How can I charge my phone?
How can I keep my perishable food from spoiling?
How can I heat my home?
How do I prevent my pipes from freezing?
Winter Storm Riley continues to pound the Northeast leaving millions of homes and businesses without power, and some could be without power for the next few days.
Power outages bring with them a slew of questions: How can I charge my phone? Can I save the food in my refrigerator?
Often during power outages, folks rely on their phones for information (and entertainment). This requires battery power. Here’s how to conserve phone battery and charge your phone when there’s no electricity and it’s unclear when it will return:
First and foremost, preserve energy. There are a few ways to do this without hindering your access to essential apps and information on your phone.
Turn off applications automatically running in the background of your smartphone like Wifi (it’s not going to work if there’s no electricity), bluetooth, and Wifi assist, for starters.
- Disable location services. Location services uses a large percentage of battery power and is an easy way to save energy.
- Turn down the brightness on your phone.
- Use your phone’s standard messenger app instead of other messaging applications.
When your power starts running low, you have a few options to charge your phone:
Use your laptop or computer as a power source. Use your USB charger and plug it into your desktop computer or laptop. It will charge slightly slower than through a wall charge, but it gets the job done.
Use your car as a power source. The interiors of newer cars usually have phone charging ports, while older vehicles often have a cigarette lighter that electronics can plug into. Much like you would charge your phone while driving, you can turn on your car and charge your phone during a power outage. Make sure you open your garage and move your car outdoors while you’re doing this, as the carbon monoxide exhaust from your car in an enclosed space could be fatal.
You could also try at home hacks based on YouTube videos (which we will write out so you don’t have to use extra power to play the videos):
Use two silver coins, a slip of paper, a USB charger and a paper clip to charge your phone without electricity:
Insert part of the paperclip into the USB section of the wider side charger. Then slip the paper between the paperclip and the USB. Put one silver coin on one side of the paperclip, ensuring it touches the paperclip. Then put the other coin on the other side. The phone will begin charging. Keep the coins in place to ensure efficient charging. [Tutorial video here]
Use tape, a pen spring and a car charger to charge your phone without electricity:
Take the spring from a pen and take it against a car charger. Make sure the spring is sitting against one of the metal bars on the side of the charge, and that the end of the spring runs parallel to the part of the charger that would be inserted into the car. Then plug the USB cord into the charger. Take the 9v battery and line it up with the spring and the charger, the spring fitting comfortably into the negative side of the battery and the car charger sitting against the positive side of the battery. Then plug in your phone. Ensure the battery stays in place as long as needed. [Tutorial video here]
What about my kitchen? Is there a way to save the perishable food in my fridge and freezer? How can I cook? Or boil water for warm drinks?
Great question! First, make sure to note at what time your power went out so you can keep track of the potential impact it’ll have on your refrigerated food.
Our next piece of advice: Do not open the fridge or freezer– or if you must, make it quick and infrequent. This way, the cool air will be stored inside for as long as possible– maybe even until the power comes back on. The Food Safety Council of Australia has a detailed explanation of food safety in these types of situations. Many foods last longer than you might think, too, especially in winter time. Food like poultry, meat, seafood and ready-to-eat perishable food, will last for up to 2 hours in the fridge. After this, they should be placed in alternative refrigeration (in your freezer if there is room) or consumed immediately. If you keep your fridge sealed and it has a thermometer, there may be other possible calculations to save your food.
As far as frozen food goes, you might be in luck. If you have a functional freezer that operates at 2 degrees or colder, your food will be safe in the (closed) freezer for between one and two days.
To make warm drinks (like coffee or tea to stay warm at this time of year), if you have a gas stove, you’re all set. Make sure your cooking area is well lit with something other than candles as those would present a fire hazard. Consider a flashlight, lantern or your cell phone’s flashlight.
How can I keep warm in my home during winter while I wait for my heat to come back on with the power?
If you have a fireplace, it is best to have firewood prepared in case of power outages. If not, seal off unused rooms to conserve heats by closing doors and, if the need arises, block off the space between the door and the floor with towels. Layer up as much as possible, remembering that hats are a key layer for warmth, as heat escapes the body through the head.
Other important things to keep in mind:
Never use a gas range to heat a chilly room because prolonged use of an oven or top burners to heat a room can deplete the oxygen, creating unsafe and unhealthy conditions for you and your family.
Never use charcoal to heat a room either, as it gives off toxic carbon monoxide, which can be fatal.
How can I prevent my pipes from freezing?
During prolonged power outages during winter, pipes run the risk of freezing and thus bursting and leaking into your home. This is because water expands when it freezes, and weak metal or plastic pipes that aren’t insulated are susceptible to bursting or leaking. This could lead to severe water damage in your home.
To prevent pipes from freezing, turn off the valve that allows water to come into your home. Then, open any drain valves and faucets and let them run until the pipes are empty. Next flush all of your toilets and pour denatured alcohol down the toilets and sinks to prevent them from freezing. Do not use automotive antifreeze, according to the Northeast Utilities System has a toolkit.
Then, turn off your furnace emergency switch and drain the furnace boiler by opening the valve at the bottom. Then open all radiator vents.
For more helpful hints, the Northeast Utilities System has a toolkit on emergency power outage guidelines, procedures and suggestions.