Shocker: All I want is a safe home this Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, children sometimes sneak into the kitchen to whip up a surprise breakfast for their parents. It’s always a treat to wake up to the smell of breakfast cooking—eggs, bacon, and, of course, toast. And their smiles more than make up for the disaster zone normally left in the wake.

It’s great to see how excited children can be about cooking something special. When my son is older, I hope he’ll do the same for me. I’ll rest easy knowing I’ve made the kitchen as safe as possible for the experiments (and mountain of dishes) to come.

Every month I check all of our appliance cords. Our toaster was replaced last year—after some early-on motherly tributes, the cord got too close to the toaster and melted. Since an average of 3,600 home fires each year start with toasters and toaster ovens, it’s best not to take chances.

I’ve also installed special outlets in the kitchen and our bathrooms (anywhere near water, really) called ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). If a problem occurs—an appliance overheating or a wayward coffee maker tipping into the sink—power is shut off. A red test button reminds me to check these outlets monthly. They’re my first line of defense.

Even cold appliances pose a safety risk—refrigerators are responsible for about a thousand fires annually. Every three months I have [the kids/my son/daughter] help me take off the small panel at the base of our fridge and vacuum away dust and debris. Not only does this prevent a fire, it makes our fridge more efficient. By getting [the kids/my son/daughter] to help I teach [them/him/her] how to take care of [their/his/her] own kitchen some day.

A third of all home fires start in the kitchen, but every room could hold potential danger. May isn’t only a time to honor mothers—it’s also National Electrical Safety Month. Please take the time this month to check your home for electrical hazards. Spending a few minutes to check for problems can make all the difference when you’re faced with a potentially unsafe situation. To learn more, take a home safety tour at virtualhome.esfi.org. There’s also a wealth of safety knowledge available at www.SafetyatHome.com, and www.SafeElectricity.org.

On Mother’s Day and every day, we want to help you keep your family safe. Sharing electrical safety tips is just another way we’re looking out for you. To learn more about our commitment to safety, visit Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative at http://www.dakotavalley.com.

How to save money at the office

In the face of rising energy costs, businesses are looking for ways to
reduce their energy use. Although there are a lot of good ideas out
there, there are also a lot of misconceptions about what are effective
energy-efficiency measures. Here are some of the most common
myths and the facts to set you on the right path.

Myth. Screen savers reduce energy use.
Facts. Screen savers don’t cut energy use. Screen savers were
developed to mitigate a problem called “screen burn-in” that can
occur in both cathode ray tube (CRT) and liquid crystal display
(LCD) computer monitors and TV screens. Burn-in occurs
when a given image, such as a logo or a menu bar for a computer
program, appears on a monitor for a long period of time. The
mechanics are different for CRT and LCD displays, but the
result is essentially the same—over time, these long-duration
images can get “burned” into the screen so that the viewer sees
a “ghost” of these images even when they’re not supposed to be
there. By using a screen saver, you prevent any specific images
from being displayed in the same location when your computer
is dormant for a long period of time, thus preventing burn-in.
But it takes just as much energy to display a screen saver on your
screen as it does to display any other program. To save energy,
adjust your computer’s power management settings to automatically
shut the monitor down after a specified period of idle
time, and simply turn off the monitor if you are not going to be
using it for 15 minutes or more.

Myth. Computers, monitors, and other office equipment will
use less energy and last longer if they’re left running all the time.
Facts. Turning equipment off overnight does not shorten its
life, and the small surge of power that occurs when some
devices are turned on is much smaller than the energy used by
running equipment when it’s not needed. In fact, leaving computers
and other office equipment on overnight and on
weekends wastes significant amounts of energy and also adds to
the wear and tear on the equipment. In general, turn off equipment
you are not using or make sure that energy-saving features
on networks or individual machines are enabled. Some office
equipment, including printers and scanners, features small
transformers that use energy even when the equipment is
turned off. Plug all such devices into a power strip so that they
can be shut down completely with one flick of the switch.

Myth. Surge protectors reduce energy use.
Facts. A small number of transient-voltage surge suppressor
(a.k.a. surge protector) manufacturers and vendors persist in
making energy-saving claims for their products despite the fact
that such claims were thoroughly debunked decades ago. Even
if there were some mechanism by which surge protectors could
save energy (and there isn’t), the reality is that there is simply no
opportunity for these devices to do so because they are dormant
well over 99.999 percent of the time. They become active only
when some event (which may be on the customer or the utility
side of the meter) creates a very high voltage spike. Even in a
“noisy” (in an electrical sense) industrial environment in which
such spikes are relatively frequent, their duration is so short—
measured in millionths of a second—that when added together,
they occupy a minuscule percentage of plant operating time.
Surge protectors are an effective way of protecting your electrical
equipment against voltage spikes, but don’t buy one to cut
energy costs, because it won’t.

Operation Round Up feature of new video

Mere pennies can create a lot of change. That’s the message Dakota Valley members deliver each time they pay their utility bill.

That’s because most members contribute to the Operation Round Up program which donates to individuals and worthy causes each year. To do it, the members simply “round up” their utility bills, paying a full $100, for example, instead of $99.28.

The extra pennies, or $192,000 since the program launched in 2002, is then distributed to people like Rock Rindy of Carrington. Rock, a community go-getter and former president of the Operation Round Up board, belongs to Dakota Valley’s sister cooperative, Northern Plains. He fell ill in 2007, leaving him unable to work but with bills to pay.

Want to know more? Check out this video about Rock and his story.

Learn more about Operation Round Up and all facets of Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative here.

And have a happy and blessed Easter!

Happy Easter from all of us at Dakota Valley!

Image

Leah Jayce Norton’s Easter eggs already hatched this year.

Baby Leah

Leah Norton is ready for Easter with this recently hatched chick. Leah, of rural Ellendale, lives with her parents, Lana and Jason.

The 4-1/2 month old is the daughter of Jason and Lana Norton of rural Ellendale, ND, and little sister of Kali and Macy. Leah’s grandparents are Jerry and Claire German of Oakes and Alyce Ebele of Montpelier.

Happy Easter to you, Leah! And Happy Easter to all our members!

– From all of us at Dakota Valley

Alexis Barnick reveals ‘American Idol’ experience

Much of Alexis Barnick’s “American Idol” audition experience was kept in covert coffers, secret from the world thanks to a confidentiality agreement between the contestant and ‘Idol’ producers.

But for North Dakota Living’s March issue, the 20-year-old Jamestown College junior shares the whole story.

'American Idol' contestant Alexis Barnick reminisces about her experience auditioning before celebrity judges Steven Tyler, Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez.

Throughout the audition process in both Aspen and Hollywood, Barnick said it seemed as though producers wanted to change her.

 

“Don’t put pictures of dead animals on Facebook,” she remembers as advice they gave her regarding photos of the avid hunter and trophy deer she had featured on the social-networking site. And “what’s it like living in North Dakota anyway?” was another question they asked her.

Want to know more? Check it out in the March issue of North Dakota Living or on our website: http://www.dakotavalley.com.

How to SAVE on that energy bill!

I found this great month-by-month list of energy-saving projects to tackle. Taking on a single project once every 30 days is a lot less stressful than looking at my house and wanting everything done at once!

With the recent snow giving me cabin fever, I can spend time making my home more energy efficient and save for a summer vacation!

You can too with these simple steps. Here’s a list of our recommendations for year-round energy and money savings!

March: Stop air from escaping your home and money from escaping your wallet! Head down to your home’s basement and seal those leaky ducts.

April: A little caulk can go a long way. Air leaks in your home add up. Caulking cracks and openings to the outside could save more than $200 a year.

May: Make sure your refrigerator is on your spring cleaning to-do list. Throw out expired items, clean the refrigerator inside and out, and check the temperature gauge. For maximum operating efficiency, a refrigerator’s temperature should be between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

June: When was the last time you changed a filter? Replacing furnace and air conditioner filters regularly can have a big impact on a home’s energy use. Dirty filters can restrict air flow and reduce the overall efficiency of your cooling system, forcing it to work harder on hot summer days.

July: Your home’s cooling costs can skyrocket—right along with the temperature outside—during summer months. Keeping your thermostat set between 78 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit can save up to 8 percent on monthly cooling bills.

August: Heading out of town on vacation? Be sure to unplug all of your electronic devices like computers, monitor, printers, TV and cable boxes, DVD players, and microwaves. Electronics with digital displays and instant-on features consume energy even if they’re not in use.


September:
Be a “fan-atic.” While they don’t replace an air conditioner or a heat pump, fans move the air so everyone feels more comfortable. On a milder day, a fan is a much more energy-efficient choice than cranking up the air conditioning. Fans cool people, not rooms, so turn them off when you leave.

October: Get ready for winter by insulating your attic. Adding nine or more inches of insulation could save you more than $150 a year.

November: As the weather cools down, pull up your window shades. Keeping blinds open during cold weather lets heat from sunlight in, reducing the need to turn up your home’s thermostat.

December: Put a new ENERGY STAR appliance at the top of your Christmas wish list. Upgrading appliances like washing machines to ENERGY STAR-rated models can save up to $140 per year.

January: Lowering your thermostat just a few degrees during winter months can save as much as $85 per year. Programmable thermostats make it easy to save by offering pre-programmed settings to regulate a home’s temperature throughout the year.

February: Adjust your water heater. Turning down the temperature gauge to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit can heat up your savings.

Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative is dedicated to being an energy efficiency resource for its members. To learn more about how you can save money through energy efficiency practices, call us at 800-882-2500.

For even more information, check out TogetherWeSave.com, an online portal to energy savings tips that uses real dollar savings projections—based on your individual electric rate and climate zone—to motivate small changes in behavior that add up to big savings.

Once you arrive at the site, enter your ZIP code to be redirected to Dakota Valley’s customized section. You can watch videos that provide detailed instructions about energy savings practices, add up your potential savings with a Virtual Home Tour, and much more.

Source: Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives

So, what do you do to cut back on your energy bill?