It’s tempting to turn the heat on as soon as the weather starts to cool down in the fall. But holding off for a few weeks until you really need to rely on heat can keep your energy bills low.

If you must turn the heat on during the early fall:

  1. Set it no higher than 68 degrees. This will make your indoor air comfortable without wasting energy.
  2. Move furniture and drapes away from warm air registers and baseboard heaters so they don’t block the heat from circulating. The freer the air flow, the lower you can set your thermostat.
  3. Close the flue damper of your wood-burning fireplace. In fact, consider fitting an electric fireplace into it so you can enjoy a light show without sending heated air up the chimney.
  4. Have an HVAC pro inspect your heating system before it gets too cold outside. Regular maintenance can prevent an expensive, inconvenient problem later in the winter when it would be uncomfortable to go even a day without a working heating system.
  5. Caulk indoor openings on external walls, like around the areas where the cable and phone lines come into the house and around penetrations for water pipes and sewer lines. Sealing those openings can keep your heated air in and the cool air out.

Little ghosts, goblins and princesses are a welcome sight on Halloween night. But beware of the vampire lurking inside your home.

You could be paying for vampire energy—electricity that leaks from your appliances, computers and entertainment systems—if you leave them plugged in even when they’re turned off.

Any cord that is plugged into an electrical outline draws electricity. So if you leave your mobile phone charger plugged in after you’ve removed the phone or you leave your computer and scanner plugged in after you shut down for the evening, you could be wasting—and paying for—unused energy.

Most people leave electronics plugged in all the time because it’s convenient to be able to turn them on without having to plug them in again and again, day after day. The worst offenders are “remote-ready” appliances, like computers, cable boxes, stereos, TVs, microwave ovens, garage door openers and video game consoles.

As long as they’re plugged in, they remain in a “ready” state so they don’t have to wake up or warm up when you turn them on.

That can cost you between $165 and $440 per year in wasted electricity, depending on how many devices you have.

A tip: Invest in a high-quality power strip—one that will sacrifice itself during a power surge rather than letting the surge ruin the appliance. Plug multiple items into the power strip and unplug the strip before bedtime. That’s easier than unplugging and replugging lots of appliances.

A caution: Don’t overload your home’s electrical circuits by plugging too many appliances into a single power strip. Especially if you live in an older home, consult an electrician about how much of an electrical load your single outlets can handle.

As farming technology advances, farmers are finding new ways to reduce costs, improve efficiency and increase crop yields. The newest trend of technological advancements for farming is precision agriculture, a strategy where farmers use advanced technologies to control the growth of crops and raising of livestock more accurately and efficiently.

As precision agriculture has grown in recent years, the technologies have become even more technical and precise by using data analytics and machine learning. With a whole suite of benefits, like reduced costs, standardized data and metrics and minimizing resource waste, it’s no surprise that technologies and strategies for precision agriculture are becoming more commonplace.

The initial wave of precision agriculture in the 1980s was made possible by GPS (global positioning system) devices, which were first placed on tractors. GPS-connected devices could control a tractor and automatically steer the tractor based on the field’s GPS coordinates. This helped reduce any overlap while driving, making farming practices more efficient.

Beyond autonomous tractors, there have been many innovations in farming technologies that are part of precision agriculture. One technology is the crop-monitoring drone, which can take aerial views of fields and help give the farmer a bird’s-eye view of their land. Connecting the drone to special software and GPS can also allow the drone to automatically take photos, making it even easier to use. When combined with GIS (geographic information system), the drone can help analyze the geospatial field data in real-time for the farmer.

Using robotics for precision agriculture can be applied to many kinds of machines. For example, robotic milking machines can be used to automate the cow milking process. These machines help farmers reduce their labor demands while also increasing efficiency, freeing up time for farmers to work on other parts of their farm. Since the machines are optimized to work efficiently, they can also help to remove more milk per cow and provide more rest for the cows.

If farmers want to optimize their crop production, then variable rate technology (VRT) can help. VRT allows the farmer to use a variable rate schedule for application of fertilizer or for irrigation. Although there are several different options for using VRT, the basics consist of a computer, software, GPS and a controller. Farmers can choose to use VRT in either a map-based or sensor-based way, depending on need of the farm. Using VRT helps farmers accurately measure water and fertilizer, save time and maximize irrigation and fertilization efficiency.

To properly use these new technologies, there are some important safety tips to consider. When learning to use any new technology, be sure to fully read the manual and understand the instructions before beginning any work. This can help farmers avoid preventable accidents. Different types of farm equipment will also require different safety precautions. For example, when working with grain bins, farmers should be especially careful to follow training procedures when it is necessary to work inside the grain bin.

Being aware of the best safety practices when working with a specific technology is the best way to avoid accidents. Additionally, since these technologies are digital, the threat of cybersecurity comes into play. Appropriate use of any USB thumb drives and being aware of spear-phishing cyberattacks will help prevent malicious entities from gaining access to the farmer’s confidential data.

Although the benefits are clear, there are a few barriers to using these new agricultural technologies. Having a well-established broadband connection is crucial for some of these technologies, and a lack of high-speed internet access can limit the use of precision agriculture technologies. Furthermore, using precision agriculture comes with a relatively large upfront financial investment, which may not provide a return on investment quickly enough to the farm.

Before incorporating precision agriculture technology into any farm, planning and preparation will be crucial to make the best use of the technology.


Maria Kanevsky writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56% of the nation’s landscape.

 

When homeowners look for opportunities to improve efficiency, they frequently look inside. You should also consider how projects outside your home can impact energy use. Spring landscape projects can have a major impact on your home’s efficiency.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, shading your home is the most cost-effective way to reduce heat gain from the sun and reduce your air conditioning costs in the summer. Having more plants and trees in your yard can reduce the air temperature by up to 6 degrees.

Planting deciduous trees on the south, southwest and west sides of your home can cut heating during hot summer months while allowing sunlight through during the fall and winter when the trees have lost their leaves. When planting trees, consider the expected shape and height of the mature trees and where they will shade your home. A tree with a high mature height planted on the south side of a home, for example, will provide all-day roof shading in the summer while a shorter tree to the west can protect your home from the lower afternoon sun.

If your home is in an open area without many structures around it, cold winter winds can increase your heating bills. A windbreak on your property can help deflect these winds over your home. The most common type of windbreak uses a combination of evergreen trees and shrubs to block wind from the ground to the top of your home. For the best windbreak effect, plant these features on the north and northwest sides of your home at a distance of between two and five times the height of the mature trees. Incorporating a wall or fence can further assist with the wind break.

There are a few safety tips to consider when planting trees. Contact your local electric co-op before planting trees near power lines. We can recommend safe planting distances based on the type of tree. You should also call 811 before digging to avoid underground utilities on your property.

The goal of most lawn and garden projects is to bring beauty to your outdoor space, but a well-designed project can also improve your energy bill and increase the overall value of your home.

Whether your oven and stove top are powered by gas or electricity, it’s no secret that they consume more energy than smaller countertop appliances, like slow cookers and toaster ovens. In addition to efficiency, smaller kitchen appliances can provide faster cooking times and less hassle with cleanup.

If you’re looking for convenient cooking methods with the added bonus of energy efficiency, here are three electrifying appliances for your kitchen:

  1. Air fryers circulate hot air (convection) to cook the food. This means little to no oil is required, resulting in healthier meals than those from traditional fryers. Photo Credit: Hamilton Beach (Attribution required.)

    Air fryers are becoming increasingly popular, and consumers have a lot of good things to say about these handy little appliances. Air fryers use convection to circulate hot air and cook the food––this means little to no oil is required, resulting in healthier meals than those from traditional fryers. Air fryers are fairly small, so they won’t take up much of your counter space, and with everything cooked in the fryer, cleanup will be a breeze. Air fryers are available in a variety of sizes, and prices range from $40 to $200+.

  2. Electric griddles have certainly been around for a while, and they offer several benefits for any home chef (beyond bacon and eggs!). Griddles are convenient because you can cook everything at once––like a “one-pan” meal, and the possibilities are endless. From fajitas to sandwiches to French toast, griddles can help satisfy any taste buds. They consume small amounts of energy and provide quick cooking times, so your energy bill will thank you. Prices and sizes for griddles vary, but you can typically find one for about $30 at your local retail stores.
  3. Pizza brings people together, so why not consider a pizza maker for your kitchen? These compact, countertop machines are an inexpensive alternative to a costly brick oven, and they use less energy than your traditional oven. Choose your own fresh ingredients to whip up a faster, healthier pizza at home. Plus, most pizza makers are multifunctional and can be used to cook flatbreads, frittatas, quesadillas and more. You can purchase a pizza maker for about $30 to $150+ online or at your local retailer.

These are just a few electrifying appliance options for your kitchen. Remember, when you’re cooking a smaller meal, countertop appliances can save time and energy. To learn about additional ways to save energy at home, contact your local co-op.

Space heating and cooling account for a large portion of the average home’s energy use. In fact, the heating and cooling of your home could be responsible for more than half of your monthly electric bill.

Making small adjustments to your home’s temperature can have a significant impact on your monthly electric bill, and it all begins at your thermostat.

Set your thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter while you are home and awake, and set it even lower while you are sleeping or away. Lowering your thermostat 10-15 degrees for eight hours can reduce your heating bill by 10 percent or more.

You may have heard that lowering your thermostat while you are away will make it work harder once you return, and that is a reasonable argument. However, studies have found that you will use less energy by turning your system down when you are away and returning it to the original temperature when home versus leaving it at the original temperature the entire time. Don’t waste energy heating your furniture.

If all of these changes sound stressful, consider investing in a programmable or smart thermostat. Such a device can be programmed to run specific schedules or adjust the temperature when it senses you are away from home.

The location of your thermostat can also impact its performance and your energy bill. Be sure your thermostat is away from air vents, doors and windows, and it is best for it not to be located in kitchens, hallways or in direct sunlight. All of these factors can trick the thermostat into thinking your home is hotter or colder than it actually is.

Most of us spend very little time thinking about our thermostats, but they can have a significant impact on your comfort and your energy bill. We’re always available to help you make smarter energy choices. Contact your local co-op to learn more.

Baby, it’s cold outside! When you’re feeling chilly at home, there are several budget-friendly ways you can keep comfortable without turning up the thermostat.

Here are five easy ways to stay cozy this winter.

  1. Whether you’re experiencing extremely cold winter temps or you simply “run cold,” an electric blanket can deliver quick warmth like a regular throw or blanket cannot. Electric blankets can include a variety of features, like timers and dual temperature settings (if your cuddle buddy prefers less heat). This winter, consider an electric blanket instead of turning up the heat, and your energy bill will thank you.
  2. One of the easiest ways to stay cozy at home is to keep your feet warm. Our feet play a critical role in regulating body temperature, so when your feet are warm, your body automatically feels warmer. Try a pair of comfortable wool socks or house slippers to stay toasty.
  3. On winter days when the sun is shining, take advantage and harness natural warmth from sunlight. Open all curtains, drapes and blinds in your home to let the sunshine in––you’ll be able to feel the difference.
  4. Another way to make your home cozier is to use a humidifier. Cold air doesn’t hold water vapor like warm air, so by adding humidity inside your home, you can feel a little warmer. A favorable level of humidity inside your home can also help clear sinuses, soften skin and improve sleep.
  5. Beyond adding visual appeal to your home, area rugs can also provide extra insulation and a warm surface for your feet on cold winter days. Use large area rugs in rooms where you spend the most time. You’ll enjoy the new colors and textures of the rug, and the additional warmth will help keep your home comfortable.

These are just a few ways you can stay cozy this winter without turning up the thermostat. Don’t forget the hot chocolate!

Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.

 

The holiday season is finally upon us, and Santa and his elves have been especially busy as they gear up for their biggest night of the year.  

It’s no secret that Santa is known for running an efficient workshop  how else could he make all those toys in time for Christmas Eve? Rumor has it that one way Santa ensures an efficient workspace is through energy-saving measures.  

Here are four ways Santa saves energy in his workshop. 

  1. Unlike the rest of us, Santa leaves his decorations up year-round. By using LED holiday light strands, he’s able to save on his monthly energy bills. LED holiday strands can last up to 40 seasons, which make them a great option for any festive home.  
  2. Santa requires power tools to make a year’s worth of new toys. That’s why he insists on using cordless power tools with the Energy Star rating. According to energystar.gov, if all power tools in the U.S. used Energy Star-rated battery chargers, 2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved — that’s equivalent to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 million tons!  
  3. Mrs. Claus loves to keep warm by the fire in the evenings, and Santa knows one of the best tricks to ensure fireplace efficiency. While a fireplace can keep a small area of your home cozy and warm, it can also pull heated air from the room through the chimney. That’s why Santa always closes the fireplace flue when a fire isn’t burning.  
  4. Santa also saves energy by using power strips. They’re ideal for workshops, craft nooks, game rooms and other spaces in your home. With one simple switch, you can conveniently control several devices and electronics that are plugged into the power strip.  

This holiday season, let’s take a page from Santa’s book and remember to save energy when possible. With these four tips, you’ll be well on your way to savings (and, hopefully, Santa’s “nice” list!).  

Ah, the kitchen. It’s undeniably one of the most-loved rooms in our homes. It’s where we gather with family and friends for our favorite meals and memories. But like most of us, you probably aren’t thinking about saving energy when you’re planning that perfect dish. Here are four ways you can save energy in the kitchen with minimal effort:

When possible, cook with smaller appliances. Using smaller kitchen appliances like slow cookers, toaster ovens and convection ovens is more energy efficient than using your large stove or oven. According to the Department of Energy, a toaster or convection oven uses one-third to one-half as much energy as a full-sized oven.

Unplug appliances that draw phantom energy load. Halloween may be over, but it’s possible you have energy vampires — appliances like coffee makers, microwaves and toaster ovens that draw energy even when they’re not in use — in your kitchen. The Department of Energy has estimated that one home’s energy vampires left plugged in year-round can add up to $100-$200 in wasted energy costs. Unplug them when they’re not in use, or, better yet, use a power strip for convenient control.

Help large appliances work less. There are small ways you can help your larger kitchen appliances run more efficiently. For example, keep range-top burners clean from spills and fallen foods so they’ll reflect heat better. When it’s time to put leftovers in the refrigerator, make sure the food is covered. And allow it to cool down first so the fridge doesn’t have to work harder to cool warm food.

Use your dishwasher efficiently. Only run full loads, and avoid using the “rinse hold” function on your machine for just a few dirty dishes; it uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water with each use. You can also save energy by letting your dishes air dry. If your dishwasher doesn’t have an automatic air-dry switch, simply turn the dishwasher off after the final rinse and prop the door open so the dishes will dry faster.

Bonus tip: The best way to save energy is to not use it. Try a tasty, no-bake dessert recipe. Your sweet tooth (and energy bill!) will thank you.

By slightly adjusting a few of your habits in the kitchen, you’ll be well on your way to energy savings. Contact us to learn about additional ways you can save energy and money at home.

Our nation’s farmers have worked for generations in fields across the country. They have seen first-hand how farming equipment has improved over the decades to increase efficiency and to feed an ever-growing population.

A major new change for farming equipment is the trend of switching fossil fuel-powered farming equipment towards electric farming equipment. This trend builds on the idea of beneficial electrification, where switching to an electric end-use technology satisfies at least one of the following conditions with adversely affecting the others: saving consumers money over time, benefiting the environment, improving product quality or consumer quality of life, and fostering a more robust and resilient grid.

Historically, the most common form of electrification for farms has been electric irrigation pumping systems. Irrigation systems are crucial for many farmers and can make or break the crop yield for the entire year. Water heaters are the second most-used forms of electric technology on farms. They can be used for many different purposes, like in dairy farm processing, sterilizing equipment and general cleaning. Choosing an electric water heater for the right application depends on efficiency, size, recovery speed and peak temperature.

There are many benefits of replacing diesel motors with electric motors. Highly efficient electric motors can operate at 90% efficiency, which helps to provide cost savings over time, compared to inefficient diesel motors that only operate at 30% to 40% efficiency. Farmers can simply plug in the electric equipment without needing to refill a diesel tank. One of the greatest benefits of electric motors is they do not emit fumes like diesel motors, which means farmers get to breathe in cleaner air around them. Overall, electric motors are cleaner, quieter and easier to maintain. Some farmers are making the switch to electric tractors as companies like John Deere, AgCo and other companies continue to perfect their own electric models. While electric tractors are more efficient, quieter and better for the environment than conventional diesel tractors, they lack the battery power that many farmers need for a long day of working in the fields.

But the largest barrier of converting to electric technologies is the cost. Both the price of the electric technology itself and for the wiring to connect it to the entire farm can be extremely costly. Even with savings on fuel costs over time, farmers will be reluctant to replace their farming equipment because of high initial costs. However, there are federal and local government programs that can help to lessen the upfront costs for farmers. Electric cooperatives can also help farmers in their local territory with energy audits to identify energy efficiency opportunities, or with applying for funding from federal programs such as the Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP) or the Rural Business Development Grants (RBDG).

Besides electric irrigation systems and water heaters, the availability of other electric farming technologies is much less common, such as grain dryers, thermal electric storage systems and heat pumps. Many of these electric technologies are still in the early stages of commercialization and have not fully entered the agricultural market. The accessibility of these other technologies will depend on a variety of factors, like the type of farm, electricity prices versus fossil fuel prices, and any incentives to decrease upfront costs for buying new equipment. Despite these challenges, there are opportunities for expansion, especially for electric tractors and other electric farm vehicles which are used on many different types of farms. With more time and investment, electric farming equipment will likely become more widespread in the coming years.

Maria Kanevsky is a program analyst for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The coronavirus public health crisis has impacted almost every aspect of American life. From work and school to meals and entertainment, Tennesseans are spending more time at home than ever before. With this extra activity, many will see a surge home energy use – and in upcoming electric bills. There are, however, some simple money-saving steps you can take today to lower monthly electric bills without jeopardizing safety or comfort.

Recommended energy-saving tips include:

  • Program your thermostat to maximize energy savings. Setting your thermostat one degree lower when heating or one degree higher when cooling can reduce energy use by up to 5 percent. 
  • Do full loads of laundry and wash with cold water. Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load’s energy use in half, and using cold water will save even more.
  • Air dry dishes.  This step can cut your dishwasher’s energy use by up to 50 percent.
  • Substitute LEDs for conventional light bulbs. Lighting can amount to up to 12% of monthly energy use. LED bulbs can cut lighting costs by 75%.
  • Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use. Small appliances and electronics use energy even when not in use. When powered on, game consoles, televisions and similar electronics are responsible for up to 12 percent of energy use.

You can see them on fields of open land, on top of people’s homes and even on backpacks. Solar panels are becoming much cheaper and more prevalent in the United States and across the world. Because of this, more homeowners are considering installing solar panels on their own rooftops. Whether you’re interested in saving money or helping the environment, there are many benefits from installing rooftop solar panels. However, there are several things to think about before making the jump. Here are three key factors to consider before installing solar panels on your own home:

Location

Does the town or state you live in typically get a lot of sunlight? Is your location prone to natural disasters? The best areas for rooftop solar panels are those that generally receive a lot of sunlight throughout the year and are less likely to have natural disasters that could damage solar equipment. Even if you don’t live in the sunniest state, this doesn’t mean solar panels won’t work for you. While lesser-lit areas may not be as efficient, they will still receive a substantive amount of solar energy. Areas that are prone to natural disasters can also take advantage of unique ways to prevent damage, for example, different mounting procedures to protect against hurricanes.

Additionally, depending on your location, many states also have incentives and rebates for installing residential solar panel systems, on top of the federal solar tax credit of 26% in 2020, which is available to all states. Being aware of state-specific incentives can help you make your decision before installing a residential solar panel system.

Roof Condition

Two huge factors of solar panel efficiency are the direction your roof slant faces and the angle of the slant. South-facing roofs will receive the most sunlight throughout the day, and roof angles between 30 and 45 degrees work well in most cases. However, even if your home does not have a south-facing roof, you can still have an economically-viable solar panel system.

The material of your roof is also crucial since some roof types are better situated to have solar panels than others, such as composite roofing or tile roofs. Despite this, solar panels can be installed on practically any type of roof material, although more complicated roof materials, like tar and gravel roofs, may be more expensive and require additional expertise.

Lastly, ensuring the good condition of your roof plays a large part to help make sure that your panels are situated as safely as possible.

Financing Options

There are several different options when considering how to pay for rooftop solar panels. One of the simplest options is a solar loan, which allows you to buy and own your entire system. Generally, you should save enough money on your electric bills from the solar panels to pay off the cost of the monthly loan payment.

A solar lease is another financing option where a third-party owner (TPO) installs solar panels on your home and charges you an electricity rate below the market rate. The TPO owns and maintains the panels, and at the end of the lease will offer to sell you the panels or remove them. However, you will not be eligible for rebates or incentives, since the TPO owns the system.

Another option is a power purchase agreement (PPA) which is like a solar lease. The main difference is that you pay a pre-determined monthly amount based on the actual energy produced, instead of a flat monthly fee that a solar lease would require.

Before you decide on a financing option, we strongly encourage you to talk with your local electric cooperative first to determine if installation is right for you – and if there are other measures you can take to save energy (and money) at home.

These three considerations provide a great starting point for learning how to go solar, but it should be noted this list is not complete. There are additional important details to consider, such as solar panel type, potential battery installation and how long you plan to live at your current home.

Remember, your electric cooperative is a great resource to discuss the benefits and considerations of rooftop solar, especially before making any agreements with solar vendors. Choosing the right professionals and companies to install your solar panels is an important choice and working with your electric co-op can help you to make the best decision possible.

Maria Kanevsky is a program analyst for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

Predictors of future auto and energy forecasts say that by the end of this new decade, some versions of electric vehicles (EVs) could account for half of auto sales in the world. The trends that could lead to those projections include better battery technology and a rising interest in energy efficiency for buses, rideshare vehicles and even electric scooters.

EV sales jumped an incredible 75% from 2017 to 2018, according to the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, but by the end of 2018, EVs still only accounted for less than 2% of the overall vehicle market.

But auto companies see those small numbers as an opportunity for growth. Around the world, they are investing $225 billion over the next three years to develop more EVs. Industry groups report that manufacturers are now offering more than 40 different models of EVs, a number expected to grow to more than 200 over the next two years. An analysis by the J.P. Morgan investment firm sees traditional internal combustion engine vehicles falling from a 70% share of the market in 2025 to just 40% by 2030.

The efficiency of electricity

What’s powering those predictions is the worldwide interest in the related desires for less pollution, higher efficiency and greater economy. A study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) concludes that electricity produces less greenhouse gases than other forms of energy, especially with the increasing use of renewable power sources to generate electricity. The ACEEE study cites transportation as a sector of the economy that could produce the biggest gains in energy efficiency, mainly due to a shift toward EVs. The study says, “Electric vehicles are generally more efficient and have lower emissions than gasoline or diesel internal combustion engine vehicles. Thus, operating costs are typically lower for electric vehicles.”

While efficiency and environmental concerns provide reasons for EV growth, it also helps that they’re getting cheaper. A lot cheaper. One of the biggest costs of an EV is the battery, and fierce competition is driving down prices. The incentives for researchers and manufacturers to lower costs have reduced battery prices about 15% a year for the past 20 years. As a result, the cost of the battery has dropped from more than half the cost of an EV four years ago, to one-third today, and is expected to be down to about one-fifth the cost by 2025, according to the research firm BloombergNEF.

Electric buses, scooters and ridesharing

As battery prices drop, they get better. In the case of a battery, better means they last longer, which addresses one of the biggest roadblocks to more people buying EVs. There’s a term for the concern that an EV battery will run out before you’re done driving for the day—range anxiety.

But batteries can now provide a range of 200 miles before needing a recharge, well above the 40 miles a day that most people drive, even in rural areas.

Which brings up another roadblock to EVs—how you charge them. One easy place to charge an EV would be in your garage overnight, and your local electric co-op can help you with advice on how to do that. There are different ways to charge your car, from a standard outlet, which takes longer, to higher-voltage techniques that might require an upgrade your co-op can help with.

Electric co-ops around the country are also helping to install charging stations around the country—another factor people will want available before buying an EV. That number is growing as well. The Department of Energy reports that in the past two years, the number of EV charging stations in the U.S. has increased from 16,000 to 22,000.

Experts expect some of the strongest growth of electric transportation to come in specialized uses that could expand to wider acceptance. Bloomberg expects that by 2040, 81% of municipal bus sales will be electric. Ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber are another expected market. More than a billion people around the world use ridesharing services and the stop-and-go nature of rideshare driving could make the greater efficiency of EVs attractive to those drivers. New technology also brings unexpected uses. One industry writer says a new electric scooter with a range of 75 miles and a top speed of 15 miles per hour could change what we think of as a vehicle.

As the Bloomberg study concludes, “Electrification will still take time because the global fleet changes over slowly, but once it gets rolling in the 2020s, it starts to spread to many other areas of road transport. We see a real possibility that global sales of conventional passenger cars have already passed their peak.”

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National RuralElectric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

A New Year brings new opportunities to save energy––and money. You may think energy efficiency upgrades require a great deal of time and expense, but that’s not always the case.

If you’re interested in making your home more efficient but don’t want to break the bank, there are several DIY projects you can tackle to increase energy savings. Let’s take a look at three inexpensive efficiency upgrades that can help you save energy throughout the year.  

Trim Dryer Vent

Level of difficulty: easy. Supplies needed: tin snips, gloves, measuring tape and masking tape. Estimated Cost: about $25 depending on the supplies you already have.

If your dryer vent hose is too long, your dryer is working harder than it has to, using more energy than necessary. The vent hose should be long enough for you to pull the dryer out a couple feet from the wall, but the shape of the hose should form a line––it should not have a lot of slack, with twists and curves. A shorter, unobstructed vent hose increases the efficiency of your dryer, dries clothing faster and reduces lint buildup, which can create potential fire hazards.

Simply measure, mark and trim the hose to the desired length, then reattach the hose to your dryer and exterior vent. If you’re unsure about the hose length, check out YouTube.com for a quick video tutorial.

Seal Air Leaks

Level of difficulty: moderate. Supplies needed: caulk and caulk gun, weather stripping, gloves, putty knife, paper towels. Estimated Cost: $25 to $50 depending on the materials you purchase.

Sealing air leaks in your home can help you save 10% to 20% on heating and cooling bills. Apply caulk around windows, doors, electrical wiring and plumbing to seal in conditioned air. You should also weather strip exterior doors, which can keep out drafts and help you control energy costs. Types of caulking and weather stripping materials vary, but ask your local hardware or home store for assistance if you’re unsure about the supplies you need. For more information, the Department of Energy provides step-by-step instructions for caulking and weather stripping: https://bit.ly/2Kesu6W

Insulate Attic Stairs Opening

Level of difficulty: moderate. Supplies needed (if you build the box yourself): rigid foam board, faced blanket insulation, tape for foam board, measuring tape, utility knife, caulk and caulk gun, plywood. Estimated Cost: $50 to $100.

A properly insulated attic is one of the best ways to optimize energy savings and comfort in your home, but many homeowners don’t consider insulating the attic stairs, or the opening to your attic space. Even a well-insulated attic can leak air through the stair opening, but luckily, there’s an easy fix.

An insulated cover box can seal and insulate the attic stairs opening. You can build your own insulated cover box or purchase a pre-built box or kit from a local home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe’s for about $60. If you decide to build your own, check out these step-by-step instructions from the Department of Energy: https://bit.ly/36YNCYQ. It should also be noted, if your attic opening is located in a garage that you do not heat and cool, this upgrade will not be as effective.

Saving energy doesn’t have to be hard. With a little time and effort, you can maximize energy savings and increase the comfort of your home. To learn about additional ways to save, contact your local electric co-op.

This holiday season, give the gift of tech! If you’re searching for the latest gadgets and electronics to gift but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s a list of ideas for your tech-savvy friends and family members, and with a range of prices and interests, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

Gifts for those on the go: We all have that one friend who never stays in one place, so they’ll appreciate gifts that keep them charged and entertained while on the go.

A portable charger (or power bank) can keep their smart phones and tablets juiced, and the good news is this gift won’t drain your wallet. You can purchase portable chargers online or at local retailers for as low as $20. Typically, these compact devices can fully charge an iPhone three times before running out of steam.

A Bluetooth speaker is another great gift to keep those on the go entertained. Whether they’re listening to their favorite tunes or watching the latest flick, Bluetooth speakers can clarify and amplify volume to satisfy any media enthusiast. Prices range depending on features, but you can purchase a quality Bluetooth speaker online or at local retailers for as low as $30.

Gifts for the chef: Every foodie knows that temperature matters when mastering the perfect cut of meat. A Bluetooth-connected thermometer can help your chef ensure a delicious (and safe-to-eat) meal. Just download the associated app and keep an eye on the grill right from your smart phone or tablet. Prices vary from $30 to $200, but you can purchase these handy gadgets online or at any big box store, like Wal-Mart or Target.

A digital kitchen scale is a must for any culinary pro. No more guessing––the easy-to-read digital screen ensures the exact weight or amount required for that perfect dish. Prices vary depending on the weight the scale can handle, but you can find a 13-pound max weight scale for about $20 on Amazon.com.

Gifts for the pet owner: Let’s face it––pet owners would be lost without their fur babies. Luckily, pet tracking products continue to advance, so pet owners can always keep a watchful eye on their furry friends. Most trackers simply attach to your pet’s collar. Prices vary depending on the tracker’s capabilities, but some features include water resistance, health monitoring and exceptional battery life. You can purchase pet trackers online or at your local pet store.

Speaking of keeping an eye on pets, you can also purchase surveillance cameras for real-time monitoring––some cameras even allow you to toss treats to your furry friend while you’re away. Additional features include a microphone (so you can talk to your pets), a built-in laser toy (for our feline friends) and the ability to snap a photo or take video from your smart phone. Prices vary depending on the bells and whistles, but you can purchase a pet camera for as low as $40 on Amazon.com.

With so many electronics available today, you’re sure to find the perfect gift for your tech-savvy loved ones. Happy shopping!

Middle Tennessee Electric selects Tesla battery to drive power savings

Murfreesboro – Middle Tennessee Electric (MTEMC) has teamed with Tesla, one of the most innovative technology companies in the energy industry, to test a new program intended to save its members money via a cutting-edge energy management process.

Middle Tennessee Electric has installed the latest Tesla Powerpack at one of their substations in Murfreesboro, TN. The Tesla Powerpack is a battery energy storage system (BESS) designed for a wide range of uses.  In this pilot program, it will be used to reduce MTEMC’s energy demand charges from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and improve demand response time to its members when additional energy is needed. “We’re really excited about what the Tesla Powerpack allows us to do. It’s yet another asset we can use to improve the quality of our system while being financially responsible stewards of our members’ resources,” says Chris Jones, MTEMC President/CEO.

The BESS’s primary purpose will be to help reduce MTEMC’s monthly wholesale electricity purchases during peak demand hours, a change that should result in saving the cooperative tens of thousands of dollars annually. This is done through a process called energy time shift for distributed generation. The process allows the BESS to be charged when TVA rates are lower during low usage hours and is then discharged when energy demand costs are higher.  Middle Tennessee Electric members will benefit significantly because they will be billed based on the lower off-peak rates in effect when the BESS was being charged rather than the higher on-peak rates normally charged when the electricity is used during those peak hours.

In addition to saving the cooperative money, the Tesla Powerpack allows MTEMC to evaluate innovative energy technology and educate members about its Distributed Energy Resources (DER). “Education is another important benefit of the project. As with any new technology, there is a lot to learn as we educate our employees and members,” says Avery Ashby, an MTEMC electrical engineer. “A better understanding comes from owning, operating and maintaining new technology, so we can advise our members to make informed decisions as more distributed energy resources are adopted in our service area.”  MTEMC currently operates a subscription solar power program called Cooperative Solar as another part of its DER offerings to members.

Jones continues, “We exist to serve our members by making their lives better. As one of the largest electric cooperatives in the nation, we are constantly looking for new ways to improve the reliability and affordability of electricity for our members, and the Tesla Powerpack allows us to realize those goals. Members should be focused on living their lives, not on the system powering them.”

The deployment of Tesla technology is one of the latest innovations MTEMC has embraced in its role to be their members’ trusted energy advisor and provider. MTEMC provides electricity and community programs to more than 500,000 Tennessee residents through 230,000 metered accounts. The MTEMC service area covers more than 2,100 square miles and is served by more than 12,000 miles of electric line across parts of 11 Tennessee counties including Cannon, Rutherford, Williamson and Wilson counties.

NASHVILLE – The little vampires who ring your doorbell on Halloween night aren’t the only ones you should be afraid of. Electricity vampires are all over your house—all year long.

Electrical vampires are appliances and electronics that continue to pull electricity, even when they are turned off.

According to the US Department of Energy, vampires account for up to 5 percent of the energy in your house. To save you from a witch hunt, electric co-ops offer a list of the most likely vampires in your house:

  1. Computers, modems, routers, printers and other related equipment.
  2. Your flat-screen TV. The larger it is, the more energy it uses, even when turned off.
  3. Home theater equipment, including surround-sound devices.
  4. Your cable or satellite TV box.
  5. Anything with a digital time display, like your microwave oven or DVD player.

If an electrical device has a continuous display, like a digital clock, if it charges batteries, like your mobile phone charger, or if it has a remote control, like your TV—it’s a vampire.

The best way to stop these vampires is to unplug them when you’re not using them. You may also consider purchasing power strips so you have to pull just one plug to stop a group of electronics from using vampire electricity.

NASHVILLE – With the long, hot days of summer just around the corner, Tennessee’s electric co-ops provide these simple tips to save energy and money.

“There are some small things you can do to have a big impact on your electric bill,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member services for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Taking a little time now can pay off big as temperatures rise.”

Use blinds and shades to keep your cool inside. Close draperies on windows in direct sunlight to keep the heat out.

Make wise choices with the thermostat. The smaller the difference between the outside temperature and the thermostat setting will reduce your cooling bill. Keep your thermostat as high as you can while remaining comfortable. We recommend 75 degrees. Programmable thermostats can automatically adjust the temperature when you are not home or awake.

Keep your HVAC unit in good working condition. Be sure your filters are clean. This is a cheap but essential thing to do every month or so. Schedule regular maintenance to clean and maintain your system.

Use fans to increase comfort. Running a fan will allow you to increase your thermostat setting by 4 degrees without reducing comfort, but remember to turn fans off when you leave the room. You can also use bathroom and kitchen fans to move humidity outside.

Seal the hot air out. A tube of caulk and some weather stripping can go a long way. Seal cracks to keep hot air out and cool air in.

Avoid using appliances and lights that create heat. Replace traditional lighting with LEDs that produce no heat. On hot days, avoid using ovens or stoves and instead use the microwave or grill outside.

Plant some trees. This takes some time to pay off, but it will eventually. Trees can shade your home and have a significant impact on your energy bill. Just be sure to remain mindful of your electric cooperative’s right-of-way. Don’t place trees underneath power lines, and call to have underground utilities located before performing any digging task.

Visit our efficiency resource guide on tnelectric.org or contact your local electric co-op for more tips and suggestions.

The unusually cold weather in December and January has created some unusually high electric bills for members of electric co-ops. Many are asking the question, “Why does my bill go up when it is cold outside?”

The infographic below helps explains the relationship between electric rates and energy consumption.

If you are concerned about your electric bill, contact your local co-op to learn more about programs and services that can help you save energy and money the next time the weather gets cold (or hot).

 

Eating carrots will greatly improve your eyesight, cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis, watching too much TV will harm your vision. We’ve all heard the old wives’ tales, but did you know there are also many misconceptions about home energy use?

Don’t be fooled by these common energy myths.

Myth: The higher the thermostat setting, the faster the home will heat (or cool).

Many people think that walking into a chilly room and raising the thermostat to 85 degrees will heat the room more quickly. This is not true.

Thermostats direct a home’s HVAC system to heat or cool to a certain temperature. Drastically adjusting the thermostat setting will not make a difference in how quickly you feel warmer. The same is true for cooling. The Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees during summer months, and 68 degrees during winter months.

Myth: Opening the oven door to check on a dish doesn’t really waste energy.

While it can be tempting to check the progress of that dish you’re cooking in the oven, opening the oven door does waste energy. Every time the oven door is opened, the temperature inside is reduced by as much as 25 degrees, delaying the progress of your dish and, more importantly, costing you additional money. If you need to check the progress of a dish, try using the oven light instead.

Myth: Ceiling fans keep your home cool while you’re away.

Believe it or not, many people think this is true. Ceiling fans cool people, not rooms. Ceiling fans circulate room air but do not change the temperature. A running ceiling fan in an empty room is only adding to your electricity use. Remember to turn fans off when you’re away and reduce your energy use.

Myth: Reducing my energy use is too expensive.

Many consumers believe that reducing energy use requires expensive up-front costs, like purchasing new, more efficient appliances or construction upgrades to an older home. But the truth is, consumers who make small changes to their energy efficiency habits, such as turning off lights when not in use, sealing air leaks and using a programmable thermostat, can see a reduction in energy consumption.

Remember, energy efficiency doesn’t have to be difficult. Focus on small changes to save big. Learn more about ways to save energy by visiting your local co-op online.