Be prepared for extended power outages by taking control of your energy usage. Having an energy efficient home will help you stay safe and comfortable in the event of an extended power outage due to a major snow storm, tornado, hurricane, blackout or other catastrophic event. If you have a generator, you’ll need less power to keep it running and if you don’t have one, you’ll still have a home that’s protected from the elements outside.
Anyone who has been through an extended power outage that lasts longer than a few hours knows the frustration and panic that can be felt by being cutoff from all of our modern technology. If it’s blistering cold outside, you yurn to keep warm. If the sun is relentlessly beating down during the peak of summer, then you dread the thought of another day without the cool feeling of air conditioning. This is especially important for homes where there are young children or seniors. Though there are many ways you can prepare for an extended power outage, an energy efficient home can help you get through the toughest aspects of being without power.
Insulate and Keep it Tight
Insulation is critical to keeping your home cool in the summer and warm when it’s cold. The indoor environment of your home is, most often, the opposite of the conditions outside. For example, though a winter storm may be raging outdoors, the goal of an insulated and weathertight home is to keep you comfortable with the least amount of expenditure of energy to keep the home warm. The same goes for cooling during the hot days of summer.
Insulation and weatherization prevents the loss of the cooling or heating provided by your home’s temperature control systems. Wall and attic insulation slows the radiant heat transfer. Newer, energy efficient windows will prevent radiant heat loss or gain as well as preventing drafts. House wrap under exterior siding seals out drafts. Modern doors with intact weather seals, prevent drafts and radiant heat transfer.
A house can be made draft free and insulated so well that it requires minimal energy to heat or cool the interior. Some modern energy efficient homes are so well sealed that builders have added venting to bring in fresh air, from outside. Have a well insulated home during a power outage will allow you to be able to keep your interior at an ideal temperature for as long as possible. If it’s the cold time of year when an outage occurs, having a fireplace or wood burning stove could heat your entire home, if it’s well insulated.
Homeowners often think of generators, battery-powered lighting and even fuel oil lamps to have light during a power outage. Generators are great, but they also run on fuel. During power outages fuel can be in short supply due to blocked roads that prevent gas stations from getting their bulk deliveries of fuel and the absence of electricity prevents the gas station pumps from working. A gasoline generator can use several gallons of gasoline per day just to keep a refrigerator powered and a few lights on. If you have a generator, you must conserve fuel to get the most use from your available fuel supply.
Keeping the Lights On
Most homeowners are switching to more energy efficient lighting options by using CFL and LED bulbs. LED bulbs by far, are the greatest energy saver. LED lighting uses the least amount of electricity, helping you to get the most out of any generator used during a power outage. In fact, the energy needed to operate LED lighting for an entire house is a small fraction of the energy needed to run an equivalent amount of incandescent lighting. Additionally, LED lighting can be powered by simple solar panels and a battery array.
Run the Hogs
In a typical home the biggest energy hogs are powered by electricity. When the power goes out, most of them are rendered useless. Energy efficient natural gas or propane water heaters continue to provide hot water when the power is out. Additionally, you could run a generator to power the blower motor of a natural gas or other fossil fuel heating system. Also, there are ventless freestanding, wall mountable and fireplace insert heaters that operate on clean burning natural gas or propane.
Don’t Let it Spoil
One of the biggest issues during a power outage is food refrigeration. Though there are some very long lasting and highly efficient natural gas or propane powered refrigerators, they are very expensive and not very practical. The best option is having an Energy Star refrigerator or freezer. Typically, a very energy efficient model is going to have the most insulation to keep the compressor from having to run so much. The extra insulation buys time when the power goes out. Additionally, you can help your refrigerator hold it temperature by freezing 3/4 filled water bottles. They will stay cold in your refrigerator or freezer box for long periods of time when the power is out.
Even, energy efficient homes without backup power generation capability are more comfortable, when the power is out. The storms outside that caused the power to fail can rage while you stay inside a much more comfortable home, than those without the protection provided by adequate insulation, weatherization or efficient appliances. The higher the energy efficiency of a home, the better it is suited for enduring a situation when the power is out for an extended period of time. The bonus is that you benefit even when the power is on, with energy savings and reduced utility bills for the life of your home.
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