Being prepared for the worst the world can throw our way is admirable, but looking at the real-world problems most of us are going through right now, and taking the right steps to correct them is even better.
One issue most homeowners are concerned about is the climbing cost of energy in this country. We have taken steps to cut drafts coming in through poorly sealed windows and other openings, closed dampers in our fireplace chimneys, swapped incandescent lightbulbs for CFL's and turned down our thermostats, all to little or no avail.
The energy audit
Doing an energy audit is the best way to pin point leaks and unexplained high-use appliances. Some utilities offer this service for free, or you can contract with an energy audit company to do the job for you. For DIY's, there are as number of tests that can be performed that cost little or nothing. As energy breaches in your home are found and corrected, you will recognize savings almost immediately in your utility bills.
Close all windows and outside doors. Light an incense stick and move it around the outer edges of the windows and doors. Movement of the trailing smoke will show you where a draft is coming through. Check the window from the outside, and seal any cracks using a latex sealant. Do the same for all windows. Save up to $20 annually per window on your utility bill.
"Phantom" appliances and computer hardware
The biggest users of electricity are the appliances and other electronics we don't know about. They are the accessories we keep plugged in to recharge other equipment, like cell phone chargers, computers, stereos and flat-screen televisions, to name a few. Put all these appliances on a power strip. At night, or when they are not in use, turn the power strip off.
Hot water heaters and refrigerators
Short of buying new energy efficient appliances, there are some steps that can be taken to improve the efficiency of older water heaters and refrigerators. Water heater tanks older than 10 years usually have fiberglass insulation. The newer energy efficient models have foam insulation. Touch the outside of the tank, and if it's warm, it lacks sufficient insulation. Remedy this by purchasing a pre-cut water heater blanket with a rating of R-8 or higher. While you're at it, wrap the exposed hot water lines, too. That is another savings on energy.
If your refrigerator is 20 or more years old, there is no way to bring it up to the energy efficiency of today's models. However, cleaning the coils on a regular basis and keeping the door gasket clean will improve the efficiency of the refrigerator.
Making a start now on saving on your energy bills will have an impact on energy costs in a broader sense, especially if everyone tries to do the same. This is what good energy preparedness is all about.