Preparing for a Power Outage

Living in a small island community through the winter means navigating the inevitable power outages that come with winter storms, snow dumps and falling trees. It is now March and we have had our first power outage of the year caused by a quick wind and rain storm. For Gabriolans it can sometimes be a long wait for services to be restored as we don’t have hydro trucks on island (like Salt Spring) and when crews are dispatched we have to wait for them to catch the ferry over before work, or even an assessment of the damage, can begin. Being prepared for hours or even days with no electricity is something we islanders should do, here’s a few tips we have picked up over the years.

These TOSTHULT led lightbulbs from ikea are a must have. They store power in a little battery and can be turned on for about 2 hours without a connection to power. When the electricity comes back on they automatically charge back up. We have them around the house so we can still have a bit of light when needed.

Propane BBQ is a easy way to still be able to cook with the power out. Our home is strictly electricity, we have no gas hookup, so the electric stove is obviously useless when the power goes. But with a BBQ and a full tank of propane we can still heat up meals and boil water.

We also have a little Coleman camp stove that takes mini propane bottles to make coffee and tea or heat a simple meal of soup or pasta.

We recently got a three pack of these Sunbeam LED Power Failure lights that are super helpful. They act as motion activated night lights (and are colour changing!) when plugged into outlets and charge up for when the power goes out. When electricity is cut the lights still work as motion activated lights and can also be unplugged and used as flashlights. Definitely helpful.

If you have a computer that is usually left on you NEED to get a backup battery source power bar to prevent the computer from being broken. I’ve had my computer quit on me a couple times after frequent losses of power and it’s no good if you rely on your computer for work! I have one of these surge protectors with a USB that allows my computer (and anything else I plug in) to remain on for a period of time after power is cut so I have time to shut it down properly and prevent damage. It also gives you a place to charge your phone.

Most importantly, we have discovered, is having a wood stove for when the power goes out. A few years ago we removed our uncertified wood stove and installed a heat pump to heat the house which was a great choice for energy consumption (over baseboard heaters) but when there is no electricity there is no heat. We spent a few very chilly outages in the house before it became obvious that with the frequency the power fails here it is necessary to have a wood stove as a back up heat source and put one back in. It was surprisingly expensive to get a new stove professionally installed and WETT certified ($4,200) but definitely worth it as a means of heating the house without using electricity.

With rechargeable battery powered lightbulbs and flashlights, a propane bbq and Coleman stove, and a wood stove with a stack of kindling and seasoned wood we are able to have light, cook, and stay warm, all the basic essentials for a power outage. Larger issues like keeping the fridge running and powering our well pump so we can still have running water (and flush the toilets! Ugh) will require a gas-powered generator, which is something we will work towards in the future.

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