Tips for Residential Customers
We do our best to avoid any interruptions to your electrical service. However, sometimes the lights go off. While we're working quickly to restore your power, you can rely on these tips to see you through the outage.
Start by determining whether the power failure is limited to your home. If your neighbour's power is still on, check your main electric panel. Move any tripped switches to the ‘off’ position and then to the ‘on’ position.
If it is an outage, check our outage map or the My ATCO Electricity app for live updates. If the outage hasn't been reported, call 1 800 668 5506 or use our online form. Sometimes it can be hard to get through because other customers are also reporting power interruptions, so thank you for your patience.
Store a flashlight and extra batteries in a place that is easy to locate in the dark. If you use candles, make sure they have solid, stable holders. Never leave candles unattended and always be cautious with children and pets around. Have a fire extinguisher (A-B-C type) on hand and know how to use it.
Most furnaces will not work without power to run the fan. However, the pilot light stays on during power outages, so the furnace will start up as soon as power is restored.
Most new gas fireplace models will continue to work without power. The fans won't work, but most give off enough radiant heat to make a difference. If you have a properly-ventilated wood-burning fireplace, make sure you have a supply of wood on hand. But remember that many fireplaces are not designed to burn at high temperatures for long periods. Many traditional fireplaces can draw more heat out of the house than they supply.
Never use a camp stove, barbecue, or propane or kerosene heater indoors. They can cause a deadly build-up of carbon monoxide gas in unventilated areas. Similarly, your gas stove should not be used as a heat source for long periods without ventilation.
Minimize the use of your cell phone during the outage to preserve power. Have an emergency charger on hand.
Cordless phones or extension phones that require a connection to an electric outlet won't work during power outages. Models that plug directly into the phone jack will work.
A battery radio can be a source of important information and updates. Make sure you have extra batteries. You could also use your car radio in an emergency, but do not run a vehicle in an enclosed garage, even with the overhead door open.
Do not turn off or unplug your fridge and freezer. Only open the doors when absolutely necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for 24 to 36 hours if the door remains closed. After power is restored, check all frozen foods to determine the extent of thawing. If in doubt, throw it out.
Turn off or unplug all other appliances. This will:
- Protect your appliances. When power is restored, there is a risk that a surge of electrical energy that could damage sensitive equipment.
- Minimize the risk of fire. Heat-producing appliances which were ‘on’ when the power went out can sometimes be forgotten during an outage. Unplugging them can minimize the risk of fire when power is restored.
- Help ATCO restore service. Power can be restored more easily by reducing the load on the electricity system, so try not to have all your appliances waiting to run the moment the power comes back on. Start by turning on the most essential appliances and wait 10–15 minutes before reconnecting the others.
Water in pipes or toilet bowls may freeze during a long cold-weather power outage. Some points to consider:
- Your house will cool from the top down. This means that toilets and plumbing on upper floors are more vulnerable. Leave a tap dripping slowly to keep water moving in the system, unless the outage is prolonged.
- If you are advised it will be a long outage, consider turning off your main water tap. Open all taps and flush the toilets to clear water out of the system, and put RV-type antifreeze in the toilet and sink traps.
- Fill containers first with water for household use.
Warmth and Ventilation
If the outage is likely to be prolonged, and the weather is cold, prepare to stay warm as your house cools down.
- Gather family members in a room with a fireplace or other safe source of heat. If the whole house cools down to match the outdoor temperature, the basement will become the warmest point as heat is drawn from the subsoil.
- Consider keeping a window open slightly for ventilation, especially if regular cold-air intake systems are not working.
- Close the blinds or drapes and avoid opening doors to keep heat from escaping.
- Don’t run extension cords to the home of a neighbour who still has power. This may overload and cause a fire.
Tips for Standby Generation
Standby or portable electricity generators can be very convenient for power restoration during a prolonged outage. However, it is critically important to install them correctly. Correct installation prevents accidents, including the possibility of feeding power back into the system and endangering the lives of utility workers.
The key factor in making your decision to use standby or portable generation should be based on any "must-run" equipment requiring electricity in your home.
Key Tips on standby power generation
1. Review your needs
Identify whether any of the electrical equipment you have is absolutely "must-run". Remember that the installation and maintenance of a standby or portable generator can be intricate, costly and time-consuming. Your needs will determine the size of the generator you need to install to keep “must-run” equipment operating.
2. Involve an electrical professional and certification body
A generator can be extremely dangerous if it is not connected and operated properly. An electrical professional is required to advise and assist you with the installation if the generator will be connected to your electrical system. An electrical professional will also help you meet electrical standards and obtain the required permits.
Correct installation prevents accidents, including the possibility of feeding power back into the system, endangering the lives of utility workers.
3. Installing standby power generation
If you decide to install a generator, a certified electrical professional can properly interconnect the generator to your existing wiring system. Regulations require that there must be a physical and electrical separation between the power system and the electric utility facilities.
Transfer equipment for power systems prevents the inadvertent interconnection of normal and standby sources of supply in any operation of transfer equipment.
Electrical separation is achieved by installing a transfer or double-throw switch between the electric meter and the load that will be supplied from the generator. This prevents your generator from feeding electricity back into the electric utility supply and possibly injuring or killing any utility employees working to restore power.
4. Using standby or portable power generation
- Refer to the generator manufacturer's operating and maintenance manual.
- Make sure all possible connection(s) to the utility's electric system are eliminated prior to connecting and starting the generator.
- Use the transfer or double-throw switch.
- Disconnect any extra equipment before starting the generator. If any of this extra equipment is required after you start up the generator, reconnect it one piece at a time. Remember that starting a motor can take up to three to four times the amount of power required to run it.
- Be careful when refuelling a generator. Remember that it is a source of heat and that fuel will ignite easily. Follow the manufacturer's recommended procedures.
- When power is restored or when refuelling the generator, turn off all equipment the generator is powering first, and then turn off the generator.
5. Maintaining standby power generation
It is important to inspect your generator regularly to ensure it is fully operational, maintained and has an adequate fuel supply.
Have the generator manufacturer's operating and maintenance manual readily available for use during emergencies.