Living Green for July 12, 2012

Feeling powerless without electricity?

We all take our electricity for granted, at least until the moment we don't have it anymore.

Electricity is something we can't seem to live without, especially since we've been using it for more than 140 years. In today's electrically-dependent world, we surround ourselves in the luxury of what electricity has to offer from smart phones and television to computers, refrigerators and air conditioners. We can't seem to live without any of these devices in our daily lives.

We are such a connected society that when we get disconnected for any period of time, frustration and confusion sets in. And, eventually, boredom. According to a 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8 to 18 spend more than 53 hours per week with devices such as smart phones and computers. Also, since most of them multi-task with multimedia, they actually pack additional hours into that 53-hour average.

The last few weeks have brought intense thunderstorms across the East Coast, especially in the Washington D.C. area, where more than 3 million people were without power for several days. The worst part was that it happened during the extreme heat of summer. For some, it took anywhere from two to four days for power to return to the area, perhaps longer. Food was spoiled and people simply tried to function in miserable conditions. Many flocked to shopping malls and movie theaters, just for the relief of air conditioning and the ability to charge their phones. Others lined up at fast food joints to satisfy their appetites, after they lost food from their out of commission fridges.

While this storm came without warning, several summer storms have been brewing in our own area. So, don't get caught with your pants down. Here are some ideas to keep you from feeling powerless, even though you are without power.

● Take advantage of the heat and humidity by investing in your friendships, especially those friends who own pools. There is nothing better than cooling down in a pool with a bunch of friends. If you own a pool, plan a pool party with your friends and neighbors to beat the heat.

● Stock up on a good-sized (and good quality, not Styrofoam) cooler as a back up for your drinks and food items. However, don't rely on it for raw meats or dairy for risking illness, just in case of long term power outages.

● Stock up on bottled water, especially in case something happens to your water supply. In this weather, you must stay hydrated, otherwise you could fall victim to heat exhaustion.

● Make sure you have a supply of propane for your grill. If you lose power, you can go ahead and thaw out those steaks in the freezer and fire them up on the grill for dinner.

● Most homeowners don't realize that their insurance policy may pay for spoiled food from a power outage, even if the house hasn't been damaged by a storm. Check the clauses in your policy or contact your insurance company to make sure “refrigerated/frozen foods” is covered and in some cases it is an optional small fee to add to an existing policy.

Homeowners should try to practice energy-savings even when the electricity is on. For example, open the blinds and let the sunlight shine into a room, instead of switching on the lights. Keep the dryer off and dry your clothes outside on a line - with the heat it may dry faster than the dryer cycle inside. Change your air filter regularly to keep your unit running efficiently. Turn off the computer and/or television and do an activity that doesn’t require electricity.

Speaking of being without power, an interesting science fiction television show is coming to NBC this fall called “ Revolution” produced by J.J. Abrams, who has produced shows such as “ Lost,” “ Fringe” and “ Alias.” “ Revolution” takes place in a post-apocalyptic future when all electricity and technology has been questionably disabled. People have to adapt to life without electricity, but wars are taking place and the question hangs, why was electricity disabled? I'm honestly very curious about the show in how they portray life without electricity. How do these people survive without television, Internet, cell phones or refrigerators? There was a time that generations survived without electricity, using elements such as fire to heat and cook. However, in the U.S., we have lived for so long not knowing any other way. It seems that if we’re disconnected from electricity for any period of time, we would all be left completely powerless.