Whether this is your first or 10th time experiencing a power outage, ingenuitive people in your shoes come up with new hacks for power outages every day.
And with more power outages happening than ever, being prepared is an important way to protect yourself, family and belongings you care about. Jump to our list of power outage hacks or keep reading on for more information about power outages and why they happen.
What causes power outages?
Unfortunately, power outages can happen at any time and for any reason. Therefore, it’s best to have a game plan in place before a power outage hits your neighborhood.
Some power outages are planned. Utility companies are starting to implement planned power outages or forced black outs to relieve their increasingly overwhelmed electrical grid. This outdated technology can’t keep up with today’s over consumption of energy, especially during peak usage. If energy companies don’t occasionally relieve overworked systems, this can result in power outages from grid failures.
The main cause of power outages is extreme weather. If you live in the Gulf South, power outages could be very common for you during hurricane season June-November. Some seasons, a state can be impacted by multiple named storms that displace residents and leave them without power for weeks at a time. If you’re on the west coast, wildfires have been known to damage infrastructure and restrict access for repairs. Winter storms threaten power grids and major freezes are happening more frequently than ever in the north and even in atypical places like Texas.
So what can you do about this? We spoke with people from Louisiana about power outage hacks they used to help them during Hurricane Ida. Some of these tricks are simple solutions they’ve used for years, even passed down for generations. Others are power outage tips they discovered through viral social media posts just this storm. Let’s see what they had to say.
Ten unique power outage life hacks (you probably haven’t heard of)
1. Quarter in a cup
You can try this trick to know if your frozen foods have gone bad. Freeze a cup of water before a power outage. Place a quarter or other coin on top of the frozen ice in the cup. If you check it later and the coin has refrozen underneath the ice at the bottom of the cup – then the contents of your freezer have thawed and refrozen. This means they went without proper food-safe storing temperatures for too long. It’s best to throw the contents out to not risk getting sick. But if your quarter is still safe on top of the ice – you’re good! Your items have stayed frozen and are safe to consume.
2. DIY jug lantern
Sometimes flashlights don’t give off enough light, in the right areas for a prolonged period of time. For a do-it-yourself lantern, take an empty jug of water or any translucent plastic container and adhere a headlamp to it. Place the strap of the headlamp around the jug and point the light into the container This will project a glow of light throughout the room!
3. Water bottles in the freezer
To help keep the temperature of your freezer cold even when the power goes out, fill bottles of water and place them in your freezer. This will help keep your items frozen for longer. Don’t overfill the bottles as they will expand when they freeze. This hack can also be achieved by filling cups but people who have been through many storms now recommend bottles with caps to avoid spillage as things melt. Also don’t forget to keep those doors closed! Only go into the fridge or freezer if it’s necessary. The more times opened, the more refrigeration that escapes!
4. Washer as a cooler
Did you know that in a pinch you can turn your washing machine into a temporary cooler to keep additional items cold in the event the power goes out? Load in ice and anything else you want to keep refrigerated. Bonus – when the ice melts your washer has a drain so there’s minimal clean up. (Block ice also works great for this and hack #3 in place of filling bottles if you can get your hands on some in time!)
5. Solar path lights
You might have thought of bringing inside your solar lights from your walking paths and other garden areas to use during a power outage. But this one makes the list for a unique usage recommendation we hadn’t thought of. Those solar pathway lights have to withstand the weather outdoors, therefore they’re waterproof. This makes them the perfect light source to be able to take into the shower with you! No more showering in the dark during power outages!
6. Cook anything in a cast iron
Grills aren’t just for BBQing! Whip out that trusty cast iron for some good eatin’ – even when the power is out. We talked to folks who had cooked it all in a cast iron on the grill, and even baked! On both open fire and propane grills they’ve made everything from pizza, cinnamon rolls, eggs, roasted veggies, pies, you name it! A cast iron pan works on a grill just like it would on your stove. This “power tool” will allow you to use more of your food so less items will go to waste. Here are some bonus tips for using a cast iron on the grill.
7. Crayon as a candle
You’ve likely heard of this hack, but it’s too good not to mention. Those cute colors you have laying around for your toddler can come in handy in more ways than curing boredom for your little artists when the lights go out. Crayons are made with the flammable solid paraffin. Crayons used as candles will burn for about a half hour each.
8. Car inverters over power banks and external chargers
Don’t get us wrong, power banks are necessary in the event of a power outage. You should always make sure to have them on hand to power your electronic devices and any other equipment needed to help during a storm. One New Orleans resident however swears by using a car inverter during storms.
“[Car Inverters] are way more powerful in general. I’m able to plug up multiple types of electronics (with an actual plug). They are batteries, so they don’t give off exhaust like generators. I can still power devices like my iPhone with USB ports that are also on there. And they’re portable. So I can evacuate with it (and use it on the go for my car: compressor, jump…) but also move it around where I need it.”
Another pro tip – if you are aware of a looming power outage, and you’re trying to charge everything possible, consider utilizing charging ports around the home you might not have thought of. For instance, your smart TV might have a USB outlet that can charge a device to be sure you’re going into a power outage with full batteries on everything you need!
9. Efficiency is key
Home energy efficiency that is. Even if you haven’t taken the steps to make your home energy efficient before a power outage, have no fear! There’s a lot you can do yourself at the last minute. Whether you’re worried about losing AC or heating when the power goes out, keep your home closer to your desired temperature with these tips.
- To keep it cool, cover your windows to reduce the amount of sunshine coming in which would naturally warm your home. Blackout curtains are great for this! Curtains also work to retain heat at night for those trying to keep their house warm as the temperature drops when the sun goes down. Be sure to open the curtains during the daytime in that case to allow the sun to heat your home!
- Close off doors to unused rooms or when not in use. Especially if they are rooms that don’t have a lot of AC or if they get lots of sunshine. This will decrease circulation and help retain remaining cool air for longer.
10. Solar panels & battery (of course)
You didn’t think you were going to make it to the end of our list without hearing about home solar panel systems, did you? They truly are one of the best power outage hacks. Never worry about losing power to your home by having a solar panel system with a backup battery such as the Enphase Encharge or Tesla Powerwall. You likely won’t even notice when the power from the grid goes out as these kick into gear in no time and keep everything up and running for you! These battery systems allow your system to collect energy to power your home at night, during bad weather and yes – even during a power outage!