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Are you prepared?

posted Dec 2, 2012, 5:27 PM by Margo Duesterhaus   [ updated Dec 2, 2012, 5:34 PM ]

Superstorm Sandy has been a wake-up call on the perils of living on a warming planet.  We have all seen the devastation in New York and New Jersey.  Had Sandy followed a different track, much of that devastation could have occurred in Maryland instead.  We may have missed the brunt of Sandy, but Superstorms and other extreme weather events, such as the derecho we experienced in the summer, will happen more often as we continue to burn fossil fuels. 

So how prepared are you for the next major weather event?  YES! Magazine has an excellent quiz where you can get a sense of your level of resilience. As we enter into winter, let’s take a look at just one of the questions in the quiz:

I have alternative heat and energy sources (such as solar panels or a wood stove) if the power goes out or utilities get expensive.

Many homeowners found themselves without power after Sandy.  While some have bought gas powered generators to deal with the increasing number of power outages, the residents of New York and New Jersey learned that generators do little good if gas stations have no power and no one can pump gas.  And if there is gas shortage, then people have to wait in line for hours to buy gas for a generator.  This would be extremely unpleasant when it is freezing cold outside.  

So what are other solutions?  For home heating, one alternative is wood or pellet stoves.  You can put a wood stove in your fireplace (referred to as a fireplace insert) and convert a very inefficient fireplace into a highly efficient source of heat.  I had a wood stove installed in my fireplace several years, much to the objection of my husband who thought it was a silly idea.  He now concedes that this was one of my better ideas, especially on the few occasions when we have lost power for a day or more in the middle of winter. When Sandy came through we again lost power for a day, but our house was toasty warm thanks to the wood stove. 

Another solution is insulation.  If you want to be more resilient, insulation is critical.  Many homes have insufficient insulation.  A home energy audit can help you determine if/where you need more insulation.  It will also identify places where you can seal leaks so you spend less money heating the great outdoors. You can get a free home energy audit from BGE.  There are also many other companies that conduct home energy audits.  My home was built in the 1950’s and back then insulation in walls was considered optional.  And my house apparently opted out.  I only discovered this fact a couple years but it explained a lot as to why the house didn’t do a good job of retaining heat.  Since then we have added a significant amount of insulation in the walls and attic. The house stays so much warmer and we are saving money on home heating/cooling.

There are many other ways to become more resilient in the area of home heating.  What have you done or what are you planning to do to keep your home warm in the event of a severe winter weather power outage?  Please share your thoughts/comments so we can all learn from each other.