Experiencing a power outage is quite a nuisance. Power outages can be challenging to deal with, from disrupting your daily life to endangering your well-being – especially if they happen often. Notably, they can also cost you money, sometimes a great deal if they end up causing significant property damage. In this article, we’ll explain what you need to know about power outages, how much they could be costing you, and ways to protect yourself against them.
- Power outages can either be planned or an unplanned result of extreme weather.
- Costs associated with power outages for homeowners can range anywhere from $25 – $25,000.
- Some things that can cost money due to a power outage include: replacing spoiled food, emergency supplies, lost productivity, property damage, and alternative housing.
- Both Generac and SolarEdge have storage systems with apps specifically designed to protect you from weather-related power outages.
- Compare quotes for solar-plus-storage systems on the EnergySage Marketplace.
What’s in this article?
- What’s a power outage?
- How much does a power outage cost?
- How much do power outages cost businesses?
- How to protect yourself from power outages
- Are power outages dangerous?
What is a power outage?
Put simply, a power outage is a loss of electrical power to your home or business. It might be planned, as is the case with Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) events in California, or unplanned due to extreme weather like hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, or winter storms. The outage could be extremely short (just a few minutes) or could last for days, depending on the cause and severity of the damage.
How much does a power outage cost?
The amount of money a power outage costs you depends on a few different factors, including how much you’ve prepared and how long it lasts. We’ll explain some of the most common costs associated with power outages:
Power outage costs summarized
|Replacing fridge full of spoiled food||$200|
|Emergency supplies||$25 - $100|
|One day of lost productivity||$200|
|Property damage||$500 - $25,000|
|Alternative housing for one night||$150|
Cost: about $200 for a fridge full of groceries
If you have a fridge and/or freezer full of perishable food and your power outage lasts more than a day, you’ll likely experience significant food waste. During a power outage, you should always keep your refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible to keep the cold air in. If you keep the doors closed, you can generally expect food in the fridge to stay fresh for a day after an outage and food in the freezer to stay frozen for a day to a day and a half.
Any time you experience a power outage lasting more than a few hours, make sure to check your food for signs of spoilage to err on the side of caution.
Cost: about $25 – $100 depending on what you need
Whether you’re notified of a planned shutdown or are aware of extreme weather heading your way, you should always have a stock of emergency supplies to prepare for a power outage. Exactly what you need will depend on the time of year, duration of the outage, and the supplies you already have, but you should always plan to have the following in the case of a power outage:
- Firewood and fuel source
- Extra batteries
- Portable phone charger (with a full charge)
- Non-perishable foods (at least enough for one week for your entire household)
- Extra bottled water (at least enough for one week for your household including pets)
Cost: about $200 assuming you make $25/hour and miss a full day of work
During a power outage, your Internet connection will be lost, meaning you won’t be able to work if you need the Internet to do your job. Lost productivity could mean anything from losing actual wages if you’re an hourly worker to having to take a personal day if you’re a salaried employee. The cost of your lost productivity will vary significantly depending on your own unique situation, but it’s definitely something you should consider if you experience power outages often.
Cost: anywhere from $500 – $25,000, depending on the severity of damage
You may not experience any property damage during a power outage, or an outage could cost you thousands of dollars in damage – but it’s important to be aware of the potential risks.
First of all, you’ll want to ensure that your computer is plugged into a surge protector to avoid corrupting files and damaging your computer’s hardware from the outage. You’ll also always want to unplug major electronics like televisions after the outage; when the power restores, the large surge of electricity can damage your electronics.
It’s more difficult to avoid damage directly to your house. For example, if the outage occurs during a hurricane and you cannot run your sump pump, you could experience flooding in your basement. Remedying basement flooding can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $25,000! Similarly, if it occurs during a winter storm and you also lose heat, your pipes could burst (something that happened to quite a few people during the Texas freeze), costing anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Cost: about $150/night, depending on the location and quality of hotel
In some situations, the damage to your home will be bad enough that you’ll need to find alternative housing – or you may decide that your need for power is worth paying the cost of a hotel. Your costs here will depend heavily on where you’re looking for alternative housing, the quality of the hotel, and how long you need to stay there. If you have a friend or family member nearby with power, it’s always worth checking if you can stay with them!
How much do power outages cost businesses?
The costs above might sound high, but imagine losing power as a business! The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that power outages cost businesses $150 billion annually. An article by Bloomenergy estimates the following costs due to a day-long power outage for various businesses:
- U.S. data center: over $12 million
- Car manufacturer: $60 million
- Supermarket: $30,000 – $5 million
How to protect yourself from power outages
One of the best ways to protect yourself from outages is to install a solar-plus-storage system. It’s important to know that, in most cases, solar-only systems don’t work during a power outage (to understand the exception here, learn about Enphase’s Sunlight Backup system). You’ll want to install storage with your solar system for the most reliable backup during a power outage. Storage lets you turn your home into an “energy island,” allowing you to keep your home powered regardless of what’s going on with the grid (including during power outages).
Generac Outage Guard
Recently, Generac launched a new feature for its PWRview app, accompanying its storage system, the PWRcell. In Generac’s own words, this new feature called Outage Guard “monitors the weather forecasts nationwide and prompts your PWRcell system to automatically charge its battery to full capacity before a storm hits in your area, ensuring you have the power you need when you need it most.” Your PWRcell will automatically revert to its original mode as soon as the power outage threat subsides, giving you protection and peace of mind during an outage.
SolarEdge Weather Guard
SolarEdge’s storage system, Energy Bank, includes a similar feature in its mySolarEdge app: the Weather Guard. This feature uses real-time notifications from the National Weather Service to automatically charge your battery 48 hours before you expect severe weather. You’ll receive notifications about the weather event, and when it’s over, your battery will revert to its original settings.
To learn more about these storage options and more, check out our article on the best solar batteries.
Are power outages dangerous?
Beyond the cost of power outages, solar-plus-storage systems can also help protect you from the dangers associated with them. Remember how we mentioned that food could spoil quickly without refrigeration? Eating spoiled foods poses health risks you can easily mitigate if your fridge stays powered throughout the outage! Water damage from flooding can also cause harmful mold (which can be avoided by continuing to power your sump pump). And, during extreme heat or cold, not having access to air conditioning or heating (assuming you also lose heat during the outage, which isn’t always the case) can present a high risk.
Outside of your home, you’ll want to be cautious around any downed power lines (always assume they’re active) and be extra careful at any traffic lights that aren’t working.
Get backup power through EnergySage
Looking to install a solar-plus-storage system to protect your home from costly power outages? On the EnergySage Marketplace, you can compare quotes from our network of pre-vetted solar installers. Our platform is free to use and comes with access to our team of expert Energy Advisors who can help guide you through your decision process. Interested in specific equipment, like Generac or SolarEdge? Simply make a note in your profile so installers can include that equipment in their quotes.