Power Play: How To Prepare For An Energy Crisis
Five Australian states have recently been hit with warnings of an electricity shortage. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) was even forced to suspend the spot market in all five states of the National Electricity Market (NEM) – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
The AEMO claimed the intervention with wholesale electricity providers was the only way to “ensure a reliable supply of electricity for Australian homes and businesses”. Energy ministers from the five NEM states were confident the power sector would cope in the near future without forced blackouts.
But while the grid is standing up to the strain at the moment, what could this mean to many Australian households as the chill sets in?
What You Can Do When Facing a Blackout
After a bitterly cold start to winter, alternative ways to stay warm and keep the house functioning during a power outage are on the agenda. Anyone put in a life-threatening situation by a blackout, such as needing power for a vital medical appliance, should call emergency services on 000. Health crises aside, most people will be concerned about keeping their households running during a power failure.
There are a number of factors to consider, including:
- Staying warm (or cool in summer)
- Keeping the fridge running
- Access to hot water
When facing the possibility of blackouts, it pays to have working torches (other than your mobile phone) in the home and easy access to warm clothes and blankets. When it comes to torches, don’t forget to have spare batteries on hand.
You don’t want to run your phone battery down by using it as a torch, you may need to use it. And don’t forget you can always charge your phone in the car, if necessary. Warning: Don’t leave the car running for long in an enclosed area as it produces carbon monoxide.
Plan Other Ways to Stay Warm
If the power is down and you don’t have alternative energy sources, how can you stay warm as the temperature drops? A gas-powered heater or heating system working on a gas pilot light will continue to work without electricity, as will a gas stove and gas hot water system. However, do not use a gas stove to heat your home, only use it as a kitchen appliance.
If you have a working fireplace or combustion heater, now’s the time to consider lighting it up – but make sure you’re stocked up on firewood. Before using it, ensure that your fireplace is in good working order by getting it tested by a qualified heating and cooling technician.
Even if you don’t have gas or wood power, there are other ways to stay warm during a blackout:
- Cover uninsulated vinyl, tiles, concrete or hardwood floors with throw rugs or blankets
- Spend as much time as you can in the warmest room and close off the rest of the house
- Hang heavy blankets over windows and exterior doors, especially glass sliding doors
- Heat rises – if you have multiple floors, spend your time upstairs
- Get rugged up in your warmest clothes.
Planning Ahead with Solar Power
Staying warm in winter and cool in summer are both important, but nothing is going to keep your fridge and electric hot water system working without alternative power. Are there ways you can future proof your home against power outages?
The obvious solution is solar power. While it can be costly to set up, you will eventually save on power bills and can even keep the home running during a blackout. Surplus solar electricity gets fed back to the power grid, which you are paid for. During summer, in particular, this can mean low or even negative power bills.
To be even more self-sufficient, you can also store energy in a solar battery rather than sending it back to the grid. That means you can use the power after dark or on cloudy days. It can also keep your home functioning during a power failure.
Insulation Works Both Ways
Insulation in the ceiling, walls and floors can substantially reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs. In effect, it keeps the warm inside and the cold outside during winter, and the heat out and the cooled air inside during summer. As such, it helps your heating and cooling appliances or system to work more efficiently.
Even during a blackout, insulation will help to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. While it’s not a complete solution on its own, insulating your home against the outside temperature is an enormous help.
Power It Down
Families can also help by being sensible with the power they consume during this difficult time. Be wary of how much you crank up the heating (and cooling in summer) and always turn off unnecessary appliances.
You can even ask yourself these crucial questions when national or state power supplies are threatened:
- Do you leave the AC unit running at night? Is it necessary while you’re in bed?
- Do you always need to use the dishwasher rather than doing the dishes manually?
- Is your household running two fridges when one would do?
- Have you got the television on when nobody’s watching it?
There are many ways that your household can take some stress off the grid. Many may help to avoid power outages in the first place while also reducing your power costs. So it helps to know that, as millions of Aussies are bracing for the difficulties of possible power outages, there are practical ways to prepare for the darkness.
Published: 27 Jun, 2022