Aug 152012

National Preparedness Month Coming in September

September is National Preparedness Month and since 2004, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sponsored this program to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies.  No one can stop a disaster but everyone can take steps to get through the disaster with less loss of life and property.  More importantly, most of these steps are simple, inexpensive, and can involve the entire family in the planning and implementation of each disaster plan.
If the Maintenance Guru is going to be involved, you know there will be checklists to assist in the planning process.  Every subscriber to this service has access to the internet so if you have a particular disaster looming, please research the specific disaster to learn what can be done to prepare in advance.  I will offer the following checklist adapted from the Broward County, Florida web page at

The title of this checklist is “Hurricane Kit Checklist” however it would be better titled “Disaster Kit Checklist”  believe it could used for hurricanes, floods, tornados, ice storms, fires, almost anything that could create a loss of power, a need for clean water, warmth, food, medicine, sanitization, and things to occupy the kids when the cell phone and video games no longer work.

Hurricane Kit Checklist
·   Drinking Water: At least one gallon per person per day for three to five days, preferably two weeks. Extra water is needed for food preparation and personal hygiene. To store drinking water, use food-grade containers. You can use clean, airtight containers such as two-liter soda jugs, but no milk containers. If you re-use disposable plastic bottles, do not keep them for more than a month.
·   Food: At least enough for three to five days, including non-perishable packaged or canned food, canned or shelf milk, cereal, etc.; ice and snack foods
·   A three- to five-day supply of special items for babies such as formula, food, wipes, diapers; special foods for the elderly; toiletries and extra toilet paper
·   Manual can opener/bottle opener
·   Paper goods such as plates, bowls, napkins, towels, and plastic eating utensils
·   Unscented household bleach and medicine dropper
·   Extra bedding such as blankets, pillows, sleeping bag, etc. in case you must evacuate
·   Clothing, including rain gear and sturdy shoes
·   First aid kit
·   Medicines/prescription drugs: A two-week supply
·   Hand sanitizer
·   Flashlight and extra batteries
·   Battery-operated or hand-crank radio
·   Disposable batteries, car charger or solar charger for your cell phone
·   Hardline telephone with jack (not cordless)
·   Books and games or toys
·   Pet food, cat litter and other pet care items
·   Tool kit including cord, rope, hammer, wood nails, saw, hatchet or axe, crowbar, chain saw, tarp, duct tape, and heavy work gloves
·   Plastic trash bags and ties
·   Extra resealable plastic storage bags, heavy-duty aluminum foil and disposable aluminum pans
·   Extra charcoal or propane gas for outdoor cooking. Sterno can also be used. Never cook with any of these items inside your house. The smoke and fumes are deadly.
·   Fire extinguisher (ABC type)
·   Matches in a waterproof container
·   Mosquito repellent with DEET, and sunscreen
·   Any special equipment or items you may need

Sep 062011

Many families have found that conducting an energy audit will result in significant benefits, including the discovery of energy inefficiencies and new ways to save on energy costs – perhaps as much as thirty percent – depending upon your family’s energy-use scenario.
Many of the Maintenance Guru’s checklists are designed in part to help you perform energy audits throughout the year. Each month new checklists are provided that help you determine the efficiency of structural, plumbing and electrical items. This audit kind of jumps ahead of the program but will allow you to take a nice survey of the current status of your home.

Steps to Conducting an Energy Audit

1. Assign Responsibility: Energy audits can be performed by the entire family with everyone becoming involved with the process. I encourage you to bring your children into the audit to begin their education on how to care for a home.

2. Gather Energy Data: Review your utility bills from the past year or from a typical twelve-month period. Also, look at data from your accounting records that reflect electric, gas, water, and sewer charges. Plot out the monthly rates on a spreadsheet, record consumption figures, and any other fees for natural gas, electric, water and other utility charges.

Now you are ready to begin your audit. Use the following checklist as a guide.

***Energy Audit Checklist***

• Is your home using the most energy efficient lighting options (incandescent lights should be replaced with new fluorescent bulbs whenever possible)?
• Are there areas that have excessive or unneeded lighting?
• Are you making effective use of available lighting, such as natural sunlight?

Building Envelope:
• Is the building well insulated?
• Does weather stripping around doors and windows need to be replaced? (move a lit candle around window and door openings and if the flame flickers or moves, you may want to consider repairing the seal)
• Are cracks around doors, windows and foundations properly sealed?
• Are there open doors around garages or other frequently accessed areas? Garage doors should be closed to maintain all available warmth in the garage which is next to your climate controlled home)

Heating and Cooling:
• Are furnaces, boilers and air conditioning systems operating efficiently?
• Is there a regular maintenance and update schedule for these systems?
• Are filters replaced regularly?

Motors and Equipment:
• Is your equipment maintained so that it is operating at maximum efficiency?
• Are machines shut down when not in use?
• Are fan belts at the proper tension and in good condition?

Energy Behavior:
• Are lights, fans and equipment (computer, printers, etc.) turned off when not in use?
• Are building temperatures set back when not in use? (VERY IMPORTANT, you don’t leave your car’s heater or air conditioner on while you are not in the car, don’t shouldn’t leave your home heater or air conditioner on either)

Establish a realistic target for future energy usage. For example, try to reduce your consumption by 5% next month (over the same month last year).
Helpful Hints
• Don’t run partial loads of clothes through your washer and dryer.
• Let clothes air dry when possible.
• Make sure your dish washer is full before turning it on.
• Turn your thermostat off when you leave the house (or down so the heat/air doesn’t come on so often).
• Turn your computers off when they are not in use.
• Turn your lights off when you leave a room.
• Do not leave ceiling fans on when you are not in the room. (They only provide value when you are in the room, as soon as you leave, the fan simply runs up your energy bill).
• Close your blinds to keep the sun out in the summer in rooms you do not use like spare bedrooms.
• Close doors and vents in rooms you don’t use.
• Let me know what other tips you have to conserve energy.
• If you are thinking of replacing appliances, remember that usually the older an appliance is, the less efficient it is.

Try writing down the date and time you walked into rooms and the lights were on or a computer was left running when nobody was there or some other appliance was left on like a television or stereo. Have your entire family do the same thing. At the end of the week, combine your results and discuss them.

The first step to energy savings is being aware of wasteful practices. Over time, you will be surprised what your savings will be.

I will be posting reminders each month to review your energy usage from the same month last year at try to use 5% less energy this month.

Signed, the Maintenance Guru.