We’re in the process of buying a house back east (NYState) and I keep thinking of the frequent power outages my mom and brother experience in southeastern PA. I’ve had exactly 1 outage here in Portland, OR in the last 10 years, so I’m a bit out of practice, and it’s on my mind (esp. re: what level of backup generator/fuel storage to get).
It got me to thinking: is there a site out there that maps/lists average annual outages for a given location? Obviously, this sort of thing will be easier to compile once the grid get smarter, but until then, if it’s not available from public utilities/state & local govts., it seems like something that could be crowdsourced (a la those gas price maps, etc.).
My wife, who works for a NY utility, couldn’t think of a public source for these statistics. She says you could probably just call the local utility when you know what area you want to live in and ask. A real estate agent will know.
You would probably need to be more specific about what you’re defining as an outage. A flicker? Enough to cause the cable to reboot? An hour? A day? Those are all totally different in cause and therefore in frequency. We haven’t had a day-long outage in years. An hour might happen once or twice a year, but only because we happen to live in an area when power lines run down the back lot line of houses and so have trees overgrowing them.
Not sure what’s happening in southeastern PA. Atlantic storms? Those won’t affect upstate New York but Long Island will be prone to them. New York is a huge state with a multiplicity of local climates, so it’s impossible to answer a general question.
For toadspittle’s information, that map shows outages only in New York State Electric and Gas’s service territory. There are many other electric utilities in NY. You need to know which one covers your house to get information on current outages for you local utility. It would be helpful if we knew where in NY you’re looking at.
More concerned about half-day and longer outages. Basically anything that might cause refrigerated food to spoil, or pipes to freeze.
Any backup generator I put in at this point will be manually switched on—not some sort of UPS. Calculations involved are more to the level of whether it’s worth it to get a larger sized generator (that can feed in 240v to power multiple circuits in the house, including the boiler and well pump) and have an electrician set up a generator transfer switch/power inlet—*and *have the accompanying fuel storage to handle more than one day’s outage—or to get something smaller and just run extension cords to the refrigerator and deep freeze.
PA just appears to have a really fragile power grid. Both my mom (suburban Montgomery county) and brother (rural Chester Co.) have had several multi-day outages from winter storms in the last several years. My mom even has buried lines in her whole development, but if the lines outside the development come down, well… they don’t do much good.
Yes, those outage maps are great during a storm, etc., but they’re live. No historical data.
We’ll be in rural Ulster Co.—so Central Hudson should be our supplier. No natural gas, though—we’re not in-town. Generator would have to be powered by propane/gasoline that I keep on site.
If you’re out of town your restoration priority will be just about exactly zero. Essentially they fix wires in the sequence that will restore power to the greatest number of subscribers first.
That’s another way of saying that whatever the likelihood of a widespread outage is, the follow-on likelihood is that your wait will be a long one.
You can certainly try to assess the line conditions between your house and the nearest substation or town. Are the lines deeply intertwined in trees? Are the trees healthy or decrepit? Are the poles concrete, freshly installed wood, or 1950s wood? Do they cross streams that can flood to torrents? Are there poles near washouts? Are poles right next to the roadway where cars can easily take them out? Are the transformer cans rusty or just weathered? All these things go to the likelihood of an outage.
Talk to your soon-to-be neighbors. They’re the best source for historical info.
Food is probably the least of your worries. Just keep the door closed and it’ll be OK for a day or two. Buying a small generator just for that doesn’t get you very far. You’ll be sitting in a cold, dark house. If you want to stay in your house during a winter outage you’ll want some lights, some heat, and your hot water tank to be functional. A larger generator will keep you at least minimally comfortable for a long wait. A couple of extension cords means you really want to be living somewhere else. That’s the kind of personal lifestyle decision an outsider can’t help with.
You do want to check to find out if you’re in a flood plain. A basement generator does no good if your basement floods.
A call to Central Hudson should find somebody who can give a great deal of advice about local conditions. Believe me, they’d much rather answer these questions than about whether a smart meter is sending rays into brains.
I live in a rural area of Michigan, and we have power outages a few times per year. I think you have covered everything pretty well, especially the last line - your new neighbors. I have been without power, seeing lights from a neighbor, a 1/2 mile away, across a cornfield. I have Consumer’s power, and they have DTE. And the situation has been reversed. I went with a whole house generator a few years ago. I had 14 days in 2013 without power, several days with below zero temps. Having the generator meant the difference between scrambling around with cords like I used to with a portable generator, and comfort. It does cost about $10 per hour to run, depending on the LP price. But when it was -15, it sure was nice to have.