The series of storms that slammed the east coast in recent weeks were staggering, not just for the volume of snow they dumped, but for the number of homes that lost power. Millions of homes suffered power outages, which in many cases lasted for several days or longer. Snowed-in residents often had nowhere to go and faced a surprising test of survival involving lots of layers, cold sandwiches, and for some of the more fortunate, good home insulation.

While most people wouldn’t choose to spend a week in February with no heat, we’ve heard from a number of folks who had reinsulated their homes – or built them to be energy efficient in the first place – that that they made it through some lengthy outages in reasonable comfort. Even a week without heat, they say, wasn’t so bad. Homes that are well insulated can maintain their temperature for much longer, even if the heat goes off. Residents can remain reasonably comfortable for days.

Now, it could be a century or more before the country again sees a winter like this one. But that is no reason to dismiss the important topic of home insulation. Investing to make a home or other building more energy efficient is often the most practical way to conserve energy. Yet too often, it is overlooked in favor of costlier solutions that are not always practical for individual homeowners.

This story bemoans that home insulation is just not as sexy as things like solar and wind power:

There are celebrity sized tax credits and other incentives to encourage people who can afford the upfront costs of solar and geothermal to install them, but the bonuses for increasing the insulation of one’s current home – something within the reach of most working Americans – are paltry by comparison.

Yet if you put down the cash to install any of those fancy green options, without a properly insulated house, it’s like putting a Prius engine in a car with four flat tires.

Remember HomeStar? The proposal that was floated last year to give homeowners incentives to improve their energy efficiency was widely ridiculed with the name Cash for Caulkers. Yet, for all the up-and-coming alternative sources of energy, basic insulation is still considered one of the low-hanging fruits of energy conservation.

Among the many lessons that the blizzards of 2010 have offered us is the fact that we all take our power for granted and that even in a world full of technology designed to make our lives easier, we may still on occasion have to turn to our own survival instincts. Home insulation is hardly a new concept, but it seems we continue to overlook its value.