power for a day or more, or if it occurs at nighttime and you’re concerned about what is in the freezer! Just keep in mind approximately how many watts it takes to run your must-have appliances and be sure you get a generator that’s powerful enough for your home.
For example, all the water pumps connected from our tanks to the house need to kick start and they draw a lot of power when we lose it suddenly. We often go and turn everything off that isn’t the fridge or freezer, and slowly start bringing other things online as needed.
Be sure you have adequate fuel to run your generator, as well as some backup fuel in case the power is out longer than anticipated.
We also have machinery that needs different fuel, and we store all our excess in steel containers for longer storage. It isn’t just backup of one fuel you may need – if trees go down or something needs to be cut you need fuel for machinery.
When the power goes out, these things will absolutely need power
As I said a little earlier – our pumps connected from the water tanks to the house take a lot of pull power when they first turn on, and this can make it so other things do not fire up when the generator needs to kick in if we are working on generator power.
This is why I personally think having a changeover switch and generator backup ready to go relatively quickly is the best first case scenario when you run out of power.
The following items need to be considered when dealing with a short-term power outage. Depending on your circumstances, you may or may not need to figure out how to get power to these things:
- Deep Freezers – If you do have a deep freezer or two – which is very common in Australian homes – then they would be ok without power in finite circumstances. It would have to be cold and the freezer in excellent condition to know your hard-earned dollars in meat wouldn’t spoil. In Queensland where I live, it becomes much more of a challenge, as the warmer temperatures can accelerate food spoilage in freezers during power outages.
- Refrigerator – Your refrigerator will not be fine for more than a few hours without power. You’ll want to be sure your power source can power your refrigerator(s). Make sure not to open and close the fridge door too often, or the cool air that’s in there will dissipate much faster.
- Heat or cooling source – If you don’t have wood-burning heat, you’ll need to make sure you can run power to some space heaters, or any other source of heat to keep warm. In summer, or a place like Queensland, then fans and open windows with air flow are important. In our other property we have louvre windows which are fantastic for circulating air throughout the house.
- Internet – I know this is probably a luxury, but unfortunately in this current era with the dependance on internet we currently have, it really becomes much of a muchness to ensure you have access to the internet. Whether it’s for work, school, business or pleasure we are so connected to the internet nowadays that almost nothing will run without it. So, internet connectivity is incredibly important, but probably not first on the list of things to fix in an emergency situation.
- Water – If you’re out of the city and on water tanks or bores that requires a pump, you’ll need to be able to run power to the pump house (unless you have enough water stored to get you through or unless your system is gravity fed). Even if you’re on town water, their backup systems sometimes fail, so in that case, you really need to have backup water storage.
- Stove – If you have an electric stove, you may want a backup way to cook your food (or have a strong enough generator to power your stove). I have a camp stove and a small butane gas powered stove for quick emergency meals. I also always have access to my BBQ.
Turning on my prepper hat now, but don’t wait until the last minute to have this stuff sorted. Ensure you pick up batteries regularly in your shop-up or when you go to the hardware store, make sure you get a little bit extra here and there for those emergent situations.
One summer we went without a single power outage and had a ton of candles and lighters in storage. The year after, we used them all. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
Don’t wait until the power goes out to figure out what you are going to do in a power outage. In an emergency situation, there are plenty of people who wait until the need comes up and then next minute, we have a toilet paper shortage.
It’s always best to prepare for emergencies before the emergency hits. I’m currently prepared for a solid 7 days in emergency stuff, and in food I’m sitting at almost a year worth of food and other goods. It certainly eases my mind going into the wet season that we are going to be safe on our homestead.
What about you? What plans have you got in place for a power outage, and do they differ from mine? Let me know and share the love.
Until next time.