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.

 

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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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We want you to know

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of scams targeting our consumers’ pocketbooks. In one, a caller posing as a co-op employee threatens to shut off service unless the member provides immediate payment using a reloadable debit card, prepaid gift card or online payment service like PayPal. That’s not the way that we operate. Education and communication help reduce the number of victims, but some of our members still fall prey.

There are other schemes that fall into a category somewhere between outright scam and shady marketing. Many are legitimate products that truly help manage and lower energy usages; such as programmable thermostats, energy efficient appliances, timers, etc.

Unfortunately, many are not. When the first pitch is “What The Electric Companies Don’t Want You To Know“, there is a good chance that the product is questionable. The implication is that we are out to steal our members’ money.

Fact: We want our members to have lower electric bills. It’s just sometimes difficult to convince them of that fact.

As member-owned, non-profit cooperatives, we operate on margins that don’t include paying dividends to investors. We don’t have to generate record profits to increase our stock price. Every dollar taken in is used in running the system or re-invested back into the distribution system.

We encourage our members to use less electricity. What other business has that type of business plan?

When energy saving devices can cut electric bills – we want everyone to know about them. Electric cooperatives frequently gave away compact fluorescent or LED lights; we provide free advice on energy efficiency; we promote geothermal heating and cooling systems that can dramatically reduce your electricity consumption. We do everythiing we can to help our members use less electricity.

And despite what our members have been told, electric cooperatives and TVA encourage the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. We need coal, but that’s not all we’re about.

The bottom line is that we are concerned about our members’ bottom line. Our primary concern has always been keeping the lights on. That concern isn’t limited to keeping the power flowing, it also means keeping energy affordable.

So, the next time you see the phrase, “what your utility doesn’t want you to know,” tell your members to put their hand on your pocketbook. As we’re doing that, let’s make an extra effort to educate them on the measures that they can take to lower their bill – that’s something that we do want them to know.

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.

Draft dodgers: Weather stripping your home

By Amber Bentley

There is no doubt about it; the cold weather is on its way. Not only is it important to make sure that your heating unit is working properly, but you should check your home to make sure that none of that heat is escaping.

When the weather turns colder, drafts around windows and doors are constantly letting in cool air. Most people will immediately want to raise their thermostat even higher; however, that will cause you to use more energy when you don’t necessarily need to. The best solution is to weather strip your home. This is typically an easy fix that will eliminate energy waste and help you save on your monthly electric bill.

Sometimes drafts are obvious, and other times the openings are much smaller. Here are two quick ways to find out if heat is escaping from your home. For doors, look for daylight between the door and its frame, if you see even a hint of light in between the two, you need to weather strip that area. For windows, place a piece of paper between the sash and the seal then close it. If you can remove the piece of paper from the window without ripping it, you need to weather strip that area as well.

The great thing about all of this is that weather stripping is easy! There is an assortment of materials available to you (like rubber, foam, metal, etc.) and they are all inexpensive. Once you have purchased what you need, keep the following in mind before you begin weather stripping: be sure the surface is dry and clean, measure the area more than once for best accuracy, and apply so that strips compress both sides of the window or door.

To weather strip windows:

  • Place the stripping between the frame and the sash.
  • Be sure that it compresses the window when shut.
  • Check to make sure that the stripping does not interfere with the moving of the window.

To weather strip doors:

  • Choose the proper sweeps and thresholds for your door.
  • Weather-strip the entire door jamb.
  • Make sure the stripping meets tightly at both corners.
  • Use a thickness that allows for a tight press between the door and the ground, but one that does not make the door difficult to shut.

Roughly half of the energy that your home uses comes from heating and cooling. So the next time you feel an uncomfortable draft in your home, do not immediately crank up the heat. Check to find out where the draft is coming from and properly weather strip the area. This will ultimately save you more energy and more money in the end.

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Amber Bentley writes on energy efficiency issues 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.

Safety for All

By Meghaan Evans

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have always been dedicated to providing safe, reliable and affordable utility service to you, our member-owners. The lengths we go to keep you, your family and our linemen safe are a point of pride for us and are never taken lightly.

From acquiring new equipment and implementing new procedures – including installation of new breaker systems that react more quickly in case of a disruption – to increasing awareness of back-up generator systems within the cooperative community and supporting the Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program (RESAP), America’s electric cooperatives strive to promote the highest standard of safety.

A lot has changed for the electric utility industry in the United States over the last 130 years. In the 1880s, power came to New York City through the direct current (DC) supply method. Direct current supply required generation stations to be within a mile of a consumer’s home, which was great for city residents – but not so great for those living in the suburbs or rural areas.

Because of its inability to travel long distances – and the higher cost – the DC system eventually lost out to the more economical alternating current (AC) system. The AC system allowed power to travel across greater distances through the use of transformers located at power stations. These transformers required higher voltage to pass through stations in order to bring power to homes at the end of the wire. This increase in voltage spurred the need for increased electrical safety procedures.

High voltage is considered in the U.S. to be a voltage above 35,000 volts. Designations of high voltage also include the possibility of causing a spark in the air or causing electric shock by proximity or contact.

High voltage wires and equipment are a constant danger for cooperative lineworkers, but they can also pose a danger to cooperative members. That is why electric cooperatives are proud to be at the forefront of electrical safety equipment development, as well as electrical safety education.

Line crews participate in monthly training sessions and courses to ensure that employees are constantly reminded of the safety aspect of the job and the importance of using equipment in the safest manner possible.

In addition to safety training for employees, electric cooperatives are continuously raising awareness of electrical safety in our communities by performing demonstrations at local schools and community events. There, we show members just how easy it is for an accident to occur when working with electricity and how to prevent these dangerous, and sometimes deadly, mishaps. We also increase awareness of electrical safety by engaging with volunteer fire departments, emergency medical teams and sheriff’s departments on a regular basis, offering education courses and demonstrations. These programs keep service men and women, as well members of the community, safe.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives know that the more people we have in our communities who are knowledgeable about electrical safety, the safer we all will be. That’s why we strive, every day, to raise awareness of, and encourage development in, electrical safety.

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.

Governor: October is Co-op Month

Governor lauds Tennessee’s member-owned organizations during Co-op Month in October

The proclamation, also signed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, reads, in part: “Tennessee cooperatives improve the well-being of rural residents and communities across our state by providing electric, internet, and telephone services to homes, farms, and rural businesses; financing for land, assets, and inputs; products and services, including genetics and seed, nutrients and feed, crop protection and health, equipment and fuel for growing and marketing crops and livestock; and insurance for individuals and family businesses, resulting in employment for thousands of Tennesseans.”

Haslam also stressed that rural cooperatives are important partners with today’s farmers “as they work diligently to produce safe, abundant, dependable, and affordable food and fiber for both a rapidly growing world population and an increasingly interconnected and proactively health-conscious local consumer.”

What sets cooperatives apart from other types of businesses is that they are owned and controlled by the people who use their products and services, so members have a chance to share in their successes and have a voice in their operation. Cooperatives are led by their membership through an elected board of directors and share profits with members by reducing costs of their products or services or by providing patronage refunds.

“Governor Haslam recognizes the importance of cooperatives, particularly to our rural communities,” Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “Cooperatives illustrate the very best of the American Way through members who participate in local, community ownership, and where shared responsibility not only helps reduce the cost of products and services but provides economic opportunity.”

Haslam also had good things to say about the Tennessee Council of Cooperatives (TCC), calling it “the state’s flagship organization for coordinating, promoting, educating, and extending cooperative development in Tennessee.”

“It often serves as a clearinghouse for the open exchange of information and experiences among cooperative businesses, a sounding board for new ideas, and a forum for discovery, discussion, and dissemination,” he said.

Tennessee Farmers Cooperative Marketing Manager Keith Harrison, current president of TCC, said, “Our board of directors is committed to promoting the cooperative way of doing business.  That’s evident in many of our current programs.  The council sponsors scholarships for agricultural students at each of Tennessee’s four-year agricultural colleges, hosts an annual leadership conference for more than 400 young leaders from across the state, sponsors an annual education workshop for more than 50 employees of cooperatives in addition to providing leadership, cooperation, and support to various other programs.  We truly believe the cooperative business model will continue to play a vital role in strengthening our state’s rural economy in the future.”

Nationwide this year, more than 29,000 cooperatives will celebrate October Co-op Month, promoting the advantages of cooperative membership and recognizing the benefits and value co-ops bring to their communities. The observance has been celebrated annually for the past 84 years. This year’s theme —“The Co-op Connection”— celebrates the ways co-ops connect with each other, their communities, and their world.

Visit tennesseecouncilofcoops.org for more information about Tennessee cooperatives or the TCC and its programs. Visit ncba.coop/coop-month for more information about the national Co-op Month celebration.

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Photo caption: Gov. Bill Haslam, front center, presents a proclamation to the Tennessee Council of Cooperatives board of directors proclaiming October as “Cooperative Month” in Tennessee.  Pictured with the governor are, front from left, Greg Anderson, Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative, and Keith Harrison, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative. In back are Todd Blocker, Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association;  Scott Lewis, Farm Credit Mid-America;  Dan Strasser, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation; and Tom Womack, Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

View high-resolution photo here.

Can energy savings be as easy as painting?

By Brian Sloboda

With our hectic schedules in today’s fast-paced world, the easiest option often times seems to be the best option. A new series of insulating paints promises energy savings by simply painting the exterior of a building. But do they really work?

Some insulating paints promise up to 40 percent energy savings when applied to exterior walls. Typically, insulating paints (also called “nanocoatings” by some vendors) are designed to be applied to a building’s exterior with the goal of reflecting radiant heat energy. These types of radiant barriers have shown to provide benefits when properly applied to roofs (particularly in sunny areas with large cooling loads), and there are a number of Energy Star-qualified products that can be used for this purpose.

However, radiant coatings for roofs are different than paints that are to be applied to exterior walls. To date, there has not been any definitive research showing that adding such coatings to exterior walls is a cost-effective way to reduce building energy use. Instead, there has been a good deal of material from coating vendors that confuses radiative heat transfer with conductive heat transfer.

For example, numerous coating manufacturers advertise an “equivalent R-value” of their coatings. R-value represents the amount of insulation needed to reduce conductive heat transfer across a surface. In an example of the confusion that arises from heat transfer equivalence, one manufacturer claims that test results show that adding its 100-micron-thick coating to a four-inch concrete and plaster wall decreased the thermal conductivity across that wall by nearly 30 percent. In other words, the manufacturer claims that the coating reduced conductive heat transfer by a significant percentage. Simply considering the scale difference between four inches of concrete and 100 microns of paint should illustrate why claims like this should be met with extreme suspicion.

Actually, the R-value of coatings is typically quite low. If a coating were applied to a depth of one inch, it might be able to achieve the insulating properties of, say, one inch of fiberglass-batt insulation or rigid foam. But even that’s unlikely given that a coating doesn’t contain the gas voids that give insulators their insulating properties. Because coatings are applied in a thickness measured in microns, not inches, they simply cannot affect conductive heat loss from a building in any appreciable way and are not directly comparable to traditional insulators on an R-value basis.

The best energy-efficiency improvements are often the simplest and most common. Turning lights off when leaving a room, sealing windows and doors and cleaning refrigerator coils aren’t as much fun as buying a shiny new appliance or product. But these simple, low-cost actions are proven ways to save energy and increase comfort.

Brian Sloboda is a program manager specializing in energy efficiency for the Cooperative Research Network, a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Additional content provided by ESource.

Flickr image by Pittaya Sroilong.

Walking a tightrope

By Mike Knotts, director of government affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

Not too long ago, I visited www.takeactionTN.com and sent a message to Washington, D.C., stressing that I believe affordability and reliability must be part our nation’s energy policy. I did it because electricity impacts the world my kids live in and because I want to make sure your co-op keeps the lights on and powers your community. I hope you, too, will take action.

infographic-webQ: Why is this an issue right now?

A: The federal government has proposed new rules about carbon dioxide and power plants. At the announcement of the rules, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that the goal was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent  from 2005 levels. The preamble to the proposed rule is 650 pages, and there are thousands of pages of supporting documents and spreadsheets. The EPA will not make the rule final until it accepts comments from the public, and the deadline for submitting yours is Thursday, Oct. 16.

Q: Why does my electric co-op care about what the EPA is doing?

A: Like all your neighbors, you probably expect that your electric service will stay on ALL the time. You count on electricity to power your life, and your co-op delivers more than 99 percent of the time. And on those rare occasions when your power goes out, there are men and women who literally risk their lives to restore it as quickly as possible.
The commitment required to keep the lights on is tremendous. So any proposal that could affect the constant supply of electricity to your co-op causes us to take a long, hard look.

Q: Who produces the electricity my co-op delivers?

A: The Tennessee Valley Authority produces electricity and then transmits that energy to your co-op over a system of more than 15,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines. Your co-op is obligated under its contract to buy 100 percent of the energy you use from TVA.

Q: What fuel is used to generate the electricity I use?

A: Power is produced using a diversified mix of fuel sources that includes every type of power plant capable of producing utility-scale energy generation. For both reliability and cost considerations, it is important that we not be too dependent on one single source of power.

Q: What has already been done to reduce emissions?

A: TVA has worked for years to reduce its emissions of pollution. Those efforts have been tremendously successful and even included an agreement with EPA to go further in its commitments than was required of other utilities. The result has been reductions of 86 percent and 90 percent of the key byproducts of using coal.

TVA has idled or closed many of its oldest and dirtiest coal plants, mostly replacing that capacity with cleaner natural gas. TVA will be starting the first new nuclear plant in the U.S. next year, and the plant will power 600,000 homes with no emissions of any kind. In fact, all of these improvements have reduced TVA’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 30 percent compared to 2005 — meeting the EPA’s stated goal!

Q: Who pays for those improvements?

A: You do. TVA receives no funds that are not paid for by the electric ratepayers in the Tennessee Valley. It is likely that more than 75 cents of every dollar you pay for your electric bill goes to TVA for the cost of wholesale power.

Q: So, what is the problem?

A: Like many proposals produced by the government in Washington, this one is unfair and unworkable. Even though TVA has already met EPA’s stated goal, the fine print of the rule actually makes Tennessee do even more while many other states have less stringent requirements. Your co-op and TVA are heading in the right direction, but this rule makes us take an unnecessary U-turn.

INFOGRAPHIC: Power sources

A new infographic from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives outlines the sources used to generate the power we use each day and outlines Tennessee’s commitment to renewable sources of energy. A diverse mix of generation sources is important to the reliability and affordability of energy. You can help us maintain this diversity by visiting takeactionTN.com.

 

 

 

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