Plant the right tree in the right place this spring

When planting a tree, we often concentrate on the ground. Digging a hole. Preparing the soil. Fertilizing properly.

It is also important to look up. Trees and powerlines don’t mix, and the best time to think about it is before you even start digging.

Follow these tips to keep your fully-grown tree and your family safe.

Easy steps to greater efficiency

Do you want to save money and electricity but have limited time, money and patience? According to the Department of Energy, a “typical American family” spends nearly $2,000 per year on their home energy bills. Much of that money, however, is wasted through leaky windows or ducts, old appliances or inefficient heating and cooling systems.

Luckily, there are several relatively easy ways to save energy without a substantial commitment of time and money. These efforts will help you save whether you own or rent an older or newly constructed home. And, you won’t have to hire a specialist or call in a favor from someone who is handy with tools to help you.

Where to start

According to Money Magazine, “improving the envelope” of your home is a good place to start. Sunlight, seasonal temperature changes and wind vibrations can loosen up even a tight home, increasing air leakage. Doors and windows may not close tightly, and duct work can spring leaks, wasting cooled and heated air. By placing weather stripping and caulk around windows and doors, you can keep cool air inside during warm months and prevent chilly air from penetrating the indoors during colder months. Sealing gaps around piping, dryer vents, fans and outlets also helps to seal the envelope and creates greater efficiency. Apply weather stripping around overlooked spaces like your attic hatch or pull-down stairs.

Replacing incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs can make a big difference in home efficiency and is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bill. Known for their longevity and efficiency, LED bulbs have an estimated operational life span of typically 10,000 to 20,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours of a typical incandescent. According to the Dept. of Energy, by replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating, you can save $75 each year.

Wrapping up savings

Installing a blanket around your water heater could reduce standby heat losses by 25 to 45 percent and save you about 7 to 16 percent in water heating costs, according to the Dept. of Energy. For a small investment of about $30, you can purchase pre-cut jackets or blankets and install them in about one hour. On a safety note, the Dept. of Energy recommends that you not set the thermostat above 130 degrees Fahrenheit on an electric water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket; the higher temperature setting could cause the wiring to overheat.

Given that a large portion of your monthly energy bill goes toward heating and cooling your home, it makes sense to ensure your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is performing at an optimal level. Checking, changing or cleaning your filter extends the life of your HVAC system and saves you money.

Air filters prevent dust and allergens from clogging your HVAC system. Otherwise, dust and dirt trapped in a system’s air filter leads to several problems, including: reduced air flow in the home and up to 15 percent higher operating costs; lowered system efficiency; and costly duct cleaning or replacement. Many HVAC professionals recommend cleaning the system filters monthly. A simple task like changing the filters on your HVAC system makes your unit run more efficiently, keeping your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Take control of your energy savings

Take a look at your programmable thermostat. When was the last time you checked to make sure it was programmed for the current season and family schedule? This is one of the best energy-saving tools at your fingertips. It enables you to fine tune the temperature during particular hours of the day. Many models allow you to differentiate between weekday and weekend schedules, and internet-connected thermostats can learn your schedule and make adjustments automatically. Most models come with an override option so you can make manual adjustments without losing overall programing. You can only achieve these efficiencies and savings if it is programmed properly and adjusted periodically to keep pace with changes in household routines.

Remember, there are easy steps you can take now to improve the energy efficiency of your home. To learn about additional ways to save, contact your local electric cooperative.

Anne Prince 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.

Power-up outlet free

As smartphones and other electronics take on a more prominent role in our lives, it’s important to ensure these devices don’t run out of power. While finding an outlet in a building is easy, what do you do without access to one? Whether it’s a weekend camping trip, sporting event or travel to a foreign country, you’ll need a way to recharge your devices from wherever you are.

First, you need to decide if this is going to be an energy source you carry with you, or one that stays stationary, probably in your car.

Stationary generators include traditional gas-powered generators and a newer generation of heavy-duty lithium ion batteries. Both types are able to keep larger electronics, including mini-fridges and laptops running all weekend. The difference between the two comes down to cost and operation. The gas generator is cheaper up front, but noisy to operate and requires fuel. The lithium-ion battery is more costly up front, but quieter to operate and cheaper to re-charge.  The battery generator is also much lighter––typically around half the weight of a comparable gas generator––but since you won’t be carrying either with you in a backpack, it’s a largely irrelevant point.

Your choice for portable energy broadly boils down to two options, external battery packs and portable renewable generators.

External battery packs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but their carrying capacity is measured in mAh (milliamp hours). How much is 1 mAh? By definition, it’s enough energy to provide 1 milliamp of electricity for an hour. In practical terms, 10,000 mAh is enough to charge an iPhone 6s three and half times, a Galaxy S6 three times or run a 5W LED to light your tent for 10 hours. The benefits of these battery packs are cost, reliability and weight. A 10,000 mAh battery retails on Amazon.com for about $25, weighs the same as a baseball and can easily fit in your pocket. The downside is once the battery is drained, it’s also useless until you find an outlet again.

Portable generators offer a very different experience than battery packs. These gizmos are able to take some other form of energy and convert it into electricity for your devices. The most common are solar panels, but other types include water (river) and thermal (campfire) generators. The advantage of these generators is they won’t run out of power while being off-grid for extended periods of time. The downside is these generators are heavier, condition-dependent and more expensive than their battery counterparts. Estream’s portable water generator that launched this year, for example, is capable of generating electricity from any flowing water – seemingly a good fit for any trips near a river. However, it weighs 2 pounds, takes over 4 hours to charge to its 6,400 mAh capacity and costs $250. Portable solar panels offer similar economics. A Guide 10 Plus Solar Kit from Goal Zero retails for $130, weighs 1.4 pounds and will take 3 to 6 hours to charge a 2,300 mAh battery in full sunlight (no clouds, panels facing the sun).

While portable generators have a much better wow factor, unless you’re planning to embrace “van life” and go off the grid on a semi-permanent basis, consider a battery pack. Or, if you’re really bold, try turning off the electronics while you’re outside.

Thomas Kirk is an associate analyst of distributed energy resources for the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Business & Technology Strategies (BTS) division.

Co-ops applaud House Business and Utilities Subcommittee for passage of Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act

NASHVILLE – Members of the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee today passed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act (H.B. 0529) on a unanimous vote. The legislation now moves on to the full committee for consideration on Wednesday, March 15.

“The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act is an important step to expand access to high-speed internet in rural Tennessee,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “This legislation will not only help areas with the greatest need for high-speed internet, but it will also create jobs and improve access to education and healthcare.”

“We thank Rep. David Hawk for his sponsorship and the committee for supporting this legislation and rural Tennessee.”

The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act removes restrictions that currently prevent electric cooperatives from providing retail internet access. More than 800,000 Tennesseans, many of which live in areas served by electric co-ops, do not have access to high-speed internet.

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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FOR MORE INFORMATION
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy
615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org

Storms impact Tennessee co-ops

NASHVILLE – Storms that moved through the volunteer state overnight left more than 10,000 co-op members without power. Crews are working to restore service to all co-op members affected.

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation

Fewer than 500, down from near 10,000 earlier today.

Forked Deer Electric Cooperative

Six distribution poles down, and one transmission pole down. Wide spread outages.

Gibson Electric Membership Corporation

82 outages impacting 4,700 meters

Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation

More than 5,000 members without power.

 

Electric co-ops sponsor delegates to TCC Young Leaders Conference

More than 300 young people from across the state gathered at the 2017 Young Leaders Conference held Feb. 24 and 25 at the Drury Plaza Hotel in Franklin. The annual conference brings couples and individuals together from rural communities to learn about cooperatives, share their views about agriculture and discuss current issues facing rural Americans. The agenda is targeted to rural Tennesseans 50 years old or younger.

The Tennessee Council of Cooperatives (TCC) co-sponsors the annual conference with Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers organization.

Electric cooperatives from across the state sponsor delegates to attend the event. “It is important to tell the co-op story,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations and president of the Tennessee Council of Cooperatives for 2017. “This generation of young people are already leaders in their communities. The information and experiences they gain at the Young Leaders Conference can make them powerful co-op advocates.”

This year’s event began with a guided tour of the State Capitol. Breakout sessions covered a variety of subjects aimed at educating leaders about cooperatives and agricultural issues and strengthening their leadership skills. During “Getting Started” by Peyton Fair with Farm Credit Mid-America, attendees learned how to better analyze their farm finances. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Corinne Gould led a session on “Speaking Up,” and Alice Rhea of Farmers Services discussed “Keeping it Real.” House Speaker Beth Harwell gave the keynote address, and humorist and motivational speaker Lisa Smartt provided entertainment.

Blocker named President of Tennessee Council of Cooperatives

Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations

The Tennessee Council of Cooperatives, a non-profit organization established to promote the cooperative way of business across the state, recently named Todd Blocker, TECA vice president of member services, as president for 2017.

The TCC functions as the state’s flagship organization for coordinating, promoting, educating and extending cooperative development in Tennessee. TCC often serves as a clearing house for the open exchange of information and experiences among cooperative businesses; as a sounding board for new ideas; and as a forum for discovery, discussion, and dissemination.

“Whether it be farming, communications or energy, co-ops have unique opportunities to serve the people of Tennessee,” says Blocker. “The Tennessee Council of Cooperatives tells the story of Tennessee’s co-ops, and it is an honor to be a part of an organization that has such an important mission.”

“We congratulate Todd on his appointment,” said David Callis, TECA executive vice president and general manager. “I appreciate Todd’s passion for co-ops and am confident he will provide the TCC with sound direction and represent Tennessee’s electric cooperatives with honor.”

Blocker was appointed at the TCC’s Young Leaders Conference held on Feb. 24-25 in Nashville.

Co-op Statement on election of Howorth as TVA Chair

[NASHVILLE] –The Tennessee Valley Authority announced today that Richard Howorth was named chair-elect of the board of directors. Howorth will follow Lynn Evans as chair when her board term expires in May.

“Richard Howorth has a great deal of experience at both TVA and at the distribution level,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “TVA and distribution utilities are complex businesses, and we believe that experience is critical. We are confident that Mr. Howorth’s small-town background will help TVA serve co-ops in an effective way. We congratulate him on his election.”

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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TVA directors Lynn Evans, center, and Richard Howorth, right, address co-op leaders during the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting in Nashville on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.

 

Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy
Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association
tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

Co-ops support Governor’s Broadband Accessibility Act

[NASHVILLE] – Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association CEO David Callis issued the following statement on the introduction of HB 0529 and SB 1215 earlier this week.

“Rural and suburban Tennessee have a great need for expanded high speed internet access, and electric co-ops are pleased to see the introduction of legislation this week that would allow co-ops to provide broadband to our members. We appreciate Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. David Hawk for sponsoring bills in their respective chambers, and we encourage members of the General Assembly to support this important legislation.”

Co-ops members are encouraged to visit takeactionTN.com to send a message to their legislators to encourage them to support the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act.

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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Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy
Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association
tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

State of the State address highlights role co-ops play in rural broadband

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives listened to the Governor’s State of the State address on Monday, Jan. 30, with interest as he outlined the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act. The plan outlines efforts to expand broadband access in Tennessee, including lifting restrictions that currently prevent electric co-ops from providing retail broadband service.

“The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act acknowledges the unique role that electric co-ops can play in expanding access to broadband,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “This proposal would create new opportunities for education, healthcare and commerce in our communities. We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly to increase connectivity across rural and suburban Tennessee.”

Electric cooperatives are consumer-owned, not-for-profit energy companies. There are 23 electric co-ops in Tennessee that provide energy to 2.5 million Tennesseans across 71 percent of that state’s landmass. Co-ops serve areas with the greatest need for expanded broadband access, but legal restrictions currently prevent co-ops from providing retail broadband service.

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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Photo via Gov. Haslam Flickr