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How Will Power Blackout Affect My House?

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Posted by Jay Chan on October 1, 2003, 12:59 am
I would like to assess the seriousness of a 2-days power-blackout that
may affect my house.

I got lucky in the last northeast power-blackout a month ago. While the
surrounding area experienced at least half day without power, everyone
in the street where I live got power back after less than one hour.
This time I am lucky. But I have a feeling that next time I may not be
that lucky. I may need to do something about that. But before I do
anything, I need to assess how much I will lose if I have a power

I know from many years of experience that a couple hours without power
should not be a problem. I just have to keep the refrigrator door
closed and sit tight. But I am wondering what will happen if the power
blackout last for one whole day and night, and what will happen if it
lasts for one extra day, and if it is in middle of a winter.

I know that I don't need to worry about a lot of things even in an
extended power blackout. The only thing that I am not sure is this:

   How will the house be affected in a cold winter night
   without power in northern New Jersey not far from
   New York City (zone-6)?

My house uses gas heat. I believe it won't work without electricity to
power its components. In a power blackout, I have a feeling that I will
also lose any heating. Obviously, I will keep all the doors and windows
closed. Unfortunately, this is an 50-years old house without good
insulation as a modern new house should have. I am afraid that the
house will gradually lose most or all the heat during the cold night.
If the power doesn't come back in next day, and the house will have to
experience another night without power and heat, I am wondering what
will happen to the house:
-  I am assuming that wrapping our body in layers, wearing a hat, and
   stay in the basement will be good enough to help my body to keep
   warm. But what's about a small baby? I am hoping that keeping the
   baby near adult's body is good enough. By the way, I don't have a
   fire place.
-  Will the water inside the water pipe become frozen and crack the
   pipe? I am assuming that draining the water from the water pipe
   before the 2nd night may prevent the problem. How's about the small
   amount of water left in the system (such as those in the U-trap
   under the sink)?
-  Can I safely assume that the basement will remain warm enough that
   any water inside water hoses (such as those behind the utility sink)
   will not freeze? I hope this is the case. By the way, only the top
   1/4 of the basement is exposed above ground. The basement is not
   cold in winter even though it is not heated (as the rest of the
   house is).
-  What else in the house will be negatively affected from not having
   heat? I cannot think of anything else.

If everything is what I have expected, I would think the risk is
manageable, and I really don't need a backup power generator. Any
opinion on this?

Thanks for any info in advance.

The things that I don't worry about and are not discussed here
I know that I don't need to worry about a lot of things. For example, I
can afford to throw away all the food in my refrigrator because they
only cost me at most $00. As long as I have canned food and bottles of
water ready, I can get by. If I want warm water for my baby, I can boil
water using the stove in my BBQ grill, and I have plenty of charcoal
available just in case I run out of propane. If this happens in a hot
summer, I can keep the windows open, or stay in the relatively cool
basement. If I want to listen to emergency news, I can start my car and
listen to radio; or I can buy a hand-cranked radio that seems to become
a hot item now-a-day. If this is dark outside, I just stay home and go
to bed early (and I have a flash light ready). I don't think anyone of
these is a problem.

Jay Chan

Posted by Vaughn on October 1, 2003, 1:22 am

     I would think that a portable kerosene heater and 5 or 10 gallons of
fuel would be your best friend in this situation.  I used my old Perfection
for many years, it gave me heat, light, and is even useful for light
cooking.  You just would have to do all of your living in one room of your
house.  A battery-operated television and a couple battery operated lamps
would be a great thing.  Perhaps some of our participants in the frozen
north can comment on the possible frozen plumbing issue, but I don't
remember it ever being a serious problem.  If you have shutoff valves, you
can always isolate the plumbing in the coldest rooms.  Naturally a modest
generator could run your furnace, power your refrigerator, and supply room


Posted by John Phillips on October 2, 2003, 7:44 pm
 On Wed, 01 Oct 2003 01:22:01 GMT, "Vaughn"


Unless you can drain the water lines, this is not a good idea. A
better approach, assuming the water system remains operable would be
to crack faucets or outlets open so there is a flow through all of the
pipes. The water temperature on the supply side is above freezing by
definition or it would not flow. Even a degree or so is enough to
"heat" the lines if the temperature the pipes are exposed to is below
freezing. Remember though that many water systems use electric pumps
valves and etc. to provide service and it is not a given that the
water supply will be available particularly for an extended period.

The kerosene heater is a good idea. Many years ago when I lived in a
house, alone, with horrible insulation and an oil furnace, I used a
radiant kerosene heater as the primary heat source in two isolated
rooms. I was snug as a bug in a rug.


John Phillips

Posted by George Elkins on October 4, 2003, 7:16 pm
 First make sure it is legal.  In some cities, use of unvented kerosene
heaters are prohibited.

Posted by William P.N. Smith on October 1, 2003, 1:33 am
 jaykchan@hotmail.com (Jay Chan) wrote:

Do you have to worry about flooding from hurricanes or other severe
weather phenomena?

William Smith    w<underscore>smith@compusmiths.com
ComputerSmiths Consulting, Inc.    www.compusmiths.com

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