As urban residents, we rely excessively on electricity for our daily life. We use power all day and night for lighting, heating and cooling, and a variety of appliances to keep us comfortable and entertained. Interruptions in the supply of electricity are commonly known as power outages, or power failures. These can last from a few minutes to several days or even weeks and can cause significant disruptions to our way of living, affecting our ability to work, cook, communicate, and keep warm or cool.
According to Goal Zero’s 2022 Consumer Power Report, some of the greatest concerns for Americans when the power goes out include the inability to cook or unrefrigerated food going to waste, having no access to hot water, and experiencing unpleasant conditions of being too hot or too cold. On average, “only 15% of Americans have a home backup solution, with 61% saying that they wish they had a reliable source of backup power”.
With such reliance on electricity and an increase in weather-related outages, it’s no wonder homeowners are becoming more aware of this issue. We take a look at the regions most affected by power outages over the last year and give some solutions to help keep power during an outage.
U.S. State-by-State Power Outage Map
With data obtained from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), we are able to identify which states were affected the most by a loss of electric service between September 2021 and August 2022 as well as the duration (total number of hours) of these power outages, represented in the map below.
In the past year, Texas and California experienced the most outages of all the states, followed by a cluster of northeastern regions also encountering a considerable number of events. Texas had 24 outages totaling 455 hours, which is far more than any other state. California also had a high number of outages, with 18 counts, though their total duration was substantially less at 167 hours.
New Mexico also suffered significant disruptions with 307 hours, relating to only 3 power outage events. Washington (191 hours, 8 outages), Michigan (245 hours, 9 outages), and Tennessee (214 hours, 2 outages) also stand out for long-term power outages.
Top 3 Most Affected States by Power Outages
|Number of Events
(Sep 2021 - Aug 2022)
|Total Number of Hours
(Sep 2021 - Aug 2022)
|1. Texas (24 outages)||1. Texas (455 hours)|
|2. California (18 outages)||2. New Mexico (307 hours)|
|3. Michigan (9 outages)||3. Michigan (245 hours)|
As you can see on the map the majority of the states have been affected by a power outage in the past year. If your state experiences frequent power failures or extreme weather events, it's a good idea to have a backup power alternative for your home.
Power Outage Solutions for Homeowners
Identifying your home’s specific needs as well as your energy consumption is essential when it comes to finding a suitable power solution. If you are looking for alternatives that will back up your whole home, rather than smaller 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. With this information, you can decide which one of the options mentioned below will best cover your needs.
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 a 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. It has to be bought at a gas station and stored until a power outage occurs. The main advantage is that gasoline is affordable and widely available compared to other fuels. However, it is necessary to refill the generator regularly and for as long as the power outage lasts. 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, diesel-powered generators require you to buy diesel at a gas station in advance of the power outage and store it outside until needed. 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. This option will also require you to buy and store propane outside your house for portable systems or to be connected directly to your home’s propane tank supply for standby alternatives. 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. This is one of the easiest generators to maintain because you do not need to worry about the fuel supply. 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 into its built-in battery for later use. They consist of four main components: the solar panels, the charge controller, the solar battery, and the inverter. 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
A battery does not generate electricity but 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.
While generator installations usually require additional considerations regarding where the exhaust fumes will go and how noise will affect the household and the neighbors, batteries are simpler. They are easier and cheaper to install as they can be mounted to the wall or stacked on the floor of a utility space in or near the house. They are quiet, produce no emissions, require no fuel storage, and most require little to no ongoing maintenance.
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
Extreme weather events will become more common as climate change progresses, so it’s important to take action and reduce your complete dependency on the electrical grid as much as possible. According to Climate Central, “between 2011 and 2021, the average annual number of weather-related power outages increased by roughly 78% compared to 2000-2010.“ and this figure is expected to keep rising.
Keep an eye on the financial incentives available in your state for renewable energy generation, and consider investing in reliable backup power solutions to help you become more energy independent and prepared in case of long-term power outages.