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Published on
November 16th, 2023

Prepare for Winter Storms: Know What To Do If a Power Outage Occurs in Your Buildings

Winter causes a surge in electrical demands. The shorter days up lighting usage, hot water and heating create surges in the system, and tenants using space heaters or heated blankets increases in-unit needs.

On top of the increased demand, New York City faces an energy shortage because of the Peaker Rule, which is forcing emergency backup power generators to shut down. By 2025, the city expects an energy shortfall of 446 megawatts, equivalent to 400,000 homes.

As a property owner, you can fight for legislative change while preparing for the worst. Even if you ignore the energy shortage, winter power outages are a risk. Discover how to prepare your building to ensure safe and happy tenants.

Why Winter Power Outages Occur

Understanding How Cold Weather and Consumer Demand Affect Electrical Systems

Manufacturers design electromechanical parts, which comprise the bulk of electrical systems, in ideal settings with controlled temperatures and humidity levels. In a perfect world, these parts work precisely as designed, never succumbing to strain or failure. Unfortunately, the real world often subjects these parts and entire systems to temperatures and humidity levels that are less than ideal.

Even when subjected to temperature extremes, new components should work well and without issue. That said, most buildings in NYC operate with dated electrical systems and components, meaning they may struggle in extreme cold. However, they should still function.

The greater problem occurs when frigid temperatures and subpar operating conditions pair with system strain. In colder temperatures, electrical systems already operate more slowly than designed and less predictably. Along with the increased demand, these factors make for less reliability and an increased chance of winter power outages.

How You Can Prepare Your Building and Staff for Outages

Winterize Your Property

Winterizing your property means preparing it for the cold weather, snow, and ice. While most winterization tips focus on plumbing and drainage, it’s also important to reduce system strain by limiting heat loss.

Poor weather stripping, lackluster seals, and holes or cracks in the building all contribute to heat loss, which forces the heating system to work harder. Also, if windows are drafty, tenants are more likely to use space heaters, heated blankets, and heating pads. All the additional accessories create further strain on your property’s electrical system.

To limit electrical system stress and demand, inspect doors and windows for drafts and poor seals. Install new weather stripping if necessary. Walk the property and inspect it for cracks and holes — use caulk or sealant to repair any damage.

Attic spaces are often responsible for a lot of heat loss. Install or replace insulation in wall cavities and attics to create an adequate heat or thermal envelope. A properly insulated property means less system strain and reduced risks of winter power outages.

Finally, if your property has ceiling fans, reverse the rotation of the fan blades. The reverse flow pulls the warm air that rises to the ceiling and pushes it down toward the floor, helping to circulate the warm air.

Store Essential Tools and Items

Long-term power outages are rare; most last only a few minutes to a few hours. Still, during an outage, staff and tenants need to navigate the building and receive updates about restoration progress.

A well-stocked property should have flashlights, battery-operated or hand-crank radios, extra batteries, and power banks or portable cell phone chargers. The building should also have several first-aid kits positioned throughout the building and a basic emergency tool kit.

Besides the bare essentials, include a stockpile of blankets, candles, matches, and water to prepare for long-term winter power outages. You should encourage tenants to stock dry goods and bottled water as well.

Install and Maintain Generators and Emergency Systems

Emergency power or lighting is mandatory in NYC, but standby power can be optional, depending on the situation and application. The installation of emergency and standby power systems must follow the New York City Electrical Code, NFPA 110, and NFPA 111 regulations.

Also, the property must maintain a fuel supply efficient for at least six hours of full-demand operation of the system. The city permits the use of natural gas from the public utility, street main as a sole fuel supply for emergency and standby power under specific circumstances.

Plan for a Designated Warming Area

Long-term winter power outages may force some properties to go without heat or to operate with a managed supply. To help tenants through a trying time, landlords should create warming areas.

Many buildings have clubhouses or lounge spaces for the community. If these areas have fireplaces, it is relatively easy to convert them into warming rooms. You can:

  • – Keep doors closed
  • – Cover windows
  • – Keep the fire going

Designated areas can also have a supply of blankets, water, and warm beverages. Fortunately, long-term winter power outages are rare.

Inspect and Assess Your Electrical System

An electrical inspection and assessment can limit your risks of a power outage this winter. A team from Bolt Electric can check the power lines around your building to ensure proper clearance from objects, such as branches. If they see potential risks, they can help you contact the utility company to manage any overgrowth.

The team can also check your building’s wiring and outlets. Old wiring is susceptible to shorts and other issues, and can also create fire risks. If your property does not have enough outlets, it encourages circuit overload, where tenants try to power too many devices, including appliances, from a single outlet or circuit.

Remember, outages occur because of excessive stress on the system. If your tenants use too many appliances or devices or your property doesn’t have current wiring, your property is at a greater risk of outages and other electrical problems.

How To Reduce the Risk of Winter Power Outages

Keep Up With Routine Maintenance and Inspections

NYC experiences higher electrical demand during winter. The lower temperatures encourage increased heat output, and the earlier sunsets and later sunrises demand more artificial lighting. While you cannot eliminate all risks of winter power outages, you can lower them by keeping up to date on electrical system maintenance and inspections.

Call Bolt Electric at 212-734-5000 to schedule an inspection and discuss annual service contracts.

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