15 Ways to Prep for a Winter Power Outage

It’s easy to take electricity and heating for granted—that is, until you lose it. Before a winter storm takes out your power, learn how to prepare for a power outage in winter.

Start Your Winter Storm Prep Early

Start Your Winter Storm Prep Early

Power outages can be difficult to weather any time of year, but frigid temperatures without a working heater can be hard on both you and your home. When there's a winter storm in the forecast, there's no time to lose. Start preparing for inclement weather today, and you'll be in fine shape should winter snowfall take a turn for the worst.


1. Stock Up on Batteries

Closeup of the bottom of a AA battery

Make sure you have a good supply of batteries (and if they're rechargeable batteries, ensure that they're fully charged!) in a range of sizes for all your emergency needs. Have spares ready for flashlights and radios as well as for smoke detectors, clocks, and other necessities that can run on battery backup.

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2. Check Your Flashlights

Check Your Flashlights

How many times have you clicked on several flashlights in your junk drawer before finding one that actually works? In preparation for a power outage, carefully test each of your flashlights and determine which works and which doesn’t, even with fresh batteries. Pitch the flashlights that don’t work, and make sure the working ones have new batteries in them. Purchase additional flashlights if necessary—you’ll want to ensure there’s a “good” light for each member of the family, at the very least. Don't plan on using candles; flashlights are safer. 

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3. Fill Up at the Gas Station

person pumping car gas

Before a big storm hits, always fill up your cars’ fuel tanks. Gas station pumps run on electricity and if the power goes out, gasoline will not be available. If you have a gas-powered portable generator, fill up some gas cans too. You’ll want to have plenty of fuel on hand to keep the generator humming.

RELATED: How Long Does Gas Last?


4. Buy a Car Charger for Your Mobile Phone

Person plugging mobile phone into a car charger

You probably already keep a cell phone charger in your car, but having one is especially important when you’re putting together a winter power outage survival kit. You'll need a charged phone so you can make calls and stay connected with news and information. With a car charger, you'll be able to keep your phone working even if the power is out for an extended period of time. You may additionally want to invest in a solar cell phone charger, which would be another way of charging your phone.

RELATED: 16 Winter Emergency Supplies You Should Always Keep in Your Car


5. Get an Old-School Phone

Landline Phone Power Outage

If you have a landline phone, it’s worth keeping an old corded phone in a closet somewhere. Modern phones that plug into wall outlets will not work in a power outage, and having access to a usable landline will help you conserve your cellphone battery.


6. Keep Sufficient Heating Fuel on Hand

Woman at desk near a wood stove and firewood

Make a plan for how you will stay warm if the power goes out in the dead of winter. Even a gas-powered furnace requires electricity to run the fan that sends warm air through the vents. If you have a gas fireplace, consider installing a battery backup for the starter if you don't already have one. If you rely on a wood stove for heat, stock up on firewood. Do not use a propane heater inside the home unless it is one specifically designed for indoor use; carbon monoxide can build up and create a deadly hazard.

RELATED: 23 Brilliant Hacks to Help You Weather Winter


7. Stock Up on Water

Hand reaching for a bottle of water

If you have a municipal water supply, your water taps will keep flowing in the even of a power outage. But if you rely on well water, you're not so lucky—the well pump won’t work without electricity. When a heavy storm is predicted, stock up on drinking water, and fill up the bathtub and washing machine so you'll have enough water for washing and for flushing the toilets. The PennState extension service says Americans use 50-100 gallons of water per person per day, but that may be tough to accomplish in an emergency situation. You will want to have on hand about a gallon of potable water per person per day.

RELATED: Boil Water Advisory: How to Safely Sanitize Water at Home During an Emergency


8. Plan a Backup Means for Preparing Meals

Be Prepared to Prepare Food

Consider how you would prepare food without electricity. If you have gas appliances, you should be able to light them with a match, even when the electricity is out. But if you have an electric stovetop and oven, you’ll be out of luck. You can, however, use a propane grill or an open fire to cook outdoors. If that's your plan, stock up on propane or wood. And make sure you have a manual can opener!


9. Turn Down the Temp in Your Fridge

Fridge Temperature Power Outage

Lower the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer before the storm hits, then if the power goes out they'll both stay cooler longer, increasing the chance your food will last. Consider moving perishables like milk and meat into the freezer so they'll stay colder, and to conserve the cold air inside, avoid opening the refrigerator doors more than absolutely necessary.


10. Stock Up on Nonperishable Foods

Nonperishable Food Power Outage

In the event of a long-term power outage, you may run out of fresh food. Or you might find that you're not able to cook anything. Stock up on nonperishable foods like nut butters, canned fruit and juices, granola bars, and crackers to keep yourself nourished, just in case you can’t cook or your fresh food has run out or spoiled.

RELATED: 14 Pantry Goods That Basically Never Expire


11. Keep Your Pipes From Freezing

Frozen Pipe Power Outage

Your pipes are in danger of freezing and bursting in a power outage, especially if they aren’t sufficiently insulated. If you're concerned your pipes may freeze, shut off the main water valve in your home and open all the faucets until the pipes are empty. If you don’t know where the main shut-off valve is, find out before the next storm hits.

RELATED: How to Turn Off Water to Your House


12. Get a Battery-Powered Radio

12. Get a Battery-Powered Radio

In this day of ubiquitous cell phones battery-powered radios may seem a relic of the past, but these old-fashioned devices may just save your bacon if you lose power for an extended period. When modern methods of emergency alerts such as TVs and phones are unavailable, an emergency radio with fresh batteries may be your lifeline to news and information about dangerous conditions and possible evacuation alerts.


13. Consider a Living Room Campout

13. Consider a Living Room Campout

Loss of power could be an excuse for a fun “campout” in the living room. Ahead of the storm, make sure your tent and sleeping bags are in good shape, or acquire these items if you don’t have them. Ensure you have plenty of heavy blankets, too. Then, when the power is out and temps in the house drop, set up the tent and unroll the sleeping bags. Body heat from several family members jammed together in an enclosed space will help keep everyone warm. And you’ll have a fun story to tell! 

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14. Winterize Your Home

14. Winterize Your Home

If you’ve been meaning to caulk your windows, do it before cold weather strikes. Check the weatherstripping around your doors; odds are it’s seen better days. If you want to go big-ticket, check the insulation in your attic and replace or supplement it if necessary. Also, consider purchasing some door draft stoppers, which you can tuck away in a closet until it’s time to deploy them.

RELATED: How to Insulate Windows


15. Invest in a Generator

15. Invest in a Generator

Speaking of big-ticket items, if you live in an area that frequently loses power, you might consider purchasing a backup generator, which can be switched on manually or can automatically kick in when the power goes out, depending on which type you have. You’ll probably want one that’s powered by gasoline, natural gas, propane, or diesel, because solar-powered generators might not be the best choice in stormy conditions.


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