Although winter may have officially started a few weeks ago, the mid-Atlantic generally sees most of its’ winter weather from late January, all the way through early March. So it’s not too late to prepare for winter storms. Preparing ahead of time is key to keeping your family and property safe during inclement weather. There are a lot of steps you can take to prepare for a winter storm with a generator and by having an emergency kit assembled. Here are some tips on what you can do, so you don’t get caught in the cold.

Generators

A generator is an awesome tool to have at your disposal during a power outage, whether it’s caused by a winter storm, a hurricane, or for any other reason. If you prepare for a winter storm with a generator, it will allow you to keep your loved ones safe and comfortable during a power outage. When determining what type of generator you will need, first decide what you are going to use it for. If you plan to use the minimum amount of power for lighting and heating, a portable generator is the way to go. However, if you want to have all the comforts of home, you will want to look into purchasing a whole-house generator.

Portable Generators

Portable generators can cost between $700 and $1,000 and are fueled by gasoline. This means that they must be operated outside the home and that there is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The generator will give you operating instructions, but it should be placed at least 10 feet away from the home. When operating the portable generator, it is vital to understand the instructions. Setting up the generator improperly, or switching power without following the instructions can lead to dangerous situations. To select what size generator you will need for your home, think about what you will need to power during an outage. If you only want the essentials, such as a space heater, a few lights, and the ability to charge cell phones, you can get by with a smaller portable generator. To be able to operate more appliances, you will need to purchase a generator with more voltage. Not only can you prepare for a winter storm with a generator, portable generators also have recreational uses. Take it camping to provide power to a camp site or use it to power tools on a work site. You should purchase a portable generator if 1) it fits in your budget, 2) you don’t need to power an entire house, and 3) you would use the generator for recreational purposes, as well as in emergencies.

Whole House Generators

Whole house generators can be installed in your home for between $2,500 and $7,000. They also provide power to your home if the power goes out and they are much easier to operate than a portable generator. It continuously monitors the power coming in to your home from the utility line. If the voltage from the utility is interrupted, the transfer line will safely switch itself over from the utility line to the generator. As soon as the switch is made, power from the generator will go into your home within seconds, so you may only experience the flickering of lights. When the utility line is back up and running, the transfer line will safely switch itself back over and the generator will go back to standby mode. Although whole house generators may cost a lot more than portable generators, they are much easier and safer to use. To prepare for a winter storm with a generator can give you peace of mind, that a power outage is one less thing that you need to worry about. Whole house generators produce more voltage than a portable generator, which means your home can normally operate, even during a power outage. You should purchase a whole house generator if 1) it fits in your budget, 2) you aren’t comfortable operating a portable generator, and 3) you will need to power an entire house.

Emergency Checklist and Procedures

Regardless if you have a generator or not, here are some steps to follow to prepare for a winter storm. Even if you have a generator, you should be prepared in case the generator malfunctions. To ensure that you are ready for a winter storm, you should have supplies stashed somewhere in your home that is dry, safe, and easy to get to. Your supplies should include a 3 days supply of water, per person, for your household (as well as for any pets in the home). You should also have a 3 day supply of non-perishable food, per person/pet. Include a can opener, dishware, and cutlery. If you want to have warm food, you could also include a small canister stove, like you would use for hiking. Include a few spare fuel canisters and make sure you are using the stove in a larger room so you are not overwhelmed by fumes. At least one flashlight and a set of backup batteries should be in the supply as well. It’s not enough to rely on your cell phone’s flashlight, especially if your cell phone’s battery dies. Make sure you also have a battery or crank-powered radio. This will allow you to monitor the weather and know what is going on if you are not able to check using your cell phone. If you have a battery-powered radio, don’t run the battery down by frequently playing it. Keep an eye on the time, and turn it on for 15 minutes or so every hour or every other hour. If anyone in your household takes medication that must be refrigerated, take precautions for that as well. Have a small cooler and a supply of first aid “break-and-shake” ice packs on hand. Using snow to refrigerate the medication is also an option, but depending on temperatures, you may not have a reliable supply of snow. Include blankets and maybe a deck of cards to keep yourselves comfortable and occupied while you wait for the storm to pass. To prevent food from going bad in the refrigerator, open it as little as possible. If you have ample snow, you could empty the freezer and place the food outside to keep it frozen until power comes back on. To ensure your pipes don’t freeze or burst, turn on all sinks so a little trickle of water can flow.

Taking precautions for a winter storm may seem stressful or time-consuming but you will be grateful you did if you do encounter inclement weather and power outages. Purchasing a generator can be a big financial decision, especially for something that you only have as a “just in case” precaution. However, you won’t know how great having one is until you really need it. At Asbury Electric, we can answer any questions you may have about generators and other tips on how to deal with a power outage. Our experienced and knowledgeable staff can help you determine if you should purchase a generator, and which type would suit your home and your budget. Give us a call, we’d love to hear from you!

For more information, check out http://www.generac.com/generac-nation-newsletter/current-articles/preaparing-your-home-and-family-for-winter-storms