Monday, December 11, 2017

Resource Miser 01: Reducing home energy use, and costs, by 60%

This is the first in a series of articles I am planning on energy and resource efficiency. In addition to saving lots of money, energy and resource efficiency is a key component to self-sufficiency. The series, which I am calling Resource Miser, will run bi-weekly.

How I Reduced My Home Energy Use, and Costs, by 60%

A few years ago, I went about making my family home of about 1,500 square feet more energy efficient. Some of the things done included:

     1.  Repairs to the shell of the home
     2.  Repairs to the insulation under the house
     3.  Replaced old appliances with energy efficient models
     4.  Replaced old windows with energy-efficient windows
     5.  Switched most indoor lights to CFLs*
     6.  Replaced shower heads w/ low-flow shower heads
     7.  Filled in gaps where pipes & wires come into the house (kitchen, bathrooms, utility room) with a can of spray foam insulation.

As a result of these repairs, I was able to reduce my home's energy use by about 60% on a monthly basis compared to the previous year. Please note that this was achieved without any change in lifestyle or personal behavior, but rather through energy efficiency only.

The total cost of all this was about $6,800. Between the lower monthly energy bills and the tax credit for the new energy-efficient windows, the break even point on this investment was slightly less than three years. Since then, the significant monthly savings has been money in the bank.

The really great thing is that electricity prices could literally double and my monthly power bill will still be lower than it was before these improvements.  How is that for a hedge against inflation?

I feel certain that most American homes, and businesses for that matter, could probably achieve similar energy savings by simply making their buildings more energy efficient.

Of course, wasteful actions (usually due to simple thoughtlessness) should be stopped as part of achieving energy efficiency. Again, this can be done without major changes in lifestyle or personal behavior:

     1.  Turn off lights when not in a room
     2.  Turn off radios, TVs & other electronics when not in use
     3.  Unplug battery chargers when not being used
     4.  Unplug unnecessary clocks, kitchen gadgets & so forth
     5.  Set thermostats lower in winter (wear sweaters, use an extra blanket)
     6.  Set thermostats higher in summer (electric fans make you feel 5° cooler)
     7.  Take quick showers (less hot water used = less energy used = more money saved)

Remember, the more energy you save, the more money you save. Good luck, and good savings...

*Notes on CFLs

1- CFL bulbs have gotten a bad rap in recent years due to their mercury content.  The fact is that modern CFLs contain less than 30% the mercury contained in the CFLs that first came on the market. Unbroken, CFLs pose no mercury danger. And it would take 125 broken modern CFLs to equal the amount of mercury contained in that old thermometer that is probably sitting in your bathroom cabinet.  

2- CFLs are also controversial because many governments are mandating their use. I am a free market guy, therefore I am against laws mandating their use. In a free market system, people should have choice in products they purchase.

3- Still don't want CFL's? Consider LED lighting. LED lights are more expensive , but dropping in price lately. And they are even more energy efficient than CFL's.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

You can't afford to prepare? Here are tings you can do for FREE!

Having been around the prepper/survivalist world for well over a decade now, the number one complaint I hear from folks is that they "can't afford to get prepared." Having a lot of spare cash to spend on food, gear, and other stuff would be nice, but the fact is there is a lot you can do for FREE to get prepared. Money is simply not an excuse for not preparing for the bad times that are ahead. Here are some things you can do to get ready without having to spend any extra money:

Have a discussion. Having a discussion and making plans with your spouse, kids, friends and relatives costs nothing. You need to make some decisions and plans before the SHTF, and make sure everyone involved is on the same page in knowing what to do. I suggest you start by reading my short article Disaster Planning: Understanding Potential Disasters. Then, consider your particular situation, circumstances, and concerns carefully. Discuss them with your spouse. Make written plans. Make lists of what you need to do or buy (when you have some extra money). 

Improve your finances. This will take some time and hard work, but it can be done. Many of the tips I give in my article Prepping 101: Finances - Get Back to Basics don't cost anything to do, and will help improve your finances greatly over time. Get on a budget or make out a spending plan. Avoid impulse purchases by using a shopping list and sticking to it. Cancel any unnecessary newspaper or magazine subscriptions. Use coupons, compare prices, and shop sales. Shop around to see if you can save money on your home or auto insurance, cell phone plans, etc. Consider cutting back on your cable or satellite TV subscriptions. Avoid overdraft or late payment fees by keeping close track of your spending and bills. Have a yard sale to raise some extra cash and declutter your house at the same time.

Improve your health and fitness. Improving your health and fitness doesn't require gym memberships, special exercise equipment, or expensive "health foods." Here are some FREE health & fitness tips you can start doing today:
  • Drink water instead of sodas or sweet tea. You don't have to buy bottled water, as tap water works just as well (and the dirty little secret of most bottled waters is that they really are just tap water).
  • Skip the desserts. You'll lose weight and save money at the same time.
  • Skip the late night snacks. You'll lose weight and save money at the same time.
  • Eat healthier. This doesn't mean buying special health foods or more costly organic foods.  Instead, it means eating less junk foods, fast foods, & sweets, and more veggies, especially leafy-greens and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower).
  • Go for a walk. Walking is great exercise. Try to start with a 15-minute walk each day, and over the next several weeks try to work your way up to 45-minutes tor even an hour. Walk around your neighborhood, in your local mall (great way to walk on a rainy day), or at local parks & greenways. Don't quit. The key to walking for fitness is consistency
  • Be active. Yard work - such as cutting grass with a push mower, gardening, raking leaves, chopping wood - makes great FREE exercise. In fact, anything that raises your pulse rate and causes you to lightly sweat counts as exercise. 
  • Check out your local parks. Local parks often have walking/jogging trails, tennis courts, basketball courts, obstacle/fitness courses, and other opportunities for FREE exercise. 
  • Calisthenics are FREE. Stretching exercises and calisthenics are FREE. Jumping jacks, sit-ups, toe-touches, leg squats,  push-ups, etc., require no special equipment and cost nothing. 
  • Stop smoking. Yes, this is hard. But it can be done for FREE and it will even save you hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars a year.  
Putting together a survival or bug-out bag? Don't let a lack of money stop you. You don't need to buy a new backpack, which could easily run you $100+ for a high-quality heavy-duty bag with features like molle webbing. Those are great, but costly. Instead, make do with old backpacks, bookbags, duffel bags, or even tote bags. You likely already have some of these around your house. If not, ask your friends if they have any extras they are not using. As far as the gear you put inside, you don't need to buy brand new stuff. Make do with what you find around the house. For example, matches and lighters work just as well (actually, better) as celebrity-branded fire starters. VikingPreparedness (Pastor Joe Fox) has a YouTube video on making a quick, no-cost survival bag out of stuff found around the house.

Store some extra water. Tap water works just fine. You may already have some water jugs & containers with your camping or picnic gear. Use them for your emergency water storage. If you don't, there are other FREE options such as using 2-liter soda bottles (ask friends to save you some if you don't drink soda). Glass wine bottles also work. I buy one or two 3-liter bottles of table wine every month or two anyway, so I've been saving the empty bottles (they have screw-on tops) and using them to store water. (If you do buy water storage containers, please avoid the Ozark Trail 6-gal water jugs, which are defective - see my article Prepper Alert! Defective Product Design).

 Use your library card. Libraries are a great source of FREE entertainment and FREE information. You can check out a wide range of books on gardening, canning, country skills, health & first aid, home improvement & DIY, fishing, hunting, nature field guides, edible wild plants, wilderness survival, personal finance, and so forth. Entertainment, too, can be had for FREE at your local library, and not just books to read. Many libraries today have DVDs, board games, puzzles, and other types of entertainment that you can check out for FREE, as well as story times for kids and lecture series for adults. 

Exploit FREE information from the web. If you are reading this, you're on the Internet anyway. There are a lot of great websites and YouTube channels full of useful information for you to read or watch. This website ( is full of prepping, survival, and homesteading informationYou should also check out PrepperWebsite for daily links to the best prepper & survivalist articles on the web. Also, check out, the "Granddaddy" of all prepper/survival websites. There are, of course, lots of other great websites and You Tube channels for you to discover.

You may also be interested in my article, 2017 Edition: FREE Resources for Preppers, Survivalists & Homesteaders

Work on your relationship with God. I believe in God, and that He can and does answer prayers. Perhaps non-religious folks will try dismiss that aspect of faith, but there are aspects you cannot dismiss. My faith, my relationship with God, provides me with great comfort, hope, peace, and joy. It relieves my anxiety and fear. It helps me stay calm and focused by providing me with inner strength, clearly defining my priorities, and providing an ethical framework for my decision making. All these are extremely useful benefits during times times of high stress, confusion, and turmoil. Even the most non-religious among us must recognize the importance of a good mental attitude to surviving difficult times. I suggest praying and reading the Bible daily.

Not sure about God? Check out the website Peace with God, by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  

Friday, December 8, 2017

An Overlooked Item for Your Bug-Out Vehicles and Generators
An extremely important, but often overlooked, piece of gear everyone should have in their bug-out vehicle is a portable fuel filter, such as the Mr. Funnel portable fuel filtersPortable fuel filters remove water, dirt, and other debris from gasoline and diesel, thereby protecting the engine from harm. (They can also be used to filter kerosene, propane, and heating oil.) Clean fuel is extremely important for your vehicle (and tractor, and generator, and so forth).

Why would you need to use a portable fuel filter? At least three reasons come to mind: 1) In a bug-out situation you may be filling up using gas stored in five-gallon cans (or other storage tanks), which may have developed water issues due to condensation build-up (any air space inside the gas can will allow condensation, even if you are using additives such Sta-Bil). 2) You may be filling up at unfamiliar gas stations that you simply don't know the quality of the fuel. 3) Or, particularly in a slow collapse scenario, the quality of available gasoline may become "spotty" even with brands/stations that you are familiar with, as the infrastructure slowly deteriorates. 

Portable fuel filters come in multiple sizes with different flow rates (examples: the AF1CB filter has a flow rate of up to 2.5 gallons per minute, and the larger AF15CB filter has a flow rate of up to 15 gallons per minute).

Smaller fuel filters, with slower flow rates (1 or 2 gallons per minute) are less expensive and work best for smaller quantities, such as filtering the gas going into a lawn mower or small tractor. The larger filters with higher flow rates are more expensive but work better for fueling a vehicle with a large gas tank. For example, my Nissan Pathfinder has an 18 gallon tank. A small filter with a 2.5 gallon flow rate would take more than seven minutes for a fill-up. However, a larger filter with a 15 gallon flow rate would only take a little over a minute.

Note: Don't cross contaminate. Use a separate portable fuel filter for each type of fuel. In other words, have separate filters for gasoline, diesel, heating oil, kerosene, and propane.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Personal/Family Preparedness Assessment

How prepared are you and your family for a disaster? Here are some questions and considerations to think about and discuss as you assess you and your family's preparedness:

Are you informed of the possible risks you and your family may face? Have you thought through all the possible risks you and your family may face? What natural or man-made disasters are likely for your area? What are your area's chances for earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, or severe winter storms? Do you have any nearby nuclear facilities, power plants, or industrial sites that may pose special hazards? Are you near potential targets for a terrorist attack? What are your concern's for possible economic or political problems?  Do you know your local community's warning systems, emergency plans, and evacuation routes?

(Check out my article Disaster Planning: Understanding Potential Disasters for more on understanding potential risks.)

Do you have a Disaster Preparedness Plan? Are your plans written down, with specific details? Or, are your plans mostly "in your head" with few concrete details?  Have you shared your plan with everyone involved (spouse, children, other close family and friends) and gotten their feedback? A plan really isn't a plan until its been well-thought out, written down, reviewed by all concerned, adjusted, re-written, tested, and implemented.

Do you have a Family Communications Plan? Do you have an up-to-date list of family, friends, and other contacts? People move, phone numbers change, and email changes even more often - that list you put together five years ago is unlikely to still be current. Does everyone in your family have a list of important phone numbers? Do your kids know who to call next if they can't get you on the phone for some reason (perhaps Grandma, or Aunt Ida)? A disaster is unlikely to happen at a convenient and predictable time when everyone is together. Also, phones and Internet my be down during, and even after, a disaster. The situation wiull be chaotic and confused. More than just an address book or contact list with phone numbers. a communications plan let's everyone know how and when to get in touch with each other, and what to do if they cannot. 

Do you have a fully stocked first aid kit at home? I'm not talking about a few band-aids, a bottle of aspirin, and a dried up tube of triple-antibiotic ointment scattered around your house, but rather a fully-stocked and well-organized kit. You shouldn't have to search through all your bathroom and kitchen drawers to find what you need in an emergency.

(Click here for a fairly comprehensive first aid kit (326 pieces) for only $35) 

Have you taken an actual first aid course recently? Having a first aid manual that you quickly skimmed through once right after you bought it doesn't count as training. Nor does your boy scout training from 30 years ago. Everyone in your family/group needs actual first aid training with refresher courses every so often.

Do you have a fire extinguisher in your home? Is it still within its expiration date? Does everyone know how to use it? Do you have a fire extinguisher n your vehicle?

(I have several Fire Gone fire extinguishers in my home. They are easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and work on Class A, B, and C fires.) 

How quickly would you run out of water, if your water was unexpectedly cut-off for some reason? If you have your own well, assume the pump breaks for some reason and cannot be quickly replaced. Do you have enough stored water to last a week? Two weeks? Do you know how and where to collect water and how to purify water? 

(The Lifestraw Family Water Filter can purify over 4,700 gallons of water, without the need for chemicals, for under $75.)

If you should not purchase any food at a store or restaurant for one week, would you have enough food stored at home to eat during that week? Expand that period to two weeks, then one month, then six-months. What holes do yu have in your food storage plan? 

(My favorite food storage book: Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton.)

Gasoline can quickly disappear during a crisis. Check your vehicles' gas tanks at the moment. Are they full or near-full (good)? Or have you let them get down to near empty (bad)? Do you have any extra fuel safely stored for emergency use? How much? If you have a bug-out location, could you get there today without having to buy gas?

Do you have an alternative ( bug-out) location picked out if you must leave your home location for any reason during an emergency? Do you know how to get there without using GPS, google maps, or other internet-based resource? Do you know at least one alternative route to that location should the main route be blacked for some reason? Have you ore-positioned any supplies at your alternative location? 

If your plans include producing your own food, are you already doing so? Did you grow a garden, raise chickens, go hunting, or go fishing, last year? Do you plan on doing so in 2017? Do you already have seeds for this coming year? Do you already have the tools you need? What if a collapse happens before you get your garden planted this year, and you cannot buy what you need? 

Are your finances currently "in order?" How much credit card debt do you have? Do you have any auto-loans? Student loans? Other debt? Is your mortgage paid off? Are you spending less than you earn (are a saver), or more than you get (still in a debtor mentality)? Do you have an emergency fund? How many months worth of expenses is in your emergency savings account? Do you have any cash safely stored at home in case ATMs aren't working or their is a bank holiday declared? Do you have any savings in the form of tangibles (such as gold or silver)? Do you have possession of them (good), or are they stored for you by someone else (such as in  a bank safe-deposit box, or with a broker)? In a full collapse scenario, do you really think you can get a second-party to turn your gold or silver back over to you even if you have a certificate saying that you own it (answer: no)? 

(Please see my article Prepping 101: Finances - Get Back to Basics.)

Are you and your spouse in agreement on your preparedness plans? Do you agree on what to do, where to go, when to go, how to get there, in an emergency?

(Having trouble getting your spouse on board with prepping? Please see may article How To Talk To Non-Preppers Without Turning Them Off to Prepping.)

Do you have any "special needs" folks in your family/group? Special needs individuals include many more than just the physically or mentally handicapped, and includes babies, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, folks with chronic illnesses (high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, MS, MD, cancer, etc.), and folks with mental illness and addictions (including tobacco or alcohol). 

(Please see my article Special Needs Prepping.) 

Have you planned for your pets and any livestock in an emergency? Do you have food, water, medical supplies stored for them?If you have to "bug out," what happens to your animals? Will you take them with you? How?

What is your current state of health and physical fitness? What is the current health and physical fitness of all the other members of your family/group? When was the last time you had a health exam? A dental exam? An eye exam? Do you have any issues that need to be addressed at the moment, such as dental issues or new glasses, that you have been putting off? How far can you walk, carrying your bug-out-bag (BOB) or survival kit? Is that just a guess, or have you actually tried walking that distance recently? 

Have you made a list of the various skills of individual members of your family/group? What skills do you have covered by at least two members? What useful skills are missing from your group? Some of the many possible skills include leadership, advanced first aid, nursing, dental, and other medical, veterinary, auto mechanics, small engine repair, home repair/DIY skills, hunting, trapping, fishing, gardening, canning, sewing, animal husbandry, plumbing, woodworking, electrical work, carpentry, butchering (game & livestock), security/defense, ham radio operator, tinker (repair, sharpen, maintain knives & tools), and so forth...  Make a list of the skills you want your group to have, make an (honest) assessment of the current skills within the group, then start filling in holes by seeking training or additional group members.

These are just a few of many, many possible questions you can ask yourself and your family/group to assess your true state of preparedness for whatever difficult times that may be ahead. I hope this list helps you get started an a through assessment of your plans.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Emergency Numbers and Websites Everyone Should Know (Updated & Expanded)

This article updates and greatly expands an article I originally published a few years ago.

Here is a list of Emergency Numbers and Contact Information you should have with you at all times. It contains four major sections: 1) Emergency, Crisis, and Helplines, 2) a list of personal and local numbers you may need in an emergency, 3) Mental Health Help, and 4) Legal Help with Homeschooling, Second Amendment/Self-Defense, and Freedom of Religion issues.

 9-1-1 = General Emergency Number in USA & Canada 

General Emergency Numbers Around the World

911 - Emergency Police/Fire/Ambulance in the USA & Canada
066 - Emergency in Mexico
112 - Emergency in most (not all) of Europe
000 - Emergency in Australia
111 - Emergency in New Zealand
999 - Hong Kong
117 - The Philippines

Some countries have specific numbers for the type of emergency:

Israel & India  = Police: 100   Ambulance: 101   Fire: 102
Japan = Police: 110   Ambulance/Fire: 119
South Korea = Police: 112   Ambulance/Fire: 119
China = Police: 100   Ambulance: 120   Fire: 119

South America and Africa: emergency numbers vary widely, check with the individual country. 

Other Emergency, Crisis and Helplines 

Poison Control Center: 1-800-222-1222

Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435 [a fee may apply].

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Veteran's Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): 1-202 324-3000

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
General contact number: 1-202-646-2500
For disaster survivors: 1-800-621-3362

American Red Cross
General contact number: 1-800-733-2767
For help contacting a service member during an emergency: 1-877-272-7337

Salvation Army
(The Salvation Army offers many services, including disaster relief, missing persons, and veterans' assistance. Please see their website for additional information and contacts.)

Other Numbers You May Want In an Emergency

You should put together a list of personal and local numbers that you may need in an emergency. Contact information you may wish to have include:
  • Your family, friends, neighbors, etc.
  • Your pastor/priest/rabbi, etc.
  • Your child's school.
  • Your state's Highway Patrol.
  • Local non-emergency fire and police numbers.
  • Various local government offices & services.
  • Your mechanic and local tow truck company.
  • Your local water, power, and gas companies.
  •  Local hospitals.
  • Your doctors, dentist, eye doctor, veterinarian, pharmacy, etc.
  • Your insurance companies (health, auto, property, life, etc.) - keep your account numbers with the contact info.
  • Your bank and other financial institutions.
  • Your work related numbers and contacts.

Mental Health Crisis / Issues

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Veteran's Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline – 1-877-726-4727
(Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.)

Refer to the article Finding Help: When to Get It and Where to Go on the Mental Health America website.

Local clergy often will be able to refer you to local programs, support groups, and counselors that can help.

Addicted to Tobacco? See Quitting Smoking (on the American Cancer Society website)

Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous 

Legal Help with Homeschooling Issues

Home School Legal Defense Association
Telephone: 540-338-5600 / fax 2733 

Legal Help with Second Amendment Issues

The Shooter's Bar -- Pro Second-Amendment Attorneys

JPFO Guide to 2A/CCW Oriented Attorneys 

Legal Help with Freedom of Religion Issues

American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ)
Legal helpline: 1-757-226-2489

Christian Law Association (ALC)
Telephone: 1-888-252-1969

Liberty Counsel
Telephone: 1-407-875-1776

Liberty Institute
Telephone: 1-972-941-4444

Alliance Defending Freedom
Toll Free: 1-800-835-5233