Since moving to Eastern Canada from England 8 years ago, we’ve learnt to expect stormy weather on occasions.   And along with these storms, come the anticipated power outages.

In England, most power cables are below ground, which meant that power outages were pretty infrequent.   Only heavy thunder and lightning would lead to possible outages.

Instead we’re now pretty accustomed to losing power and, being heavily reliant on gadgets, we’ve built up a routine whenever an outage is imminent.

I’ll start with mobile devices.  Cellphones are especially important during an outage as they may be your only means of contact in case of emergency.   Many people are disconnecting traditional landlines and relying wholly on these mobile devices.   When the power goes, the cellular transmitters are generally kept going with battery backup, so you’re still able to make calls, but only if the battery in your phone is still working.   So, first step – charge your devices if a storm is predicted!

OK, so you have your mobile devices (cell phones/tablets/laptops) charged, but what can you do to make them last as long as possible?

Well if the power goes, your home Internet connection probably drops too, so you may as well switch off your WiFi connection.  Turning this off along with Bluetooth should make a big difference to how long the battery lasts.

On iPhones and iPads, there’s also a setting called “Background App Refresh” (under General settings) that you might also want to turn off. What this means is that apps are allowed to still run when not on the screen.  So, for example, email will still check for emails, and Facebook will check for new notifications even though you can’t see the apps running.  Turning this off, saves some more power as the apps only update when you switch to them.

Finally – it’s probably dark without power, so dim the screen and save some more power.

Don’t forget to reverse all of these changes when the power comes back though, especially WiFi, as without it on, you’ll be using up your precious cellular data allowance!

If you have a laptop, you’ll find that this works fine without power as it has its own battery built in.   But did you know you can use the laptop to top up the charge on your cellphone?  Most cellphones use a USB charging cable which you can plug directly into the laptop.   This is handy if your cellphone charge is low and you need to keep it topped up in case of emergency.   But remember, this is a trade-off – the more you charge devices from it, the quicker the battery will run out on the laptop!

If you have a desktop computer rather than a laptop, this doesn’t have a battery in it and will cut out if the power drops.   This sudden powering off can be harmful to a desktop computer, so you should really power it down properly before the storm hits.   Alternatively, you can connect it to a battery backup system called a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply).   This regulates the power and keeps it smooth even if there are spikes or brown-outs.   Brown Outs are particularly damaging to sensitive electronics.   This is when the power dips repeatedly – you’ll notice the house lights dimming during these.   A UPS detects the dip and keeps the power at 110v.

If the power stays off for a period of time, the UPS is intelligent and knows when its battery is getting low.  It’ll then automatically shut the computer down safely to avoid damage. Smart eh?!

It’d be nice if you could have a UPS to protect every device, but that’d be very costly, and would take up a lot of space!   So, if you’re expecting problems – I’d recommend unplugging larger devices such as TVs, Hi-Fis etc. to protect them from surges.  You’re not going to be able to use them, so why risk them getting damaged?

One final tip – make sure you turn off the bedroom lights.  If the power comes back on at 3 O’clock in the morning – you don’t want the lights to turn back on and wake you up!

Until next time – get charging!