Along with disrupting tens of thousands of lives, Hurricane Katrina also disrupted the nation's energy production and supply lines.
Gasoline prices soaring by 50 cents a gallon in a single day at some stations portends an even harsher winter than expected when it comes to heating and energy related prices.
Days after Katrina left in it's wake what's likely to become the nation's largest ever natural disaster, President George Walker Bush called on the nation to conserve.
"If you don't need gasoline, don't buy it," he said at a press conference Sept. 1 flanked by former presidents William Jefferson Clinton and his father George Herbert Walker Bush.
The two have been tapped again to grow a relief fund much like they did following the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004.
As the nation taps oil reserves, drills salt canyons in Louisiana and Texas for oil, eases air pollution standards to allow the use of higher sulfur-content diesel fuel and seeks to waive restrictions on foreign ships moving gasoline and other refined petroleum products between U.S. ports, conservation can add as much or more to the supply of energy than any one of those federal moves.
First, take the "Home Report Card Quiz" to see if your home makes the grade for energy conversation.
Then, consider these less known, cost-effective approaches to conservation as the weather cools.
- Add a layer to your attic insulation, especially if your home was built before 1980. Heat can escape through the ceiling, past the roof and into the atmosphere. Cold can get in. Insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to help cut heating and cooling costs and make your home more comfortable. If you have less than 12 inches of insulation, you probably need more. Also add insulation to crawl spaces, under floors, against basement walls and the wall from your attached garage to your home.
- When it's cold outside, turn on the humidifier for additional moisture that will increase the heat index inside your home making 68 degrees Fahrenheit feel like 76 degrees. Place a portable unit in frequently used areas such as the bedroom or living room. The relative humidity in your home should be between 20 to 40 percent. Be careful not to allow humidifying to create condensation on windows.
- Let the sun and its warmth shine in. Raise the blinds and open the shades on south- and west-facing windows to fill your home with warmth.
- Replace single-pane windows with double- or triple-paned windows with coating on the glass that reflects heat back into the room. Put in better doors. If window replacement is too expensive, put your storm windows on for the winter and install clear plastic film across the inside of your windows and frames. Heat the plastic with a blow dryer until it becomes nearly invisible. The trapped pocket of air between the plastic film and the window acts as an effective insulator -- which can help reduce heat loss through the window by 25 to 50 percent.
- Using caulk, sealants and weather-stripping, plug the drafts throughout your home, inside and out, around windows, doors and where systems protrude through the skin of the home.
- Seal the air ducts to close small cracks or holes, using duct tape. If you buy new ducts, consider a system that's already surrounded by insulation. Likewise insulate your water heater and plumbing pipes.
- Change furnace filters frequently and clean air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed. Change forced air heating system filters monthly or use washable filters.
- Check manufacturer's instructions and if they allow it, close vents to guest rooms and other unused areas.
- Have your furnace and ductwork evaluated before the start of each heating season for maintenance and cleaning. The cleaner and more efficient they are, the more you'll enjoy energy savings.
- Seal any cracks around your air conditioner and cover it when not in use. Air travels through your window air conditioning unit. If possible, during the winter months, remove your air conditioner from the window altogether.