What to do when the lights go out

If the lights suddenly go out and appliances stop working, you may have blown a fuse or tripped a circuit breaker. A power failure in one or two rooms is often caused by an overloaded circuit. To alleviate this, replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker. 

However, before commencing the above procedure, turn off the main breaker on the electrical panel. The main breaker is usually located near the top of the electrical distribution panel which is 

often found in the basement. The main panel may also be located outside of the house wall or inside an attached garage. 

If a fuse has blown, a small piece of the centre portion of the fuse will be missing immediately under the glass surface of the fuse. If a fuse or a circuit breaker continues to give you problems, there is a short 

circuit. Examining all electrical cords for loose connections, frayed sections or 

defective plugs can isolate this problem. If the house wiring is okay, plug in one 

appliance at a time until you find the one causing the short, and then repair or 

replace it. 

If you find nothing amiss, turn off and disconnect all appliances and lights and 

replace the fuse or reset the breaker. If the fuse blows or the circuit trips again, the short still exists and you should call an 


In the case of a full power failure, turn off all the lights and appliances in your home to avoid overloading the circuits when power is restored. Leave one radio or light on to alert you to when service has been restored. 

Open the refrigerator and freezer as 

little as possible during a blackout. Food should stay frozen for up to 48 hours in a closed, fully-loaded freezer. After the power is restored, wait about 10 minutes and then turn on the switches to the freezer and fridge, one switch at a time.  

If the blackout occurs in the dead of winter, close off all but the most essential and best-insulated rooms. A fireplace or wood-burning stove can be used to keep you warm during a wintertime blackout. 

If you have a municipal water supply, open all the faucets and let the water run slowly to keep pipes from freezing. If the power is off for some time (six or more hours in rural areas; about 24 hours in cities), bottle a supply of drinking water and drain the house’s main water system.

If you want the system drained, before going on a winter vacation, you should hire a plumber. Using special equipment, the plumber can blow water from the pipes that could freeze and crack.  

In rural areas where power is more susceptible to failures or interruptions, you may choose to install a small gasoline-powered generator that ties into the house’s electrical system. It’s like the command start on a car, but you don’t have to activate it. If you are away for an extended period of time, you won’t have to worry about coming home to a frozen home.

 It’s always advisable to also have a trusted friend or relative check your home while you’re away — provide a key and written instructions.