How to Prevent Power Outages: Solutions & Tips

How to Prevent Power Outages: Solutions & Tips

Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Jeremy Pearl
Nov 29

Power outages are becoming more and more common all across the country.

Severe weather, unreliable grid systems, and aging infrastructure can all cause blackouts. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent and cope with power outages: battery backup systems.

Here at Sandbar Solar and Electric, we’ve been helping customers install solar and battery backup systems for years, and we know what it takes to protect yourself and your family against blackouts.

In this blog, we’ll share a few of our favorite ways to prevent, prepare for, and navigate power outages.

5 Ways to Avoid a Power Outage

Rating: GOOD

1. Portable generator

A portable generator uses a gas-powered engine that powers an alternator, which generates electrical power.

Portable generators are smaller than backup generators and feature power outlets that allow you to plug electric tools, appliances, and fixtures into them.

Unlike backup generators, portable generators are not installed permanently on your property and can be moved from place to place, depending on your needs.

These generators must be started manually and range in size. Smaller units can power a single appliance, while larger units can power multiple devices.

2. Portable power station

A portable power station is a small, portable battery that allows you to store energy and use it to power your electronic devices during an outage.

Most portable power stations utilize a lithium battery pack and an inverter, which converts DC power to AC power. Most also feature numerous charting ports and outlets and are small enough to fit into a backpack or be moved manually.

While these power stations aren’t large enough to provide backup power for your whole home or even larger appliances, they’re a great way to keep your small electronics, like phones and computers, running during an outage.

Rating: BETTER

3. UPS System

UPS systems are some of the most responsive, popular backup power solutions available today. UPS stands for “Uninterruptible Power Supply.”

These systems are basically large surge protectors paired with a battery and a power inverter. Together, these pieces of equipment provide backup power when the grid goes down or lacks the power to support your essential devices.

One of the benefits of UPS systems is that they vary in size but are equipped to provide a near-instant backup power supply.

A downside to using a UPS system is that they typically only provide backup power for a few devices and only for a short period of time (typically 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the size of the UPS and the amount of electricity consumed by items connected to it).

4. Backup generator

Backup generators are an tried and true option for anyone who wants a reliable power supply system in case of outages.

These backup systems produce electricity by converting gas (fuel) into energy, which an alternator uses to generate electricity.

They do produce toxic fumes, so they should never be used indoors (check out this resource for generator safety).

The benefit of backup generators is that they can be automatically switched on when the grid goes down and are versatile enough to supply power to a wide variety of equipment and machinery.

A generator is also a good way to offset your peak power needs – even if the grid doesn’t go down completely.

Rating: BEST

5. Solar + Battery Backup System

home battery backup

The best way to protect your home from a power outage is to invest in a solar and battery backup system.

Unlike backup generators or UPS systems, solar battery backup systems run on renewable energy, are easy to maintain, and are virtually silent to operate. Backup battery systems are currently eligible (through 2032) for a 30% tax credit through the federal government. Please consult a licensed tax professional to see if you qualify. Other state or utility-funded rebates may be available in your area.

These systems are often collected to a residential solar panel system and then store excess power in a solar battery bank. If needed, battery backup can be installed without pairing the batteries with solar.

When the grid goes down, or your home needs more energy than its panels are producing, it draws that stored energy from the battery backup bank.

In short, these systems allow you to enjoy energy independence while adding value to your home!

Learn more about the benefits of backup systems here.

8 Common Causes of Power Outages

common causes of power outages

These are some of the leading causes of power outages:

1. Storms

Storms and inclement weather like wind, excessive heat, ice, and snow are common causes of power outages.

Wind can cause trees and branches to fall on power lines, while ice and snow can accumulate on power lines and cause them to snap. Extreme heat, meanwhile, can cause electrical equipment to overheat and fail.

2. Trees

Trees are another significant cause of power outages. During storms, strong winds, or trimming by inexperienced professionals, tree limbs can fall onto power lines and cause outages.

Keeping trees trimmed back from power lines is essential to prevent such incidents.

3. Vehicles

Vehicles colliding with a utility pole can cause widespread outages. This can happen when drivers lose control of their cars. It can also occur when the roads are impacted by poor weather or visibility.

4. Earthquakes

Earthquakes can knock out power lines and compromise electrical facilities. Even small earthquakes can cause damage that may lead to power outages, especially in earthquake-prone areas like California.

5. Animals

While they may seem small, wild animals like squirrels, snakes, and birds can cause power equipment to short circuit. This usually happens when animals are electrocuted after seeking warmth and shelter in electrical equipment.

6. Lightning [please move this section to “1. Storms”

Outages can also occur when lightning strikes electrical equipment, transmission towers, wires, and poles. This is common during severe storms and other catastrophic weather events.

7. Excavation digging

When excavation or digging disrupts underground power lines, it can cause outages and disruptions.

Because of this, it’s crucial to call 811 before any gardening or digging project to ensure that there are no underground cables or other utility lines in the area.

Failure to do so can damage electrical equipment, electrocution, and possible outages.

8. High Power Demand

Outages are common during heat waves and other times when there’s an unusually high power demand.

Electric cables, transformers, and other electrical equipment are also at risk of melting or malfunctioning during high-power demand periods.

How to Handle a Power Outage

Before

  • Perform an inventory of the items in your home that need electricity
  • Collect and install batteries, portable generators, and/or power stations to meet your energy needs.
  • Collect high-powered flashlights for every household member.
  • Know how long your phone battery will last and how long you can charge it via your backup power source.
  • Talk to your doctor or medical provider about a power outage plan for your refrigerated medicines and any medical devices that rely on electricity.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup on every level of your home.
  • Store enough nonperishable food and bottled water to last your family 3-5 days.

During

  • Keep your freezers and refrigerators closed as much as possible! The refrigerator will maintain its internal temperature for about four hours (as long as it remains closed), while a freezer will maintain its temperature for about 48 hours.
  • Monitor the temperatures inside your refrigerator and freezer and throw out perishable items if the temperature reaches 40 degrees or higher.
  • Use generators, camp stoves, and charcoal grills outdoors – at least 20 feet from windows.
  • Turn off or disconnect all non-necessary appliances, electronics, and equipment.
  • Check with local offices about heating, cooling, relief, and aid stations in your area.

After

  • Stay at least 35 feet away from downed power lines and anything they may be touching.
  • Do not enter flooded areas.
  • Check your home for damage and take pictures of any apparent problems.
  • Do not turn on any appliances that have been in standing water or flood areas.

Ready to Embrace a Robust Backup System and Energy Independence? Call Sandbar to Power your Home Today!

While the idea of a grid outage can be scary, securing a backup power system for your home is a great way to ensure peace of mind and energy independence.

Here at Sandbar Solar and Electric, we specialize in helping customers in the Santa Cruz area design robust solar panels and battery systems for their homes.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can support you. 

About the Author

Jeremy has worked in the solar industry since 2006. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies. Jeremy has spent most of his solar career in residential sales and Sales Management in both California and Hawaii. He was raised in Santa Cruz County and is passionate about helping local residents make the switch to clean and reliable renewable energy. Jeremy lives on the Westside with his wife and two boys and enjoys music, photography and hiking in his personal time.