Navigating Blackouts and Power Outages: A Homeowner’s Guide

Navigating Blackouts and Power Outages: A Homeowner's Guide - Lee Company

The sudden plunge into darkness during a blackout is a stark reminder of our reliance on electricity. From spoiled food in the fridge to lack of communication with the outside world, power outages disrupt the comfort and rhythm of our homes.

Frustrating? Absolutely. But even more concerning is the potential safety hazards that come with blackouts.

As a homeowner, it’s important to know how to navigate these situations, which seem to be growing in frequency. So, the Lee Company team has put together this guide to equip homeowners with practical tips for emergency preparedness during blackouts and power outages.

Understanding Different Types of Power Outages

We’re sure you’ve experienced a power outage at least once in your life – whether it was due to a storm, equipment failure, or other reasons. But there are different types of power outages that you should be aware of:


Blackouts, also known as complete power outages, are when there is a total loss of electricity in an area. This is usually caused by failures in power generation or issues within the electrical grid. For example, severe weather can knock out power for thousands, like the 2023 event in Texas that left over 470,000 customers in the dark for over 52 hours!

Rolling Blackouts

Rolling Blackouts happen on purpose. When there’s not enough power for everyone, some areas are turned off temporarily. These controlled power outages are designed to ease the burden on the electrical grid and save energy during peak demand times. Typically, they are planned in advance and only last for a short while.


Brownouts are a reduction in or restriction on the availability of electrical power in a specific area. Basically, the power supply is still on but reduced. So it’s not a total blackout, but you might notice your lights aren’t as bright as usual. This can happen when the electricity demand exceeds the supply.

Both brownouts and rolling blackouts could become more common in the U.S. as we put more strain on our aging electrical system, like the widespread adoption of electric vehicles and the high demand for air conditioning during hot summer months.

Permanent Fault

Permanent Faults are when a power line is damaged, causing a continuous loss of power. This could be because of a tree falling on the lines or a car hitting a utility pole. These types of outages generally impact fewer people and are resolved fairly quickly once the damaged power line is identified and repaired.

Preparing for Blackouts

The primary causes of power outages – severe weather, equipment failure, and demand surpassing supply – are not entirely within our control. And they’re certainly hard to predict. But there are practical steps you can take to be prepared for blackouts and power outages:

Creating an Emergency Kit

Creating an emergency kit isn’t just for preppers and survivalists. It’s a smart move for homeowners in case of any kind of emergency, including blackouts. Your emergency kit should include:

  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Non-perishable food items (canned goods, protein bars, emergency meal kits, etc.)
  • Bottled water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Battery-powered radio for updates on the situation
  • Portable phone charger or power bank
  • Cash (ATMs may not work during power outages)
  • Copies of important documents (ID, insurance papers, etc.)
  • Medications
  • Pet supplies (if you have pets)
  • Hand sanitizer and personal hygiene products

Keep in mind when the power goes out, so does your ability to use appliances like stoves, microwaves, and even toilets (if you have a well pump). And the loss of heat or air conditioning can make your home uncomfortable or unsafe.

So, equipping your emergency kit with the following items can help you overcome those unique challenges:

  • Manual can opener
  • Alternative cooking methods (gas stove, grill, camping stove)
  • Warm blankets and extra layers of clothing for cold weather
  • Battery or solar-powered fans for heat relief in hot weather
  • Emergency candles and matches
  • Supply of wood for a fireplace or wood-burning stove

Keep your emergency kit in a designated, easy-to-access location, and check and restock your kit every six months or so.

Investing in Backup Power Sources

Backup power sources like generators can be a lifeline during outages. Depending on the type and size of generator you choose, it can power essential appliances like refrigerators, sump pumps, well pumps, and even heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

Portable generators are more affordable, but they require manual setup and refueling. Whole-house generators are more expensive but automatically kick in when power is lost and can run for longer periods.

When using any type of generator, safety comes first. Always operate generators outdoors and away from windows to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning (a potentially deadly risk if used improperly).

Another option for backup power is investing in solar panels with a battery storage system. This renewable energy source can provide power even during extended outages and reduce your reliance on the electrical grid. Not only that, but you can potentially save on energy costs during normal times.

Protecting Your Electronics

Your home is likely filled with thousands of dollars worth of appliances and electronics. Everything from your computer and kitchen appliances to your HVAC equipment can be damaged by fluctuations in power.

Normally, your home uses a single-phase system consisting of 120v and 240v, but electricity doesn’t stay at a steady voltage. It goes up and down, usually peaking at around 169 volts. Your devices are made to handle up to this peak. But a power surge (a sudden increase in electricity) can spike it up to 6,000 volts! This excess voltage can cause an electrical arc, producing heat that harms the internal components.

Best case scenario: your pricey electronics have a much shorter lifespan. Worst case: they’re fried. And in extreme cases, a powerful surge can lead to appliances overheating and catching fire.

Investing in point-of-use surge protectors or whole-house surge protection systems can significantly reduce these risks and protect your investments.

We should note that a power strip is not necessarily a surge protector. While some power strips have built-in surge protection, most do not and are no more protective than plugging directly into the wall. So, if you’re relying on this method to protect your electronics, check the label on the power strip to see if it has surge protection or invest in a separate surge protector.

Grounding Your Home to Withstand Lightning

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration reveals at least 21 explicitly mentioned instances of power outages caused by severe weather conditions in 2023. While there’s no stopping Mother Nature’s fury, you can protect your home from the effects of severe weather by properly grounding it.

Direct hits from lightning can devastate home electrical systems and electronics. By installing a lightning rod and implementing a robust grounding system, you establish a first line of defense against these violent natural phenomena.

Lightning rods, also known as air terminals, are mounted on the roof and connected to the ground through a series of conductors. These rods don’t attract lightning but provide a low-resistance path to the ground, safely redirecting the electrical energy away from your home.

A proper grounding system is essential for the lightning rod to function effectively. It consists of a network of conductors, such as metal rods or copper wires, buried deep in the ground near your home and connected to the main electrical panel. These grounding systems dissipate any excess electricity that may strike your home during a storm.

What to Do During a Blackout

Despite all your preparation, power outages are an unavoidable reality. When it happens, there are a few important things you can do to stay safe and preserve your home’s appliances and electronics:

Breaker Management

The first thing to do during a blackout is to check your main electrical panel. Look for tripped breakers or blown fuses and reset them if necessary. Multiple outages may lead to multiple trips, so be patient as you work through each one.

Appliance Management

Next, unplug all non-essential appliances and electronics to avoid damage from power surges when the electricity comes back on. This includes anything connected to an outlet or a wall switch, such as lamps, computers, TVs, and microwaves. It’s also a good idea to turn off your HVAC system and water heater.

If you’re familiar with your home’s electrical panel, flipping off the breaker for these appliances can offer an extra shield against electrical surges.

During extended outages, keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain the cold temperatures and prevent food spoilage. If you have a backup generator, consider plugging these appliances into it.

Comfort and Safety

Depending on the time of year and your location, a power outage can make your home uncomfortable and unsafe. Make sure you have flashlights or battery-powered lights on hand for visibility. If it’s cold, bundle up in warm clothes and blankets to stay warm, and if it’s hot, seek shelter in cool locations like a basement or shaded area with a breeze.

Stay informed about the outage status, either with a battery-powered radio or by checking updates from your local utility company. If you have a landline phone, keep it connected. The corded phone will still work during power outages since it doesn’t require electricity.

While a blackout or power outage might feel like a major inconvenience, remember, this is how people lived for centuries before electricity. Hey, it might even be a good excuse to have a family game night or spend some quality time with loved ones without the distractions of technology!

What to Do After a Blackout

Once the power to your home is restored and you’ve finished doing a happy dance, there are a few things to inspect before going back to business as usual:

Safety Checks

First and foremost, make sure everything is safe. Check your home for any signs of damage, especially near electrical appliances and your electrical panel. If you smell gas or see damaged wires, don’t touch anything and call for professional help immediately.

Damage Assessments

Next, take a look at your food. If your fridge is off for a long time, some food might not be safe to eat anymore. When in doubt, throw it out.

Also, check if any of your electronics or appliances were damaged due to the power surge when the electricity came back on.

Updating Emergency Plans

Lastly, think about what worked and what didn’t during the blackout. Maybe you realized you need more flashlights or a better way to keep your phone charged. Update your emergency plan and supplies based on what you learned. This way, you’ll be even more prepared the next time the lights go out.

Stay Powered Through Any Outage with Lee Company

After navigating through the darkness of a blackout, it’s clear how crucial electricity is in our daily lives. Lee Company can help keep your home powered and protected with our expertise in whole-house generator installation, whole-house surge protectors, and electrical services.

With 8 decades of experience, you can rest assured that your home remains lit, secure, and comfortable, regardless of the cause of the outage. Contact us today to schedule an appointment in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, or Georgia!

Interested in a backup generator for your home?

CALL US NOW AT 615.567.1000