As the heat of summer descends upon us, so does the threat of power outages. With two-thirds of North America potentially facing blackouts this season, it's crucial for homeowners to be prepared. Heat waves, in particular, pose a significant risk to the power grid whilst increasing heat-related mortality and morbidity. In fact, extreme heat has proven to be deadlier than any other weather event, surpassing the destructive power of hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and flooding.
Over the past five years, the United States has witnessed a total of 1,115 power outage incidents. These disruptions cause a wave of concerns for homeowners, from the inability to cook or preserve refrigerated food to the loss of access to hot water. Having to endure the uncomfortable conditions of excessive heat or cold can also become a reality for many during these incidents as their AC cuts out, yet only 15% of Americans currently have a reliable home backup solution in place, with 61% wishing they had one.
In this article, we’ll reveal the number of power outages having occurred in each state over the last five years, highlighting the most heavily affected areas and the total duration of the incidents. In order to minimize the impact of these power disruptions, we’ll look at solutions to reducing their impact on your home.
Mapping the U.S. Power Outages by State
This state-by-state map of power outage incidents in the U.S. was put together by compiling the latest data from the US Energy Information Administration. We analyzed their annual reports and aggregated the figures to reveal the number of power disruptions throughout the country over the last five years along with their duration.
Top 5 most affected states (2019 - 2023)
|State||Number of events||Duration (h)||Maximum duration of one event (h)|
Texas is currently the most affected state, suffering a total of 155 incidents since 2019 which amounted to an outage duration of over 4,775 hours. The longest power disruption in this area happened on February 10th, 2021, which lasted 312 consecutive hours (13 days) and affected 2 million consumers in the area.
California has been the second most affected state over the past five years, enduring a total of 99 power disruptions lasting over 923 hours between them. As California regularly experiences extreme heat, energy consumption through AC puts pressure on the grid, leading to greater power outage risks if not regulated. The state responds to this by putting contingency plans in place which rely on rolling blackouts in order to reduce power supply and maintain capacity during times of shortages.
Louisiana suffered the longest outage duration in the last five years after Texas. The state experienced an outage of 175 hours (7 days) in the summer of 2020 due to extreme weather conditions, affecting over 50.000 consumers.
Some areas of the country are much less affected by these disruptions than others. In fact, Alaska and Hawaii have had no recorded cases of power outages in the last five years, and although being the state with the third longest outage duration in the last 5 years, Michigan did not experience any outages lasting more than three days.
The Current State of U.S. Power Outages in 2023
After reaching the second half of 2023, we’re now able to get an overview of how the year is currently going in terms of power outages throughout the country and which states have been the most affected over the past few months.
Being the most affected state over the past 5 years, it comes as no surprise that Texas has also seen the highest number of outages in the U.S. so far this year, experiencing 17 disruptions in the first four months of 2023 alone. On January 31st, 2023, Texas narrowly dodged a potentially catastrophic blackout that could have lasted months due to an ice storm, however, the incident still affected 26 counties leaving 360.000 customers without power for almost a week.
California has experienced a total of seven disruptions so far this year, totaling 67 hours without power, with the longest outage lasting 42 hours in Los Angeles and leaving 153,555 customers in the dark. The state also narrowly avoided rolling blackouts during extreme heat in 2020, however, the California Energy Commission reassures residents that the state is better prepared this summer.
While Michigan experienced fewer power outage events compared to Texas and California, the state encountered a distinct challenge in terms of duration. Out of the six events, three of them lasted over 40 hours, with the longest blackout stretching to 69.5 hours in February due to a winter storm, affecting over 261,000 consumers across 18 counties. In fact, this particular outage is the longest disruption Michigan has experienced since 2019.
Washington faced five power outage events in 2023, with a combined total duration of three hours, and Louisiana experienced four events which resulted in 10 hours of disruption this year. One of these events even impacted multiple states, including Arkansas, Texas, and Mississippi. Louisiana also faced three short outages, each lasting only one minute.
Homeowner's Guide to Power Outage Solutions
The severity of some of the power outage incidents only highlights the need for homeowners to be prepared for such events. Identifying your home’s specific needs as well as being aware of your energy consumption is crucial in determining a suitable backup solution.
If you are looking for alternatives that will backup your whole home, rather than just the smaller and more essential areas, you may need to conduct an energy audit. This service will help you calculate and understand how much energy your appliances, lighting, and other household items use on a daily basis. With this information, you can decide which one of the options mentioned below will best cover your needs in the case of a power outage in your area.
Generators come in several sizes and models. They can provide enough power to keep home systems and appliances going when the electricity supply is interrupted. Portable generators can range from small units that power specific areas to larger units able to power most of your home. These generators are not permanently installed and can be easily moved around. They can run off of gasoline or diesel fuel and have to be refilled and started manually. The cost of portable generators ranges between $200 - $6,000 on average.
Whole-house or standby generators are a larger and considerably more expensive option, ranging between $2,000 to $20,000 on average. These generators need to be installed by a professional and connected to a continuous source of supply at all times, using either propane or natural gas as fuel. They have a large storage capacity, meaning they can run several large appliances simultaneously. Depending on their size, most standby generators are capable enough to power your whole house and turn on automatically when the power from the grid is interrupted.
Good-quality medium-sized generators can run for around 3,000 hours considering they are well-maintained, lasting for around 20 years at 150 hours per year. While some generators draw power from fossil fuels, others rely on renewable energy sources such as the sun. Below we list the most common generator power sources available:
Gasoline is one of the most common options to fuel a portable generator. The main advantage is that gasoline is affordable and widely available compared to other fuels. The amount of gasoline needed will depend on the size and runtime of the generator or rather the duration of the outage. The average cost of a gasoline-powered generator lies between $500 and $2,000.
Another option to power a portable generator is diesel. Just like with gasoline, the necessary amount to fuel the generator will depend on the runtime of the generator and its size. Diesel generators, however, tend to have a longer lifespan and perform more efficiently. The average cost of a diesel-powered generator also ranges from $500 to $2,000.
A common gas fuel used to run generators is propane. The advantage of choosing a propane generator is that propane can be stored for longer periods, and can generally provide a greater energy output, compared to natural gas for example. The average cost of a propane-powered generator is between $500 to $20,000.
Another option to fuel your generator is using natural gas, which will be connected to the home’s natural gas supply, meaning you can have a constant fuel inflow and forget about organizing its storage. The higher installation costs and dangers related to a broken gas line are the disadvantages that come with one of these generators, as well as the possibility of gas outages that can also occur during natural disasters. The average cost of a natural gas-fuelled generator lies between $2,000 to $20,000.
Solar generators work as a portable power station. They collect solar energy generated through solar panels and then store that energy in their built-in battery for later use. Depending on the battery capacity and your energy usage, you can go up to two days without grid power. Solar generators are quiet, environmentally friendly, and low maintenance. The batteries are also safer to store than liquid propane, gasoline, or diesel fuel. However, they do involve a high initial investment and can only be recharged in the presence of sunlight. Solar generators cost between $1,500 and $5,000.
Geothermal energy is also an alternative solution to reduce your reliance on grid power, as it requires very little electricity to heat or cool a house. It can easily run with the aid of a small generator in the event of a power outage, generating heat from the ground and using less power than other conventional heating and cooling methods. Although it requires a big investment upfront, it will save you money over time, while also reducing carbon emissions. A geothermal heating system can cost on average between $10,000 to $45,000, depending on the type and size of the system.
Battery backup power supply
Although a battery does not generate electricity, it is able to store it. By having this energy storage alternative, you can reduce or even remove the need for a generator. Batteries can be charged by plugging them into the grid, a generator, or by green energy sources such as solar panels if you already have a system in place.
Battery backup systems generally cost more upfront but use no fuel once installed. You can charge and store them so that you have them available to use in case of an outage. In order to reduce your energy bills, batteries can also be charged during an off-peak tariff and can be used during peak times.
However, over time all battery systems lose the ability to hold a charge. Hence, battery warranties include an end-of-warranty capacity rating, which refers to how well a battery can hold a charge by the end of the warranty period. Some battery manufacturers have a throughput warranty, which means that rather than covering a certain amount of time, the battery is covered for a certain number of charge cycles or energy throughput.
Do solar panels work during a power outage?
Contrary to popular belief, solar energy will not power a home during an outage unless connected to battery storage. Your system needs to be either equipped with energy storage, or you can opt for an off-grid solar system instead. The size of your home, the number of panels you install, and your region’s climate will all impact how much energy you can save. While the cost of a grid-tied solar system lies between $15,000 and $21,000, the average cost of an off-grid solar system ranges between $30,000 to $60,000.
Other Solutions: How to Prevent a Power Outage in Your Home
The reasons for power outages can vary greatly, from accidents to weather-related circumstances. It’s not always possible to prevent them, but you can still take action to reduce the probability of them occurring near your home.
Regular service and maintenance of your backup power systems
If you have backup power systems or you are planning on investing in one, regular service and maintenance are essential to ensure that they are always operating efficiently and at optimal levels. This will also extend their lifespan and avoid the possibility of them not functioning correctly in the event of an outage. An electrical inspection costs between $125 and $250. Having your systems and cabling inspected every 2 to 5 years will prevent any major complications.
Reduce tree-related electrical outages
Tree and plant trimming around power lines are essential for the safety and reliability of electrical systems. As a homeowner, you’re responsible for keeping the service wires on your property clear of vegetation. The national average cost to trim a tree lies between $175 and $750, with the average homeowner paying around $450 to trim a 20-foot tree. Minimize the risk of a power failure by ensuring that the trees are kept clear of the power lines. If there are large trees on your property that are in contact with high-voltage power lines, you should contact your local energy provider or council.
Reduce your energy consumption
Residential blackouts generally occur during periods of increased energy usage if the power grid becomes overwhelmed, which causes the power to fail. You can lower the chances of this happening by reducing your energy consumption. You can do this by switching off appliances and lights when they are not in use, purchasing low-energy appliances, and having them checked once a year.
Weather-Related Power Outages on the Rise
In a world where extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common due to the progression of climate change, it’s highly recommended that homeowners take action to reduce their dependence on the electrical grid. The rise in the number of outages caused by severe weather is now alarming, with the annual average increasing from around 50 in the early 2000s to over 100 over the past 5 years.
The Government Accountability Office estimates that if grid upgrades are not implemented, utility companies and customers could face annual costs amounting to billions of dollars in the coming decades, with the projected total annual cost of outages to utility customers expected to increase from approximately $55 billion during the 2006-2019 period to over $480 billion during the 2080-2099 period (2019 dollar values).
As a homeowner, it’s important to be proactive in the face of this growing challenge. By keeping an eye on the financial incentives available in your state for renewable energy generation, you can take advantage of clean energy solutions that not only reduce your reliance on the grid but also contribute to a more sustainable future. Furthermore, investing in reliable backup power solutions will provide you with the peace of mind and independence necessary to navigate long-term power outages.
Irena is an industry analyst at Fixr.com. She analyzes and looks for visual ways to simplify data. She has been researching and writing about home improvement and personal finance since 2018. At Fixr.com, she is constantly looking to give homeowners the best advice on how to invest in their homes.