The lights are out.  Now what?

Alternative Energy 

We have a tendency to take the availability of a variety of energy sources for granted.  Energy supply’s a variety of needs critical to everyday life including lighting, cooking, heating, communication, and even transportation.


Consider these questions: 

· In  an emergency, what will you do when the lights go out and the gas ceases to flow?  

· How will you manage if Cap and Trade legislation is passed and energy costs “necessarily skyrockets? 


This page offers energy options for you to consider in the event of emergency.  It also includes information about how to become more energy independent to so you won’t break the bank when it comes to using energy for your daily living needs, especially in these uncertain times.

Start by tackling the energy preparedness checklist below to see how you and your family stack up.


Energy Resources



How to buy the right backup generator


Warm Up to Winter Storm Preparedness



Preparedness is the key word. Even when winter weather is, over the long term, unpredictable everyone who lives in a place where snow storms are an annual occurrence needs to prepare themselves for the 'mother of all snowstorms.' Here are some tips for preparing your family, preparing your car and preparing your home. But, before the tips, we start with a warning:

Avoid the complacency trap! If, one year, you invest the time and money into preparing for the worst winter storm you can imagine and then it doesn't happen, there is a danger that you will slack off the next year. Don't let that happen! The time when you are not prepared for something is always (or so it seems) when that particular something happens. Not preparing for a bad winter storm could be very costly.

Preparing Your Family

If you don't already have one, put together a disaster supply kit that contains a first aid kit and first aid guide, any special medicines needed by family members, bottled water, ready-to-eat food, juices or other drinks, paper plates, plastic utensils, an assortment of small pots for warming up food or water, some cooking utensils and some cups, warm clothing or protective clothing and heavy shoes and boots, thermal blankets, flashlights or lanterns, candles, extra batteries and extra fuel if you are using camping lanterns, matches in a water-tight case, a battery powered radio and an easy-to-carry container for portability.

After a winter storm you may be stranded at home or several days. As soon as winter starts, make sure your supply of heating fuel is topped off and keep it at an adequate level. It's very possible that power lines will be knocked down and your electricity disrupted; some homes have emergency generators for this eventuality and others have other types of non-electric space heaters. In either case, test and maintain the equipment often to make sure it won't fail you when you need it.

Alternate heating equipment can pose a risk of fire unless used safely and maintained properly. If you use a kerosene heater as an emergency heat source, make sure there is adequate ventilation so the kerosene fumes don't build up and always take it outside to refuel it. Keep all space heaters well away from flammable materials. Make sure you have as many fire extinguishers as required for a home your size, keep them charged up and make sure everyone knows how to use them.

Dress yourself and your children in several layers of lightweight, loose-fitting clothes instead of one layer of heavy clothing. Besides a good, water-repellant coat everyone should have warm head gear along with scarves and gloves or mittens; use the scarf over your mouths to keep the freezing air out of your lungs.

If you have a nearby neighbor or relative who is elderly or disabled, make plans to assist them through a winter emergency.

Preparing Your Car

Keep your car(s) maintained and fueled up more than half way. Unless you're able to do it yourself, have your car(s) winterized by a professional; they will check all the systems to make sure your transportation is usable when you need it. If you have a car you don't use often, it needs to be started and warmed-up at least every two-to-three days.

Prepare a winter emergency kit for each vehicle. Every vehicle needs a shovel, an ice scraper, a flashlight or battery lantern, extra batteries and extra bulbs, a battery powered radio, water, some simple snack food, a few thermal blankets, a tow chain or rope, something to use for traction like road salt, sand or cat gravel, jumper cables, emergency flares and a distress flag. Having a cell phone or some form of emergency communication device with you or in your vehicle at all times is a great idea. During a winter weather event or advisory only drive when you have to -- being stuck on the road somewhere away from your home and family is not a good idea.

Preparing Your Home

Seal up all the places where winter winds can sneak into your home, make sure you have adequate insulation and, if you don't have storm windows or window covers, cover the windows with plastic sheeting.

If you have any outside structures for livestock or equipment, make sure they are in good repair and properly insulated. Any trees with limbs that extend over your home or out buildings should have the branches cut away so they don't fall and damage the roofs. If you have any leaky roofs, they should have been repaired before winter came to your town.

Insulate water pipes with newspaper and plastic to avoid them freezing up. If a pipe bursts, make sure you know where your main water valves are located.

Power Outage Tearsheet.pdf
Wood Stove Primer.pdf
Heating Safety Checklist.pdf
Emergency Lighting.pdf
Live Without Electricity.pdf
How to Prepare for a Power Outage.pdf

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessments



You can easily conduct a do-it-yourself home energy assessment (also known as a home energy audit). With a simple but diligent walk-through, you can spot many problems in any type of house. When assessing your home, keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you found. This list will help you prioritize your energy efficiency upgrades.

Locating Air Leaks

First, make a list of obvious air leaks (drafts). The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5% to 30% per year, and the home is generally much more comfortable afterward. Check for indoor air leaks, such as gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring and at junctures of the walls and ceiling. Check to see if air can flow through these places:

•            Electrical outlets

•            Switch plates

•            Window frames

•            Baseboards

•            Weather stripping around doors

•            Fireplace dampers

•            Attic hatches

•            Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners


Also look for gaps around pipes and wires, electrical outlets, foundation seals, and mail slots. Check to see if the caulking and weather stripping are applied properly, leaving no gaps or cracks, and are in good condition.

Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. See if you can rattle them, since movement means possible air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window leaks. You can usually seal these leaks by caulking or weather stripping them. Check the storm windows to see if they fit and are not broken. You may also wish to consider replacing your old windows and doors with newer, high-performance ones. If new factory-made doors or windows are too costly, you can install low-cost plastic sheets over the windows.

If you are having difficulty locating leaks, you may want to conduct a basic building pressurization test:

First, close all exterior doors, windows, and fireplace flues.

Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters.

Then turn on all exhaust fans (generally located in the kitchen and bathrooms) or use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms.

This test increases infiltration through cracks and leaks, making them easier to detect. You can use incense sticks or your damp hand to locate these leaks. If you use incense sticks, moving air will cause the smoke to waver, and if you use your damp hand, any drafts will feel cool to your hand.

On the outside of your house, inspect all areas where two different building materials meet, including:

1. All exterior corners

2. Where siding and chimneys meet

3. Areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet.


You should plug and caulk holes or penetrations for faucets, pipes, electric outlets, and wiring. Look for cracks and holes in the mortar, foundation, and siding, and seal them with the appropriate material. Check the exterior caulking around doors and windows, and see whether exterior storm doors and primary doors seal tightly.

When sealing any home, you must always be aware of the danger of indoor air pollution and combustion appliance "backdrafts." Backdrafting is when the various combustion appliances and exhaust fans in the home compete for air. An exhaust fan may pull the combustion gases back into the living space. This can obviously create a very dangerous and unhealthy situation in the home.

In homes where a fuel is burned (i.e., natural gas, fuel oil, propane, or wood) for heating, be certain the appliance has an adequate air supply. Generally, one square inch of vent opening is required for each 1,000 Btu of appliance input heat. When in doubt, contact your local utility company, energy professional, or ventilation contractor.


Heat loss through the ceiling and walls in your home could be very large if the insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. When your house was built, the builder likely installed the amount of insulation recommended at that time. Given today's energy prices (and future prices that will probably be higher), the level of insulation might be inadequate, especially if you have an older home.

If the attic hatch is located above a conditioned space, check to see if it is at least as heavily insulated as the attic, is weather stripped, and closes tightly. In the attic, determine whether openings for items such as pipes, ductwork, and chimneys are sealed. Seal any gaps with an expanding foam caulk or some other permanent sealant.

While you are inspecting the attic, check to see if there is a vapor barrier under the attic insulation. The vapor barrier might be tarpaper, Kraft paper attached to fiberglass batts, or a plastic sheet. If there does not appear to be a vapor barrier, you might consider painting the interior ceilings with vapor barrier paint. This reduces the amount of water vapor that can pass through the ceiling. Large amounts of moisture can reduce the effectiveness of insulation and promote structural damage.

Make sure that the attic vents are not blocked by insulation. You also should seal any electrical boxes in the ceiling with flexible caulk (from the living room side or attic side) and cover the entire attic floor with at least the current recommended amount of insulation.

Checking a wall's insulation level is more difficult. Select an exterior wall and turn off the circuit breaker or unscrew the fuse for any outlets in the wall. Be sure to test the outlets to make certain that they are not "hot." Check the outlet by plugging in a functioning lamp or portable radio. Once you are sure your outlets are not getting any electricity, remove the cover plate from one of the outlets and gently probe into the wall with a thin, long stick or screwdriver. If you encounter a slight resistance, you have some insulation there. You could also make a small hole in a closet, behind a couch, or in some other unobtrusive place to see what, if anything, the wall cavity is filled with. Ideally, the wall cavity should be totally filled with some form of insulation material. Unfortunately, this method cannot tell you if the entire wall is insulated, or if the insulation has settled. Only a thermographic inspection can do this.

If your basement is unheated, determine whether there is insulation under the living area flooring. In most areas of the country, an R-value of 25 is the recommended minimum level of insulation. The insulation at the top of the foundation wall and first floor perimeter should have an R-value of 19 or greater. If the basement is heated, the foundation walls should be insulated to at least R-19. Your water heater, hot water pipes, and furnace ducts should all be insulated. For more information, see our insulation section.

Heating/Cooling Equipment

Inspect heating and cooling equipment annually, or as recommended by the manufacturer. If you have a forced-air furnace, check your filters and replace them as needed. Generally, you should change them about once every month or two, especially during periods of high usage. Have a professional check and clean your equipment once a year.

If the unit is more than 15 years old, you should consider replacing your system with one of the newer, energy-efficient units. A new unit would greatly reduce your energy consumption, especially if the existing equipment is in poor condition. Check your ductwork for dirt streaks, especially near seams. These indicate air leaks, and they should be sealed with a duct mastic. Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces. An insulation R-Value of 6 is the recommended minimum.


Energy for lighting accounts for about 10% of your electric bill. Examine the wattage size of the light bulbs in your house. You may have 100-watt (or larger) bulbs where 60 or 75 watts would do. You should also consider compact fluorescent lamps for areas where lights are on for hours at a time. Your electric utility may offer rebates or other incentives for purchasing energy-efficient lamps.

                 Energy Checklist

[   ]        Flashlight(s) and Batteries, Tested and 
             Note 1 : All family members feel more secure 
             if  they have their own flashlight, even if its  
             an LCD light for a two year old. 
             Note 2: Lately the expensive self contained 
             perpetual electric generation by motion or 
             crank lights seem to be worth consideration. 
             There appear to be two   versions, as some 
             have very dull lighting and some are  very 
             bright - test before purchasing. Know usage 



[   ]        Matches/Lighter, Dry, Waterproof Container. 
             Wind Proof Butane lighters work well below 
             7,000 Feet. 
             Magnesium Strikers work all the time,  
             anywhere (not cheap, makes ignition spark, 
             not flame).         
[   ]        Oil burning lamps/lanterns, extra oil, wicks, 
             Oil wicks dry out and any un-used oil in the  
             lantern base will evaporate over time. Wicks 
             may need to  be re-primed with a little oil - 
             be careful, there is a reason that oil lamps 
             are not used much any more - any oil-lamp  
             mismanagement is a fire hazard.    
[   ]        Fire Extinguishers


             ABC Type Rating (only and always)


[   ]        Candles  - Long Burn Time
             Warning: There are times when using 
             candles/oil lamps is a safety hazard (presence 
             of: natural gas, dust/small particles, chemical 
             agents, anything that can burn or explode; 
             also kids, pets, and wind or loose materials 
             create additional safety issues). 
             Warning: Do NOT leave candles unattended 
             and their benefit is for after the disaster, NOT 
             during the disaster.

[   ]        Batteries for all battery operated equipment


             Fuel Checklist


[   ]        Vehicle(s) topped off, and Road Ready.


             Consider evacuation, where/when



[   ]        Plastic Fuel Containers, Appropriate, Correct

             Fuel Type,  Safely Stored.  


             Fuel can be a hazard if not  properly protected,

             mostly used for your    generator) (Metal cans

             rust, full cans prevent water condensation)


[   ]        Propane Fuel Bottle(s), Full


[   ]        Fuel Hose or Fuel Siphoning System


[   ]        Generator, Topped off with Gasoline and Oil.


             Not to be used in a home or enclosed space,

              read the operators manual, know appliance

             Watt ratings.   DO NOT Connect to the house

             current, plug appliance  into extension cord. 


[   ]        Extension Cords: 50 Ft, Heavy Duty, 4 to 8



[   ]        Stove/Grill: Camping type. 


             Propane seems more useful with 10 and 20

             pound bottles (which can be used for other

             items). The system is most useful if it can also

             function from the 1 pound bottles (which are

             commonly sold in "sporting goods"

             departments or stores).  Caution Keep bottles

             current as they expire by law (propane

             suppliers/dealers know requirements).


[   ]        Propane Lantern


             Can run from the same fuel tank as stove

             cooking system and/or from little one pound

             fuel bottles. Use a "tree or gang" hose outlet 

             (mantels, wrench, hoses). See Propane (Cook 

             station) details.


[   ]        Refrigeration/Cooler/Ice (mix solutions if



             Pre set all refrigerators or freezers to coldest

             setting.  Open as little as possible.  Fill empty

             spaces in freezers with containers filled with ice

             water to keep food cool longer.


[   ]        Mini Electric or Propane Operated

             Refrigerator.     Combination Electric and

             Propane is best.


[   ]        Cooler(s)


             Bigger is better, more than one if possible

             (coolers usually can float, if necessary)


[   ]        Ice: If you have a freezer, use the freezer as a



             Pre-Freeze blocks of ice in plastic bags and/or

             buy  (Ice can be a very valuable commodity)


[   ]        Bow Saws, various sizes,  and  spare blades.

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