Don't get caught in the dark
It took only nine seconds on a sticky afternoon in August 2003 to plunge 50 million people in Ontario and the north-eastern
United States into darkness. When the entire electrical grid collapsed, lights stopped shining, air conditioners stopped whirring and televisions
and radios fell silent, marking the start of the biggest blackout in North American history.
Few were prepared for hours of pioneer-like conditions, despite warnings of limited power supplies and risks of California-style
rolling brown-outs. But inconvenient as these few days were, it was nothing compared to the weeks of freezing darkness experienced by millions
caught in the St. Lawrence and Ottawa valleys during the ice storm of 1998. Thirty deaths were blamed on the storm.
While these two scenarios may be extremes, they're a good reminder of why it's important to establish a backup power system
before the lights go out. The risks are considerable -- a flooded basement if your sump stops pumping, a fridge full of spoiled food or a house
so cold that you have to evacuate.
Whether you're considering a backup power system for a house in the city, country or even a cottage, you first need to consider
what you want to operate during a power outage.
"When it comes to what you're doing with a generator, it comes to two choices," says Floris van Ooyen, manager sales and design
for Enviroharvest Inc. in Parry Sound, Ont. "Are you powering a couple of select circuits -- a fridge, freezer, some lights -- or are you powering
the whole house?"