Reader question… “We found ourselves in a situation without electrical power for two days last week after the ice storm downed power lines in our neighborhood. We had never experienced a power outage before and weren’t prepared. My question… have you made preparations for power outages and could you share what these preparations are?”–Daniel B.

Unfortunately power outages are almost a normal part of life for us. Where we live the miles and miles of power lines run through hard to reach wooded areas, and we often lose power even on windless summer days. Various repairmen have told us that all of those lines are in desperate need of updating and repairs… insulation is frayed and the connections are iffy… so yes, we have had to learn to live with the reality of regular power outages while we wait for the latest repairs to happen.

We have had power outages lasting for up to two weeks, but many of the outages we experience here seem to last around three hours. (This would be the ones where the power goes off for no apparent reason.) If the outage goes on longer than that, we fire up the generator and plug in the freezers and refrigerator. The generator also makes it possible for us to continue to use the computer, access the Internet, use small appliances, run a radio or television and have a few lights.

We have an artesian well and normally water is automatically pumped out of the well into a holding tank under pressure… so when the electricity is off, there is also no water coming out of the taps. In an emergency we could manually drain the cold water tank, which would give us several gallons of drinkable water, and could also manually drain the water from the hot water tank for other purposes. However, we have another overly enthusiastic artesian well that naturally pumps so much water it had to have an additional overflow pipe. That two-inch overflow pipe is easily accessible and runs full pipe all the time, so even without electricty we can always have as much water as we need.

Our furnace stops working when the electricity goes off because the fan is run by electricity. The generator can take over here too, but we usually depend on the wood stove in the kitchen for heat when the power is out. Our other stove is electric, but the wood stove has a cook surface and an oven, so getting meals isn’t a problem either, and this stove even has a small water reservoir with a tap that keeps water hot. Larger quantities of water can be heated on top of the wood stove.

It’s still frustrating when the electricity goes off, but now life can go on fairly normally for us even for several days (or weeks)… because we still have lights and food and water and heat and an alternative power source for conveniences.

It sure beats sitting in the cold and dark waiting for the power to come back on!!! :o)

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This is my goal – to be self sufficient enough so an extended loss of electricity won’t interrupt our lives the way it does now. I have made a major step a few weeks ago with the purchase of a small generator. I already had to use it once. We only used it for lights and the freezer but what a difference in the worry factor about all the frozen food. I need to work on the water situation but have a few storage ideas. Thanks for the great post. I always appreciate your experience.

Charles W

This is a wonderful blog!!!!! Your posts show you know what you’re writing about and I very much appreciate the knowledge you share.


Those people who never experience power outages have no idea. I kept a record each time the electricity went off last year and we had a total of 18 times the power was off for more than 4 hours. I wonder if we share the same electric company. There can’t be others that bad can there???


Interesting post. I live in Brooklyn in an apartment and I experienced a blackout several years ago. That was an experience I would not care to repeat. I would love to live in the country but some of the things that happen there seem hard. It must take a strong person to cope.