The approach of winter means the prime season for power failures. Storms can down power lines and darken entire neighborhoods. The use of electric blankets and space heaters puts an added strain on home electrical systems.
By preparing for the possibility of a power outage, you'll lessen chances that you'll be left in the dark. Most of these suggestions also apply year-round.
How to prepare for an outage:
Keep several flashlights on hand and test them now and then. A good choice is the rechargeable type that plugs into the wall and is always ready.
Learn about your home's electrical system. Know whether the electricity coming into your house travels through a fuse box or a circuit breaker panel. If you have a fuse box, keep fuses handy and store them near the fuse box.
Familiarize yourself with the heating system. Some gas-fired furnaces can be operated manually. Before the heating season begins, have your gas company show you how.
If the power fails:
Turn off and disconnect all appliances and fixtures. Leave a lamp turned on so you can tell when service is restored.
Keep lighted candles away from drafts and children.
Don't tie up the telephone lines with unnecessary calls.
Open the refrigerator as seldom as possible. Food will stay frozen for up to 48 hours in a fully loaded freezer that is kept closed; for 24 hours in a half loaded freezer.
If you see downed power lines, don't go near them; they are deadly. Let power company crews--specially trained to handle such dangerous situations--do the job.
An overloaded electrical system can cause a fuse to blow or a circuit breaker to trip. The result will be loss of power in a room--or sometimes in an entire house. Most often, the problem is caused by running too many appliances on the same circuit--like a broiler, an iron and a space heater all plugged into the same outlet.
Here's how to replace a blown fuse or reset a breaker:
When replacing a fuse, first shut off the main power supply by shifting the handle on the side of the box to the "off" position. Or pull out the boxes holding the main cartridge fuses. While working at the fuse box, always be sure you are standing on dry ground and keep one hand at your side or in your pocket to avoid accidentally touching a metal object with it and completing a ground.
Remove the blown fuse by turning it counterclockwise, just like unscrewing a light bulb.
If the fuse is a cartridge type, pull the plastic box holding the fuses straight out. Then pull the fuse out of the box. Large cartridge-type fuses should be removed with a fuse puller.
Replace the blown fuse with one of the same type and capacity. A 15-ampere fuse should only be replaced with another 15-ampere fuse. It is extremely important not to replace a blown fuse with one of a higher capacity.
Your final step should be to turn the main power back on, bringing power back to the whole house.
To reset a circuit breaker, press down on the "off" side to reset it. Then push it back to the "on" position.
If you regularly blow fuses or trip breakers because you're running too many appliances on the same circuit, you may want to upgrade the wiring on that circuit. This job is best left to a licensed electrician.