Efficient water heating technology options

Water heating is the second largest use of energy in homes, accounting for approximately 14 to 18 percent of residential energy consumption. In addition to wrapping water heaters and pipes in insulation, there are many technologies in this market to help lower energy consumption and save consumers money. These technologies include heat pump water heaters (HPWH), CO2 heat pump water heaters, and point-of-use (POU) water heaters.

Heat pump water heaters

The heat pump water heater is not a new technology, but it is experiencing a revival. A handful of small companies produced units in the 1980s and 1990s, but random failures soured utilities and consumers on the technology. Today, however, some of the major manufacturers of water heaters and other appliances have entered the market, offering a new generation of heat pump water heaters.

There are two types. One, the more expensive option, replaces an existing electric water heater with a new, “integrated” unit combining a heat pump with a water tank. The second type adds a heat pump unit to an existing water heater. The heat pump in both versions circulates a refrigerant, which absorbs heat from the surrounding air and then passes through a compressor to maximize the heat output, which is transferred into the tank’s water. The heat pump can produce most of the heat needed by the water heater. A backup electric resistance element in the tank is called upon when the ambient air is too cold for heat pump operation or additional amounts of hot water are needed. Because the units use both heat pump technology and electric resistance for backup, the units are referred to as “hybrid” heat pump water heaters.

Heat pump water heaters use roughly half the electricity of a conventional electric water heater, but this efficiency comes with a higher price tag and potential trade-offs in effectiveness for participation in load control programs. Integrated units are selling for about twice the cost of a standard tank heater. Depending on the retail cost of electricity and the installed cost of the heat pump water heater, including any financial incentives, the payback period can be as little as three years. In areas with low electricity rates and limited financial incentives, however, the payback period can be much longer.

A heat pump water heater can generally be installed in a conditioned or unconditioned space. However, the space must be at least 10 square feet to ensure adequate air exchange for the heat pump. An open basement, a utility area or—in some climates—a garage is appropriate. The cool exhaust air can be released into the area where the heat pump water heater is located, cooling and dehumidifying the surrounding air, or it can be ducted outside.

Heat pump water heaters are not a universal option. Heat pump water heaters are most efficient in warm and damp climates. Homes in those climates will also benefit from the water heater’s cooling and dehumidifying features. However, residents in colder climates will see decreased performance during colder months. In the northern areas, for instance, if the heat pump is designed to work at ambient air temperatures of 45degrees Fahrenheit or higher, the water heater’s electric element will operate whenever the air temperature drops below that level, reducing energy savings.

CO2 heat pump water heaters

Another emerging water heater technology is the CO2 heat pump water heater. These water heaters are unique because they use CO2 as the refrigerant. Using CO2 is beneficial because other commonly used refrigerants are ozone-depleters or have greater impacts on global warming. In addition to their environmentally friendly chemistry, these heaters can output much hotter water. However, these types of water heaters are still in the early stages of adoption in North America (they are more common in Japan and the European Union) and are much more expensive than conventional water heaters.

Point-of-use water heaters

Depending on where your water heater is located, you will lose some amount of heat as your hot water travels to the faucet. One technology to help reduce this loss is the point-of-use water heater (POU). These water heaters are located near to the water’s end use, for example, near the sink or shower. This option can be more efficient than raising the temperature of the main water heater. However, POUs cannot act as a back-up heater to intermittent units like solar or geothermal water heaters because they are not powerful enough to support a household’s entire water heating load.

Before purchasing a new water heater, be sure to check if any incentives are offered by your local electric cooperative for a particular type. Your co-op can also offer advice on which water heaters work well for your area, as well as other energy-saving tips.

Thomas Kirk is a technical research analyst specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy for the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Energy Education

by David Callis
Executive Vice President and General Manager

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” This quote from historian Daniel Boorstin sums up a challenge we face in the electric utility industry.

As we get older, we (hopefully) become fairly well educated and consider ourselves to have a wider breadth and depth of knowledge. We tend to have reasonably good knowledge of our jobs and perhaps a few other areas. But it’s a big world, and it’s difficult to be an expert in every field.

I have — at best — a cursory knowledge of farming. In fact, if we were dependent on my farming skills to feed us, there’s a good chance we’d all go hungry. Recently, a friend and colleague of mine told me about an innovation he was using at his farm. He began using large grain bags as temporary corn storage. He tells me that this technique is used in other countries but isn’t common in the United States. His farm uses specialized equipment that attaches to a tractor to provide the power source for an auger that fills the bags. Each plastic bag is 10 feet wide by 300 feet long, holds 12,000 to 13,000 bushels and is not reusable. He described them as “Hefty bags on steroids.”

The point of the story is that this is something I never knew existed, but this temporary storage can help make the difference in his farming operation being successful and grain being available when needed. That’s important. I now know something that I didn’t know I didn’t know.

Everyone knows how to use electricity — you flip a switch or plug in an appliance. Even a child learns early on how to turn the lights on and off. However, it takes caring parents and adults to educate that child on how to use caution around electricity. Until they’re educated about safety, they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

As an adult, you know (or should know) how to safely use electricity. However, you might not be aware of how that electricity is made and delivered to your home or business.

That’s where we come in. Our task is to educate you on the challenges we face in keeping the electricity flowing. Tennessee’s co-ops deliver electricity generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. For more than 80 years, this regional partnership has electrified the Southeast.

TVA and your local electric cooperative are dedicated to delivering power to you at the lowest possible cost. That’s the duty imposed on TVA by Congress, and it’s our promise to you.

By its very nature, electricity is charged — positively or negatively. Unfortunately, energy policy has become politically charged. That’s not something of our choosing, but it’s the reality we face. That hasn’t always been the case, but it has certainly taken center stage over the past few years.

The challenge for us is to cooperate with our regulatory agencies as we operate and maintain the grid and to keep you informed about the decisions we make. We have a variety of choices when it comes to power sources: renewable energy, hydro power, nuclear power and coal-fired generation. As I’ve stated previously, each has its benefits and shortcomings. We have to make decisions that allow us to continue to provide power to you — now and into the future.

Our pledge to you is to provide you with facts — not opinions. We want you to know what you don’t know you don’t know.

Flickr photo by Bill Erickson

Geared up for safety

Can you imagine working a job that requires you to lift heavy equipment and perform detailed tasks near deadly high voltage? Now imagine doing this 40 feet in the air, and sometimes, in extreme weather. This is the life of a lineman.

These brave men, and women, answer when called – and they do so to ensure that you are provided with safe, reliable electric service. But how do they stay safe when working in these conditions? Tennessee electric cooperative linemen are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times when on the job to keep them safe.

Let’s take a look at a lineman’s PPE.

Fire resistant (FR) clothing. While our linemen do everything possible to prevent them, unexpected fires can happen. Fires typically occur with an arc flash – an explosion that results from a low-impedance connection to a ground phase in an electrical system. FR clothing will self-extinguish, thus limiting injury due to burn.

Insulated gloves. Linemen must wear insulated rubber gloves when working on any type of electrical line. These gloves provide protection against electrical shock and burn, and are tested at 30,000 volts. Protective gloves, usually made of leather, are worn over the insulated gloves to protect the rubber from punctures and cuts.

Hard hat. No matter how tough or “hardheaded” our linemen are, they still need protection. Insulated hard hats are worn at all times to protect them from blows and falling objects.

Steel toe boots. These heavy-duty boots are typically 16 inches tall and designed with extra support in mind. The height of the boot shields linemen from gouges, and serrated heels provide a better grip when climbing poles. The steel toe provides sturdier support and protects from objects that could potentially pierce the feet. .

Safety goggles. Linemen must wear protective goggles or glasses, whether working on electrical lines or clearing rights-of-way. This protects them from loose debris and other hazards.

These items make up a lineman’s basic PPE. While working on electrical lines, they also may be required to wear equipment belts, tool pouches, safety straps and other types of equipment. A lineman’s gear usually weighs about 50 pounds – that’s a lot of extra weight when working in hazardous conditions.

So, the next time you see a lineman – be sure to thank him or her for keeping the lights on. But more importantly, thank them for the hard – and often times dangerous – work they do, day in and day out.

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

Commitment to Community

In 1965, fourteen high school juniors loaded left Nashville for Washington, DC. The purpose of the trip was twofold – to educate them about rural electrification and how their government operates.

Fifty years later, Tennessee’s Washington Youth Tour program is still going strong. This year, we will send 150 students and 40 chaperones on the Tour. More than any other state!

For some of these students, the trip marks a number of firsts; their first trip out of state, their first time on a plane, and their first visit to our Nation’s capital. They are given the opportunity to see a larger perspective on their world and their future.

The trip lasts a week; the impact lasts a lifetime. For many students, the trip will begin a journey that charts the rest of their lives. Past participants have become CEOs, educators, and legislators.

This past year, two students from Southwest Tennessee Electric will continue to make an impact in their communities and far beyond.

Kai Starmer, from Munford High School, has been accepted into the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Josh Owen, from Covington High School, has been accepted into the Citadel Military College in South Carolina.

Marilyn Means, marketing coordinator at Southwest Tennessee Electric, said it best:

“We should be very proud of these two students who represented STEMC in DC this past June. Despite of all the ‘bad’ we hear about the youth of today, I have had the opportunity to witness exceptional youth as I go into our schools and share the cooperative story and to appreciate their leadership abilities as we travel to DC each year. I have been blessed to see students grow in leadership roles during and after our trip. I am so thankful that STEMC allows me to ‘pay it forward’ to the youth in our service area. It makes me proud to work for the electric cooperative.”

Hairstyles and fashion may have changed a lot since 1965. The commitment of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives to our youth and our communities has only grown stronger.

2015 Legislative Outlook

The Tennessee General Assembly returned last week with 23 new faces and a list of old problems to address. The first week of session was primarily ceremonial in nature culminating with the inauguration of Governor Bill Haslam for his second four-year term and the announcement of committee composition in both the House and the Senate. A two-week recess will allow for reorganization, as members will move their offices and staff is reassigned in order to be prepared for the next two years of lawmaking.

They will return on February 2 to begin a special session, called by the Governor, to consider Insure TN. This program is controversial, as it will use a combination of Federal funding and an assessment on hospital revenue to expand the population of citizens who qualify for TennCare (the state’s version of Medicaid). Since it is a special session of the legislature, Insure TN is the only topic that can be considered.

The special session is planned to last one week, with regular session set to commence on February 9. Major issues expected to dominate the headlines after Insure TN is settled include: revisions to the state’s educational standards (known as “Common Core”), proposals to regulate abortion providers and clinics, a discussion about funding for road projects which will include possible restructuring of the gas tax, and the inevitable disagreement over passing the state’s budget and its impact on funding for all other proposed new or revised programs.

Issues of concern for electric cooperatives will be many, although we cannot be 100% sure of all issues until the deadline for filing bills as passed. This year, the deadline is set for February 12 – although any delays in the Special Session could push that deadline back. TECA is proactively encouraging legislation to address liability concerns that arose from a court case regarding property owner claims of inverse condemnation. This legislation would reestablish a statute of limitations on the amount of time a property owner could bring such an action.

Also, TECA has been involved with a coalition of concerned parties who have been studying the State’s reaction to the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan. Director of Government Affairs, Mike Knotts, testified to joint meeting of the House and Senate Government Operations committees on this topic in December.  Click here to see the full video of the hearing, Mike’s testimony begins at 00:50:30. Legislation is likely to be proposed to guide the state’s reaction to EPA’s plan, once its becomes final later this year. TECA’s main concern is preserving all of the remedies, both legal and legislative, available to ensure that EPA’s plan does not harm cooperative members through unnecessary hikes in rates or reductions in reliability.

If you want to stay informed throughout the legislative session, join the mailing list for our legislative newsletter – View from the Hill.  To do so, sign up by clicking here.

Energy Education

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” This quote, from historian Daniel Boorstin, sums up the challenge that we face in the electric utility industry.

As we get older, we (hopefully) become fairly well educated and consider ourselves to have a wider breadth and depth of knowledge. We tend to have a reasonably good knowledge in our job and perhaps a few other areas. But it’s a big world and it’s difficult to be an expert in every field.

I have – at best – a cursory knowledge of farming. In fact, if we’re dependent on my farming skills to feed us, we’re all going to starve. Recently, a friend and colleague of mine told me about an innovation that he was using at his farm. He began using large grain bags as temporary corn storage. He tells me that this technique is used in other countries, but isn’t common in the United States. His farm uses specialized equipment that attaches to a tractor, which provides the power source for an augur that fills the bags. Each plastic bag is 10 feet wide by 300 feet long, holds 12-13,000 bushels and is not reusable. He described them as “Hefty bags on steroids.”

The point of the story is that this is something that I never knew existed, but this temporary storage can help make the difference in his farming operation being successful and grain being available when needed. That’s important. I now know something that I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

By its very nature, electricity is charged – positive or negative. Unfortunately, energy policy has become politically charged. That’s not something of our choosing, but it is the reality in which we operate.

That’s where we come in. We need to be their source of information. Because of the abundance of opinions – many of them incorrect – in the energy policy arena, we have an obligation to our members to provide them with facts. Many people are making decisions based on erroneous information.

Let’s help them know what they don’t know they don’t know.

Matheny retires, Partin to lead SVEC

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors has named Mike Partin SVEC’s new President and Chief Executive Officer. Partin succeeds Robert W. (Bob) Matheny who retired earlier this month after serving for over 16 years,. Partin will be the seventh manager/CEO in the Cooperative’s 75 year existence.

“Mike is knowledgeable and experienced in the electric cooperative industry, having grown in responsibility and leadership over the course of his career,” said Board Chairman Mike Jordan. “The Board has complete confidence in his ability to lead SVEC in the delivery of safe, reliable, affordable electric service to its 35,000 members.”

Partin began his career with SVEC in 1998, serving first as Vice President of Marketing and Member Services and for the past 5 years, as Chief Operating Officer. He is an alumnus Grundy County High School and Middle Tennessee State University. Partin is also a graduate of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s management program at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Partin has also served in various capacities with industry related organizations including Touchstone Energy Cooperative, the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“I am certainly humbled and honored that the Board has put their trust in me to lead the cooperative,” said Partin. “I look forward to the opportunity to work with our Board and the dedicated men and women serving our communities and members. Our industry is on the brink of tremendous change and I look forward to the challenge of navigating SVEC into the future.”

Partin and his family live and farm in the Pelham Valley on the same land that has served his family for generations. Mike and his wife Kim, a teacher at Monteagle Elementary School, have two daughters, Macy and Maty. The Partins attend Monteagle Church of Christ.

After more than forty years in the electric utility industry, the last sixteen at Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, President/CEO Bob Matheny retired on January 2.

Matheny began his career at SVEC in July 1998, after the passing of the previous manager, Bob Pickering. Early in his career Matheny gained electric utility experience working in member and energy services with TVA and two cooperatives in Florida. He then served as general manager for Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Michigan for almost 15 years before taking the reins at SVEC.

During Matheny’s tenure, the Cooperative has grown in membership, miles of line and advanced in technology, improving reliability for members and helping the Cooperative operate more efficiently.

While at SVEC, Matheny served  as a director on several national and regional industry-related boards, such as the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, the Cooperative Response Center and Southeastern Data Cooperative. Matheny was also a member of the South Pittsburg Rotary Club and served as a member of the Marion County Partnership for Economic Development and a term on the Marion County Chamber of Commerce board.

“I have enjoyed a long career and worked with many dedicated people over the past 40 years,” Matheny said. “Thank you for your support. I am very proud of the accomplishments we made at SVEC.”

He and his wife Joyce plan on retiring to Florida and spending more time with family.

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, a Touchstone Energy® cooperative, is a non-profit organization offering reliable, low-cost electricity to 35,000 members in Bledsoe, Grundy, Marion and Sequatchie counties. SVEC is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Tennessee Legislative App

Legislative directory app connects residents to elected officials

NASHVILLE – Tennesseans interested in government and politics now have a powerful tool for connecting with their elected representatives.

Announced today, the 109th Tennessee General Assembly app features a continually updated, searchable database of contact, staff and committee information as well as photos, leadership roles and social media profiles for members of the Tennessee House and Senate.  The app also contains information on the governor and his cabinet and the Tennessee Congressional delegation.

app-iconDeveloped by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, the 99-cent app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices and can be found by searching for “Tennessee General Assembly” in the Apple App Store or Google PLAY Marketplace.

phone2015“We have produced print directories of the General Assembly for more than 30 years, and this is our fourth year to release an app,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is important for Tennesseans to be active and involved with their elected officials, and the app is a tool that makes it easy to speak up on issues that are important.”

“The app is ideal for anyone who wants to monitor the activities at the state Capitol and is designed to be the best reference possible for those who are interested in or work with Tennessee legislators,” says Dick Lodge, partner with Bass Berry & Sims PLC.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

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Contact:
Trent Scott | Director of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

Images:
Download high resolution graphics of the app icon and the app.

Five tips for space heater safety

As temperatures drop this winter, many will look for supplemental heating sources for their homes. Space heaters can be a good alternative for those who want to warm one area of their home without turning up the thermostat on the central heating system. However, space heaters are also responsible for 32 percent of house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you are planning to use a space heater in your home this winter, review these tips from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives to keep you, your family and your property safe.

Materials – What are the components of your space heater made of? Parts like metal grating can be hot to the touch and may burn anyone who gets too close. Make sure you purchase a heater that is cool to the touch and has guards over the coils just in case little fingers get too close.

Placement – While it can be tempting to place a small heater on a shelf so it is not in the way of pets and children, it is safest to leave the heater on a level floor on a nonflammable surface. Keeping the space heater on the floor can keep it from falling over, preventing fire hazards. Also, remember that space heaters and bathrooms are not a good combination, unless the heater is designed for bathroom use. Moisture can damage the heater.

The most important rule about space heater placement is the three-foot rule. Whether you are using the heater in the bedroom, living room or kitchen, space heaters should always be kept three feet away from flammable materials and out of the way of children and pets.

Special Features – Does your space heater have an auto shutoff function if tipped over? Auto shutoff can be a lifesaver. If you currently own a space heater without auto shutoff, consider purchasing a heater with this important safety feature.

Cords – You should never use an extension cord when plugging in a space heater as it can cause overheating. The space heater should be plugged directly into a wall outlet, and should be the only thing plugged in to the wall outlet. Also make sure cords aren’t in a high-traffic area so they are not a tripping hazard.

Use – Never leave a heater unattended while in use. If you are leaving your home or going to bed, make sure to unplug the heater.

Following these tips and making sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions can keep you safe this winter.

April Lollar 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.

Electric co-ops effectively respond to disasters

In the summer of 2012, the derecho that swept hurricane-force winds from the Great Plains to the Atlantic seaboard knocked out power to more than four million people. The damage caused by this devastating storm cost the nation $2.9 billion.

Disasters, whether caused by nature, accidents or hostile acts, exact an enormous cost, both in economic and human terms. Electric cooperatives have a unique and effective approach to emergency management and disaster recovery: mutual assistance. Following a disaster, co-ops will rapidly deploy support staff and equipment to emergency and recovery zones to assist sister co-ops.

Because the national network of transmission and distribution infrastructure owned by electric cooperatives has been built to federal standards, line crews from any co-op in America can arrive on the scene ready to provide emergency support, secure in their knowledge of the system’s engineering.

We work closely with other first responders, state and local government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure an effective and coordinated response in the event of an emergency.

Since cooperatives are not-for-profit organizations, we are eligible for financial assistance from FEMA, which can fund a major portion of the cost of emergency work to restore power and the cost of repairing, restoring, rebuilding or replacing damaged facilities. This system gives electric cooperatives the ability to respond effectively and quickly in times of crisis and protects the financial interests of the cooperative members as the same time.

Unfortunately, with tighter budgets, securing FEMA reimbursements after a disaster has become more difficult. Following Superstorm Sandy, Congress changed the rules: FEMA now allocates funds for rebuilding based on an estimate of costs, not on the actual cost. If the estimate is higher than the actual cost, the excess funds must be used for FEMA-approved projects. But if the estimate is low, the co-op must pay the difference.

Electric cooperatives across the country learn from disasters. We learn how to protect our systems better, and we learn how to become more resilient. When it comes to resiliency, we have a good story to tell. We serve our member-consumers in the most rugged, remote terrain in the country. And we have learned how to restore power in extremely difficult circumstances.