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Have we learned anything from the recent cold snap?

This last cold snap is a graphic reminder to we closeted Kiwis, who have become reliant on electricity and services for everything, to wake up. Some of the families have been without power for 16 days, how have they coped?

I have a friend in the South Island (in the snow zone) who has a pellet fire (electricity is needed for the fan), a heat pump and a small chip heater. Needless to say the chip heater was working flat out, but of course the pellet fire and heat pump did not work because of lack of power. The family was eventually loaned a generator that got the pellet fire, television and the lights going, so they were able to survive.

So what have we learned? We all need to look at how we set everything up in our houses, particularly if we are renovating, building or improving our homes. Solar water heating should be in every home. If it is not, then the Government should make interest free loans available for its installation to provide "free" hot water thus saving the nation's electricity.

All houses should be double glazed. Double glazing is one of the best ways of keeping a house warm and dry, so that if you have a heater going the heat will not be wasted, escaping out through the glass into the cold night sky

Insulation

Enough has been said here for us to know that everything should be insulated, including the floor. Failure to do so will cost you more in heating and probably sick children as well

Wet-backs

Personally, I regret not connecting a wet-back slow combustion heater to my hot water cylinder when I built my new house. A wet-back may not be designed to heat all the water, but it will certainly boost it and keep it warm. Modern high pressure water systems make it harder, but there are ways around that problem.

Firewood

Firewood in New Zealand still remains relatively cheap and available, although not quite so in the cities. Remember to get your firewood in straight after the preceding winter, so it is well and truly dry and ready for the next season. Keep firewood stored in a dry place and have it readily available. If you are having trouble lighting fires with kindling and paper, then those little magic firelighters are a great help.

Water storage

We should all have some form of water storage that can be gravity fed in an emergency.

Additionally, ensure that you have good batteries in all your tractors and vehicles prior to the winter, so that they will start up even under stress. Ensure also that you have some spare fuel in the shed as well as anti-freeze in all those water-cooled motors. If you have motors outside, cover them so that they are kept dry and will hopefully start when required.

In times of crisis, working with your neighbours and being able to communicate your needs is crucial. Communities that have all banded together have actually gained a lot from the recent cold snap and are working better as a result. I have clients who were in family and matrimonial disarray. The cold snap, with no power etc. forced them, firstly to communicate and secondly to work together to survive. They are now all a lot happier and have pooled their resources to make their lives better. Maybe to some extent we all hide behind screens to avoid meaningful communication without family and friends (I mean here television and internet screens).

In summary

The recent cold snap is a graphic reminder of what a soft community we are becoming, reliant on power for every need and appliance. We need to learn from this experience to ensure that we have future-proofed our lives, because it will happen again. I have a sister who is too far from the power grid for it to be economic to run power to her house. She is set up with a water turbine, solar panels, batteries, chip heaters etc, so this cold snap was treated just a normal day for her. Perhaps this cold snap should be a reminder to us all that we all need to get back to basics.


 

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