Sweeping south from California and all the way across Texas and into Oklahoma is the possibility of power outages. If you've been struggling with the idea that Winter is Coming, you may have the cold reality hit hard as you find your lights don't work.
I was born a Northerner, but I got to the south as fast as I could. If you're in the North, think like it's summer, and your energy is reduced because energy is drained by cooling methods when the temperatures are high. It's the same thing here but in reverse.
News reports, as well as emails in my inbox from the energy company, warn of possible outages. Not rolling blackouts, but complete blackouts as it becomes clear that winter is here. Austin Energy says more than 7,000 homes are currently without power, and it is working to restore power as quickly as possible.
In these parts, it's almost unheard of to have temperatures in the single digits. With historic low temperatures in place and likely to continue for some time, local residents are on edge. Personally, I haven't noticed a craze at the grocery to stock up on butter, eggs, bread, or basic essentials. But, school-aged kids have to kiss their snow days goodbye. The school building has closed and learning, even for in-person students, is 100% virtual, at least temporarily. Everyone hopes for a warm-up, but the worst may not be over yet.
You could lose power. Snapped power lines, combined with single-digit temperatures, have the demand on energy high, and the energy supply low. Energy companies are asking everyone to conserve usage.
Here are practical measures you can implement to help:
Turn off lights you don't need to have on or are not actively using.
Minimize streaming devices.
If you've gotten spoiled by using multiple devices at one time, go back to basics. Use one device at a time.
Lower the thermostat.
No kidding. Would you like to be a little colder than normal or without heat altogether? Consider your options carefully, then walk over to the thermostat and lower the holding temperature to what you need. You won't be as comfortable as you'd like, but a little discomfort is better than being without heat completely. Get out the blankets and wrap yourselves and the kids up in them. Dress in additional clothing layers too.
Run appliances during off-peak hours.
Don't run the washer or the dryer during the day. Put off running high-energy consumption appliances. If you have to run them, consider wee early morning hours or late at night for these appliances. Don't use the oven, if you can help it. Grab a loaf of bread and lunch meat for simple meals that don't require heating.
This is so easy. Close blinds and curtains as an extra barrier to keep cold air out of your home.
Think like you're camping.
Be practical. You're not going to start a fire to cook inside, but take all the practical measures you can, kind of like you would if you were camping. In our home, we've noticed the hotspots and the cold spots. Heat naturally rises, so it's warmer upstairs and colder downstairs. We'll keep the thermostat as low as possible and spend most of our time upstairs. The kids can join us in our bedroom, and we can pile on the bed and stream one TV to watch a movie together instead of separately. Be smart and practical so you don't lose power altogether.
If you do lose power, open the refrigerator as little as possible so that the food you have stored in there doesn't go bad. If you have to, improvise and take the meat and other perishables to a garage or keep them outside. Don't worry what the neighbors will think. If they are smart, they are doing the same thing. Store items in the backyard and, likely, no one will ever see or know. It can be our secret. It's unconventional, but it's cold enough outside that your food won't spoil.
Winter is here. If we're all smart and conserve well, we'll get through it together with minimal impact.