Personal Energy Audit
You can’t really be prepared to deal with a prolonged power outage if you don’t know how your family uses energy on a day-to-day basis.
That’s where a personal energy audit comes in.
A typical home energy audit is meant to identify where you’re wasting energy. Then you can make changes to improve your energy usage. And that can save you money.
The type of home energy audit that I’m going to share with you today takes this process a step further to help you become truly prepared to handle any power outage that comes your way.
Saving Energy, Saving Money
With instability in the Middle East reaching a fever pitch and with the hostile policies of the Obama administration toward coal, oil, and natural gas, you can bet that energy prices will be going up.
But that doesn’t mean that your wallet has to take a hit. Trimming your energy consumption is easier than you think. Just grab a pad of paper and a pen, and we’ll get started.
The first step is to do a walk-through of your house and make a list of all the places you’re “leaking” energy. Look for:
- Air leaks
- Inadequate insulation
- Clogged filters
- Poor lighting choices
- Appliances you left plugged in
Every one of these things could be costing you dollars you don’t need to spend. Take notes on the problems you find. Then make a list of the steps you need to take to correct each one. You can seal air leaks with caulk or weather stripping. Updating your insulation is a bigger project—one that you’ll probably want to hire a professional to do—but it can save you money in the long run. Changing your furnace filter on a monthly basis is an easy way to lower energy costs. So, is switching out high-energy light bulbs for lower-watt options. Unplugging appliances that you don’t use regularly is another quick way to cut your power usage.
Taking all of these simple steps will add up to significant savings that you can put toward developing a back-up energy plan should the power ever go down for days or even weeks.
But saving energy is just the first step.
Make an Energy Map for Your Family
The next step is to understand how you and your family use power, so that you can prepare to go without it if you need to.
Start with a list of all the different things you use in a typical week that demand power. Be as detailed as possible.
- Smart phones
- Alarm clocks
- Heat and/or air conditioning
- Lights and lamps
- Hot water heater
- Washing machine
- T.V. and stereo
Your own list will likely have several (if not all) of these items, plus some additional ones that you discover as you conduct your audit.
Review Your Energy Demands
Once you’ve completed this list, sit down and review each item, asking yourself three questions:
- Can I go without this, and for how long?
- Is there an alternative to this that does not demand power?
- How much power does this task demand?
Answering these three questions for each item on your list will help you develop an action plan for dealing with power outages of any duration.
Some things on your list, you’ll be able to go without indefinitely. You can live without your TV, for example. Your children or grandchildren might be bored for a day or two, but they will quickly learn to entertain themselves in other ways.
It would be harder—not to mention, unsanitary—to go without washing your clothes for an extended period of time. Fortunately, you can find alternatives that don’t require power. You can wash clothes using a bucket and a washboard, and then hang them on a clothesline to dry.
This is a good time to start making a list of items that you would need to endure a power outage with the greatest sense of normalcy. In this case, if you don’t have a washboard, that would go on your list.
You’ll also find that some things just don’t have a power-free alternative. Running a freezer or refrigerator, for example. If you need to keep things cold, you’re going to need power. And that means having a back-up power source like a generator.
Purchasing a generator is a smart move. But you need to know, before a power outage ever happens, what you can expect from your generator. It pays to know how much power your must-have appliances use. Then you can figure out beforehand how well your generator can support them.
To determine an appliance’s power usage, divide its wattage rating by the voltage your generator supplies. This calculation will tell you how many amps the appliance will use per hour. Based on that you can figure out if your generator can run that appliance, and how long it will run it for before you have to refuel or recharge the generator.
This information will help you make purchasing decisions. For example, you may decide that your fridge is too power hungry to run with a generator. But a small stand-alone freezer could give you the cooling capacity you need without being such an energy hog. In that case, if you don’t already have one, a stand-alone freezer would go on your list of items to purchase.
Armed with the knowledge you gain from your personal, home energy audit, you can make informed decisions about how you and your family will weather a prolonged power outage. That little bit of preparedness now can make all the difference during a disaster later.