It’s not a case of if it will happen but a matter of when and how often – losing one’s power, that is. The impact of a power outage ranges from a minor nuisance or inconvenience to a possible serious health hazard depending on how long the outage lasts, how often such blackouts happen, and the electrical needs of those affected.
As we are reviewing the living environments of our clients and making determinations about access, mobility, and general safety conditions within the structure itself, we form an opinion of what may need to be done to improve the physical attributes of the home – doorway clearances (exterior and interior), windows (type, height, and size), hallways, flooring, cabinetry, bath fixtures, controls and switches, and passageways, among others. Our concern also is lighting, appliances, airconditioning and heating, and other electrical items.
Whatever the electrical service is in a home, and whether it has been upgraded to current standards or remains at a level from decades earlier, no one likes to be without power for very long. This brings up the idea of a generator or some type of backup or emergency power.
There are several types of systems available, but let’s consider just how someone’s power supply might be interrupted. It may not be a frequent occurrence, and hopefully, it isn’t, but storms and natural disasters happen. In colder parts of the country where there are snow and ice conditions, these can sometimes build up on power lines and cause them to snap. The power poles themselves can be damaged as well.
There are wind storms such as tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as sudden gusts, squalls, strong thunderstorms, and microbursts, that can cause power lines to touch each other and short out or to fall from where they are installed. These outages often take days to repair because they are widespread or have damaged a lot of equipment in the process also.
Even events such as a traffic accident where a vehicle runs into a power pole and causes it to fall can disrupt power. Breezy days, even without stormy conditions, can result in trees blowing into power lines and creating a short or in weaker branches being broken off and landing on power lines with the same effect.
Occasionally animals such as squirrels can create outages, and transformers can go bad or explode resulting in a loss of power also.
The point is that while not very frequent, thankfully, power can and does go out. Newer residential areas have underground utilities so they are as susceptible to outages close to the homes, but older neighborhoods have over-the-land or aerial lines (with individual drop wires to the homes) that are exposed to the elements. We never know when this will happen, and we don’t know if it will be just a momentary glitch or a much longer condition.
When we consider just how much we depend on electricity in our modern environment, we don’t ever want to be without it unless it is for a brief time by our choice. There are just so many activities that depend on various power needs – regardless of our age or abilities. We have appliances that keep our food cold for us until we can eat it or cook it. We have freezers that preserve our food for a much longer duration. We have ovens, ranges, cooktops, and microwaves that cook our food for us. We have clothes washers and dishwashers also as a convenience and for cleanliness. Many people rely on electric hot water heaters.
We have lighting throughout our homes that illuminate pathways and work surfaces, allow us to read, and provide a measure of security for us. Most people have televisions or radio for entertainment or news purposes and to help keep them company. Many have computers, the internet, and smartphones which connects them to the outside world. Some of these devices are rechargeable to give them a certain amount of power without being connected to a wall outlet, but in a matter of hours, their power will be depleted and the device will be unusable with an electrical source to recharge them.
Many people rely on refrigeration of medical supplies, use oxygen or other medical monitoring devices, have stair glides or lifts (or elevators), and enjoy electric adjustable beds. Some use power recliner lift chairs also. There are many appliances and devices in our homes that require power to work correctly, and we depend on having these items working.
There are small backup generators that we can install for our clients that will power a couple of circuits, and there are whole-house, natural gas-powered generators – with several sizes, styles, and power sources in between. It’s a matter of matching the client’s budget, the degree of desired comfort, perceived peace-of-mind, and what they want to make sure still works in emergency situations that will dictate the type of backup or emergency generator or inverter to provide for them.
Backup power is no longer a luxury but a top priority item – a requirement – for aging in place renovations.