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How To Prepare Your Home For Peak Oil. By Andy Patterson
Peak Oil refers to the point when worldwide oil production peaks and demand keeps rising. Many experts, including energy advisor to presidents, Matt Simmons believe we are just past that point. The current "energy crisis" with $4.00 gas is barely a hint of what is to come in the future. It is very possible with $200 a barrel oil that things we take for granted like air travel and living in the suburbs will not be affordable to most people. Documentaries such as "The End Of Suburbia" propose that we will have to abandon living so far away from our jobs and stores because of the cost of motor fuel.
I personally believe that there is a middle truth, something in between abandoning our homes in the suburbs and living in dense high rise buildings because of Peak Oil. Unlike much of the world the population of the United States is barely rising so space is not an issue. New advances in fuel efficient vehicles such as the Prius will allow us to live as we do now and commute 15 to 30 miles to a job without undue expense, but only if we adopt these kind of vehicles and also phase in plug in hybrids that can use electricity generated by sources such as wind and solar.
One habit we will have to give up is building "McMansions" with multiple rooms for a family or two or three. This concept is uniquely North American and is not sustainable with high energy costs. The cost of oil used in the building materials and transporting those materials for huge homes alone will bring this lunacy to an end. No draconian government mandates will be needed to put an end to over sized homes, they will simply become unaffordable for the average person to build as Peak Oil drags on.
The second thing that will cause us to abandon large homes will be rising energy costs. There is no panacea that will provide us with free, limitless energy. At best a massive push to wind power may provide us with only 25% of our needs. Energy requirements from plug in hybrids will require more energy as well so our cost per kilowatt hour will continue to rise.
In many parts of the United States homeowners routinely pay electricity bills of $400 and up during the summer months even for modest sized homes. Imagine that cost doubling to $800, $1600 or more? In a few years you could be paying as much for electricity and other forms of energy to heat and cool your home as your mortgage.
What Should You Do To Prepare for Peak Oil Era Electricity and Energy Prices?
On thing you can do right now it to find ways to reduce your total energy use, including trading in your gas guzzler for a hybrid or smaller more efficient vehicle.
Here are some ways to cut your electricity bill now and prepare for peak oil.
1. Wrap Your hot water heater with a fiberglass insulating jacket and turn down its thermostat.
2. Install solar screens on your windows in the summer and paint your home a lighter color if you live in a warm climate. Darker if you live in a cold climate.
3. Install solar attic or whirlybird vents and soffit vents if you live in a hot climate.
4. Install a programmable thermostat and learn how to use it to heat and cool you home only when you are home.
5. Put all of you entertainment devices on a power strip and turn it off. Many TV's, TIVO etc use energy even when they are "off".
6. Install weather stripping on your windows and doors. Seal any cracks in the outside with caulking and spray foam.
7. Add attic insulation, as much as you can afford.
8. Replace refrigerators with Energy Star qualified models and unplug any ones you don't use.
9. Replace ALL your bulbs with compact fluorescents.
10. Install insulated drapes.
There are more techniques you can learn from http://energystar.gov but these are a a good start in preparing for peak oil. The faster you start to prepare for Peak Oil, the more ahead of the game you will be. You may also want to make major changes, such as downsizing your home, moving closer to your job and getting rid of gas guzzling toys such as large ski boats, or owning them in a partnership with friends..
Peak oil is already bringing higher food costs. Instead of planting ornamental plants consider mini gardens with edible plants that are also attractive, fruit trees instead of ornamental trees and dedicating a portion of your back yard to a large garden.
Water costs will continue to rise since water must be pumped with electricity and fossil fuels. Consider Xeriscaping or planting with native plants and grasses that use less water. You will save hundreds of dollars per year in watering and fertilizer costs plus these plants do not require as much costly and harmful fertilizers and chemicals.
Preparing your family and home for Peak Oil requires a wholistic approach. You don't have to do it all at once but the sooner you start the better you will be able to survive the "Long Emergency".