Bundle up for winter storms

By Abby Berry

Are you ready for winter’s cold grasp? Snow and ice are inevitable when dealing with winter storms, but being prepared can make a world of difference. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives recommend the following tips to help you prepare for wintery blasts.

 

Winterize your home

Winter storms wreak havoc on your home. By winterizing your living space, you’ll be prepared for extreme cold and hazardous conditions.

  • Remember to maintain and inspect heating equipment and chimneys every year to ensure they’re working safely and properly.
  • Caulk and weather strip doors and windows to make the most of your heating system.
  • Freezing temperatures often cause water pipes to burst. Remember to insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic. Allow faucets to drip during extreme cold to avoid frozen pipes.
  • Consider installing storm windows for better insulation. You can also cover windows with plastic (from the inside) to keep the cold out.
  • Make sure everyone in your family knows where the home’s fire extinguisher is located and how to use it properly. House fires occur more frequently during winter months, as people tend to use alternative heating methods that may not be safe.

Prepare a winter survival kit

Severe winter storms often bring heavy accumulation of ice and snow, which can lead to downed power lines and extended outages. Electric co-op crews will work hard to restore power, but having a winter survival kit on hand is a smart idea.

  • Food: Store food that does not require cooking, such as canned goods, crackers, dehydrated meats and dried fruit. Keep a large supply of water on hand. Ready.gov recommends five gallons per person.
  • Medication: Be sure to refill all prescriptions in the event of a major power outage.
  • Identification: Keep all forms of identification handy, such as driver’s licenses, photo IDs and social security cards. Bank account information and insurance policies are also good to have on hand.
  • Other items: First Aid Kit, blankets, flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries.

Stay warm and safe

If an outage occurs, you should plan for an alternate heating source. A fireplace, propane space heater or wood-burning stove would be sufficient. Fuel and wood-burning heating sources should always be vented, and make sure carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working properly. Always practice extreme caution when using alternate heating sources.

If you decide to use a portable generator during an outage, make sure it is placed outside the home for proper ventilation. Be careful not to overload the generator. Use appropriate extension cords that can handle the electric load.

Follow these tips, and your family will stay warm in the event of a power outage. For more information on preparing for winter storms, visit your local co-op website or www.ready.gov.

Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service organization for the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

How renters can fight the winter chill

By Abby Berry

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 33 percent of Americans lease their homes. Unfortunately, many lease agreements forbid major alterations to rental properties. But don’t worry, renters! Consider using these low-cost, energy-efficient tips from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives to improve the efficiency of your home this winter.

Hot savings

Heating the home typically makes up about 48 percent of your utility bill. Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter – Energy.gov recommends 68 degrees Fahrenheit to boost energy efficiency.

During the winter months, take advantage of heat from sunlight. Open draperies and shades during the day to allow natural light to heat your home. Remember to close them in the evenings as the temperature drops and windowpanes become chilly.

Does your home have window air conditioning units? This winter, remember to insulate the units from the outside with a tight-fitting cover, available at your local home improvement center or hardware store. This keeps heated air from escaping outside. If desired, you can remove the window unit during winter months to prevent energy loss.

Another way to save on heating is to make sure your water heater is set at the lowest comfortable setting. Have you experienced scalding hot water when taking a shower? If so, it’s likely that your water heater is set too high – which is a waste of energy. Older models of water tanks are often not insulated, which can be easily remedied by covering them with an insulating jacket.

Bright ideas

Lighting is one of the easiest places to start saving energy, and savings are not strictly limited to winter months. Try replacing a few of your most frequently used light bulbs with ENERGY STAR-qualified lights, and save more than $65 a year in energy costs. ENERGY STAR-qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use 75 percent less energy and last several times longer than incandescent light bulbs, saving money on energy bills and replacement costs. Practicing energy-efficient habits is another great way to reduce energy use. Always turn off your lights when leaving a room.

Other ways to save

Leasing an older home or apartment? Odds are you have single-pane windows and old or missing caulk. Don’t let the winter chill seep indoors! Apply caulk around window frames, sashes and door panels to combat air leaks. Also, be mindful when using electronics at home. Unplug devices when not in use, and use smart power strips to save on energy use. To learn more ways to be energy efficient around the home, visit togetherwesave.com.

Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service organization for the nations 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

‘Tis the season

‘Tis the season for family, fellowship and lots of cooking.

By Katie Kothman-Haby, CCC

No matter what or how you celebrate, energy use tends to increase over the holiday season. With more guests in your home and activities taking place, your electric meter spins a little faster than usual, costing you more money. Start the New Year off right. Celebrate the holidays efficiently so you don’t have to worry about a high electric bill.

Decorating

  • If you choose to decorate with strings of lights, consider LED (light emitting diode) options. They use over 80 percent less energy than traditional strings of lights and have a longer life. Make sure to purchase high quality strings from reputable sources. Safety and the lifetime can be compromised in less expensive LED strands.
  • Solar powered lighting options are also worth considering for decorations. Instead of having a plug handy, make sure you have a proper location for the solar panel that powers them.
  • Place strands of electric lights on timers so they automatically turn on in the evening after the sun sets, and turn them off around bed time. You won’t have to spend time thinking about plugging and unplugging them, and you won’t have to spend money powering them when unnecessary.
  • Decorate with less lighting. Consider a natural, vintage feel for your decorations. Use items like pinecones, greenery, candy canes, popcorn strings and gingerbread. The whole family can get involved with decorating the home with these safe and festive items.

2014_12_SW_Holiday-efficiency-tip-with-logoCooking

  • Cook with your microwave, toaster oven or slow cooker whenever possible. Small appliances cook quickly and more efficiently than your oven.
  • When you do use the oven, cook more than one item at a time. Have a ham, sweet potato casserole and rolls that all need to cook in the oven? Make some adjustments to cooking temperatures and times, and put all your dishes in at once to take full advantage of the heat that’s being produced.
  • Don’t peek! It’s tempting to open the oven door to check on holiday treats. Use the oven light instead, and keep the door closed. This will keep the heat where it belongs – inside the oven.
  • Glass and ceramic dishes allow you to cook food at a lower temperature than metal baking dishes. If the recipe calls for a metal baking pan and you substitute glass or ceramic cookware, reduce the temperature by about 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Have food defrosted before you cook. Simply planning ahead can cut cooking times and energy use in half. Place any frozen dishes in the refrigerator the night before so they are ready to go in the oven the next morning.

Around the house

  • Turn down your thermostat a few degrees. Extra people bustling around the home and the oven warming food will heat up your home a few extra degrees. Take advantage and adjust your thermostat accordingly. You will save some money on your bill, and your guests will still be comfortable.

Katie Kothmann Haby writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nations 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

Local before local was cool

Autonomy & Independence: One of the Seven Cooperative Principles that give all co-ops guidance

Whether you travel across the country or prefer to stay close to your hometown, one thing you may be noticing is the emphasis on “Buy Local” campaigns. This is based on one simple fact: It’s important to support businesses that support our community.

The Small Business Administration and the research firm Civic Economics estimate that dollars spent at a locally owned business stay in the community more than three times longer than money spent at “Big Box” stores, headquartered far away from your hometown. This means your community wealth is more likely to grow by shopping locally.

Consumer cooperatives, like Tennessee’s electric cooperatives, have known this forever. We were formed in the 1930s by people across the state to serve the people that work, worship and live in this community.

A common expression among cooperators is, “If you’ve seen one co-op, you’ve seen one co-op.”  While there are many similarities between co-ops, the fact that we are controlled locally, allowing us to serve your needs, is a critically important principle.

The fourth of our Seven Cooperative Principles is: Autonomy and Independence. And that is defined as follows: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintain the cooperative’s autonomy.

This will allow us to continue to be the self-help organization envisioned by the founders of the modern cooperative movement.

In other words, for the co-op to stay a co-op it is vitally important we stay close to you, our members, to ensure we are continuing to respond to your needs. This could be through increasing energy-efficiency programs, offering renewable sources of energy and continuing our efforts to support other local businesses, schools and civic organizations.

You can be sure that electric cooperatives will not be moving operations to Mexico or China, as so many other corporations do. We began right here in Tennessee, and we plan on being here for a very long time. You can take that to the bank, or better yet, the credit union – as all credit unions are financial cooperatives. As always, we welcome your participation and suggestions about how we can improve our locally owned and controlled services.

Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed.  He is an author, speaker and a member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op.  You can follow him on Twitter @adamcooperative or email him at aschwartz@thecooperativeway.coop

Green gift-giving guide

Wondering what to buy for the person who has everything? How about a gift for an environment-friendly family member or friend? This holiday season, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives urge you to consider giving the gift of energy efficiency.

This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and replace your aunt’s refrigerator or your grandma’s washer and dryer – though you may be their favorite if you do. Giving the gift of energy efficiency can be as simple as filling their stockings, or creating a gift basket, with some of these helpful products.

LED light bulbs are the easiest way to increase efficiency in your home. From indoor bulbs for your lamps, recessed lighting and hanging fixtures to outdoor lighting, such as flood lamps and even decorative lighting strands – there’s an LED bulb for everyone.

LED lighting used to be deemed as prohibitively expensive, but prices have gone down significantly in recent years. Here are some top-rated options for energy-efficient lighting that makes everything bright!

  • GE Reveal 60 Watt Equivalent Bulb – This will run you around $18
  • Cree TW Series 60 Watt Equivalent Bulb – This will run you between $9 and $16
  • Sylvania’s Ultra HD floodlight-style bulb – This will run you between $22 and $35

Water-saving showerheads are also a great gift option. On average, Americans consume over 3 billion gallons of water daily. Switching to a water-saving showerhead could save a family of three up to $631 per year in costs and could reduce water consumption by over 2,600 gallons per year. Lack of water pressure can be a concern when giving this gift, so here are a few examples of showerheads that save water, but not at the expense of water pressure.

  • Glacier Bay 1-Spray Hand Shower – This will run you around $13
  • The Delta 1-Spray Water-Saving Showerhead – This will run you around $16
  • The Delta Arias 5-Spray Showerhead – This will run you around $37

Providing your family and friends with energy-efficiency tips along with a gift is also a great option. For example, did you know that one of the best ways to save energy in your home is to turn off all of your electronic devices? Try a TrickleStar Motion Sensor Power Strip, which costs around $30.

Supplement your gift with caulking supplies or weather strips, and before you know it, you will have the perfect energy-saving gift! All of these products are available online and at Big Box hardware stores, so get to shopping. From everyone at Tennessee’s electric cooperatives, have a happy, energy-efficient holiday!            

Meghaan Evans writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nations 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

2014 Annual Meeting

NASHVILLE – The 73rd annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association was held Sunday – Tuesday, Nov. 23 – 25, at the Nashville Airport Marriott. The theme of the meeting was “Powering Everyday Life,” and Dan Rodamaker, president and CEO of Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and president of the TECA board of trustees, called the meeting to order.

Representatives from 23 member systems and one associate member were present for the business meeting. Rodamaker and TECA General Manager David Callis, the resolutions committee, TECA staff and representatives from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative presented reports and updates.

Elections were held for four-year positions on the TECA board of trustees. John Collins, general manager of Chickasaw Electric Cooperative, was elected from Region I. Joe Mullins, Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation board member, was elected from Region II. Joe Atwood, Mountain Electric Cooperative board member, was elected from Region III.

Jim Code, general manager of Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Johnnie Ruth Elrod, director at Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and Randell Myers, CEO and general manager of Powell Valley Electric Cooperative, were elected to the TECA board of trustees.

“Congratulations to those who have been chosen for leadership roles,” said Callis. “We appreciate their service and are confident they will provide sound direction and represent Tennessee’s electric cooperatives with honor.”

Throughout the year, TECA presents training and education programs for cooperative directors. Recognized at this year’s annual meeting, board members receiving Credentialed Cooperative Director status were Lee Armstrong, Plateau EC; Brian Boyatt, Plateau EC; Ronnie Fisher, Forked Deer EC; Bobby Gravitt, Sequachee Valley EC; Joseph Miller, Tri-County EMC; Edward Oliver, Cumberland EMC; Tom Perkey, Middle Tennessee EMC; Andrew Porch, Meriwether Lewis EC; Angela Talent, Fort Loudoun EC; and Gerald Taylor, Tennessee Valley EC. Board members receiving the more involved Board Leadership certification were J. Steve Roller, Caney Fork EC; Michael Mason, Cumberland EMC; Joe Tucker, Duck River EMC; Janine Wilson, Fayetteville PU; James R. Pugh, Fort Loudoun EC; Keith Carnahan, Meriwether Lewis EC; Zach Hutchins, Meriwether Lewis EC; Brian Boyatt, Plateau EC; Dave Cross, Plateau EC; Walter Barnes, Sequachee Valley EC; Paul Jaggers, Tennessee Valley EC; Kevin Staggs, Tennessee Valley EC; Wilbur Storey, Tennessee Valley EC; Joseph Miller, Tri-County EC; and James West, Upper Cumberland EMC.

The Tennessee Magazine reception, featuring products made or produced in Tennessee, was held on Sunday evening, Nov. 23. Attendees to this year’s meeting also heard from Jack McCall, humorist and motivational speaker; Mark Aesch, business leader and writer; and Sen. Bob Corker.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve.

[button link=”http://teca.smugmug.com/TECA-Annual-Meeting/TECA-Annual-Meeting-2014/”]View photos from the meeting →[/button]

Tamper Resistant Receptacles

What are Tamper Resistant Receptacles (TRRs)?

They may look like standard outlets, but tamper resistant receptacles, or TRRs, are different. Their most distinguishable feature – a built-in shutter system that prevents foreign objects from being inserted – sets them apart. Only a plug that applies simultaneous, equal pressure to both slots will disengage the cover plates, allowing access to the contact points.  Without this synchronized pressure, the cover plates remain closed.

While a child’s curiosity knows no boundaries, it can sometimes put them in peril, especially when electricity is involved.  Located in practically every room of the house, electrical outlets and receptacles are fixtures, but they also represent potential hazards for children.

In recent years, more homes have been equipping their electrical outlets with TRRs, but in many public facilities, like hospital pediatric wards, these safeguards have been required for more than 20 years. Their efficiency also prompted the National Electrical Code to make TRRs standard in all new home construction. Existing homes can be easily retrofitted with TRRs using the same installation guidelines that apply to standard receptacles. TRRs should only be installed by a licensed electrician and should carry a label from a nationally recognized, independent testing lab such as UL, ETL, or CSA.

TRRs by the Numbers

  • Each year 2,400 children suffer severe shock and burns resulting from inserting objects into the slots of electrical receptacles. That’s nearly seven children a day.
  • It is estimated that 6-12 child fatalities result from children tampering electrical receptacles.
  • Installing a TRR in a newly constructed home is only about 50₵ more than a traditional receptacle.
  • Existing homes can be retrofitted with TRRs for as little as $2.00 per outlet.

For more information on TRRS, visit www.esfi.org.

Holiday cooking safety tips

The kitchen is the heart of the home. Sadly, it’s also where two out of every five home fires start. Many home fires occur during what’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year – the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Christmas Eve hold a tradition of cooking, and safety should always be considered in the kitchen. As we embark on the holiday season, Tennessee’s Electric Cooperatives and the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) urge you to use these simple safety tips to identify and correct potential kitchen hazards:

  • Never leave cooking equipment unattended, and always remember to turn off burners if you have to leave the room.
  • Supervise the little ones closely in the kitchen. Make sure children stay at least three feet away from all cooking appliances.
  • Prevent potential fires by making sure your stovetop and oven are clean and free of grease, dust and spilled food.
  • Remember to clean the exhaust hood and duct over your stove on a regular basis.
  • Keep the cooking area around the stove and oven clear of combustibles, such as towels, napkins and potholders.
  • Always wear short or close-fitting sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can catch fire.
  • To protect from spills and burns, use the back burners and turn the pot handles in, away from reaching hands.
  • Locate all appliances away from the sink.
  • Plug countertop appliances into ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected outlets.
  • Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces like the range or toaster.
  • Unplug the toaster and other countertop appliances when not in use.
  • Be sure to turn off all appliances when cooking is completed.

For more important safety tips to keep you and your family safe this holiday season and throughout the year, visit www.esfi.org.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is a 501(c) (3) organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety in the home, school, and workplace. ESFI proudly engages in public education campaigns throughout the year to prevent electrical fires, injuries and fatalities.

 

safetytips

MLEC brings wireless internet to Hickman County

(October 20, 2014)MyMLEC Now, a free wireless hotspot offering by Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, came to life Thursday, Oct. 16, for Hickman County. The service makes free wi-fi available at the Centerville River Park and Jerry Dixon Walking Trail.

The MyMLEC Now – connecting you wirelessly test model is an extension of MLEC’s fiber core network which connects the cooperative’s offices and substations in five counties. Security and safety filters are in place for the protection of users, and individual access time is currently limited to four hours a day.

“We’re excited to bring this to Centerville,” says MLEC President and CEO Hal Womble. “It is a way to give back to our members and promote technology in the area. Our goal is to use what we learn and create similar models for the other counties we serve.”

Lewis County Memorial Park in Hohenwald was the first test location and came on line in June. A search for test sites for the other counties served by MLEC is underway.

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative is a non-profit organization offering reliable, low-cost electricity to over 33,500 members in Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lewis and Perry Counties. Member – electric power companies of Middle Tennessee.  Remember – play it safe around electricity.

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One million comments

America’s electric cooperatives have collected one million comments in opposition to the EPA’s proposed rule targeting existing power plants. This milestone boosts our relevance in the nation’s capital and sends a powerful message to EPA officials.

Our drive to one million has not been a simple task, and it would not have been possible without the support of co-op members.

“This has been a concentrated effort to protect our members from expensive and ineffective government regulations,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “I thank everyone who has helped us take a stand for affordable and reliable energy.”

While reaching this milestone is cause for celebration, now is not the time to take a break.  There’s still more time to grow the number of comments that we’ll send on this proposal. Because the EPA recently extended the comment deadline to December 1, there’s now an additional 45 days for all of us to encourage more people to make their voices heard.

You can submit your own comments to the EPA by visiting takeactionTN.com.