How to reduce wire thefts, and the outages they spawn

Would you risk being hit by lightning for $100?

Seems a bit ludicrous, but desperate times cause folks to do foolish things. Thefts of copper, bronze, aluminum, and bronze are on the rise, at abandoned commercial buildings, empty homes, and—most dangerously—at power substations near neighborhoods.

We need your help to keep our equipment safe, prevent outages, and save lives. At an electric co-op in Oklahoma recently, metal thieves took off with about $100 worth of wire in a substation, but left behind a $1 million repair bill after a fire destroyed regulators, switches, and a $600,000 transformer. More than 3,500 consumers were temporarily left in the dark after the incident, although the co-op moved quickly to reroute power to affected areas.

It’s hard to understand why folks would put their life on the line for a few dollars. Many law enforcement officials believe that methamphetamine users are responsible for much of the problem. And the damage done to our system packs a big punch, since equipment can be ruined without the protection copper wires provide.

There’s also the potential for loss of life.

In 2010, metal theft-related deaths occurred in North Carolina, West Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio. The cost for scrap copper goes up and down, but recently it’s been on the rise—and so have robbery attempts. In January 2011 scrap copper sold for five times the amount it went for in 2001. We use copper to ground our equipment, protecting it from electrical surges and lightning by giving electricity a safe path to ground. We use a lot of copper wire in our substations, where we step-down high-voltage electricity arriving from distant power plants before it travels to your neighborhood. Then another transformer near your home—either mounted on a utility pole or in a green box on the ground—lowers the voltage again so you can use the power at home. Copper is an essential component every step of the way.

Our linemen are highly trained professionals who understand the dangers of working with electricity and take proper safety precautions. To protect the public we surround our substations with secure fencing and post warning signs. But some thieves will not be deterred. Please help us prevent these thefts. If you notice anything unusual, such as an open substation gate, open equipment, or hanging wire, call Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative immediately at (800) 342-4671. If you see anyone other than our utility personnel or contractors around substations or other electric facilities, call the police.

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?

How to $ave: An old refrigerator can eat up energy, money

An old refrigerator can eat up energy and money

Does this sound familiar? You bought a new ENERGY STAR-qualified refrigerator and moved your old fridge to the garage or basement to keep a few drinks cold. Here’s a tip to can help you save energy and money.

Old refrigerators, especially those more than 17 years old, tend to use a lot of energy. A refrigerator bought before 1993 uses more than twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR refrigerator. So you’re spending a lot of money to keep that refrigerator running. What’s more, refrigerant wears out and seals start to leak over time, causing a decline in the performance of an older refrigerator.

If you have moved your old refrigerator to an uninsulated location, such as a garage, it will use even more energy during hot weather. A fridge in a 90 degree environment, for example, uses nearly 50% more energy than one in a 70 degree environment. And if the temperature falls below about 40 degrees in the winter, the refrigerator’s thermostat may not run its cooling and defrost cycles for the appropriate amount of time.

So just by pulling the plug on that old refrigerator, you can save a lot of money each year.

For other tips on how to save energy—and money—visit Touchstone Energy’s energy-saving website or call the energy experts at Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative. Find out how the little changes add up at http://www.TogetherWeSave.com.

How to save more than $400 on electric bills, without even really trying

The answer is super simple: unplug your entertainment center.

Then replug all those cords into one power strip with an on-off switch. (If you’re like me, you have three or four awaiting use in the bottom of a desk drawer.) With the power cord, you and your family can power each machine on and off with one simple click… and save $150 in the process.

Check out a demo at Touchstone Energy’s TogetherWeSave.com here.

See, even when they aren’t on, your TVs, DVRs, Nintendo Wii systems, etc., use power. That wastes resources and hard-earned money… about $150 per year for the average home, according to TogetherWeSave.com. (Here‘s what TogetherWeSave.com assumes is an average family home.)

Tips like these come in handy when the need for energy increases in winter. Plus, Dakota Valley and Northern Plains consumers can expect rate increases beginning in January and April respectively. So implement these tips now, and you won’t notice an increase come 2012 🙂

Other ways to reduce wasted power and to save money:

* Set your thermostat to cheap: for each degree you lower your thermostat in the winter, expect to see a savings of about $180/year. So if you usually keep your house a toasty 70 degrees, reduce that heat to 68 degrees, and invest the $360 you just saved into a pair of wooly slippers. 🙂

* Adjust the blinds: Allowing the sunshine in during winter and keeping it out in summer can save your household about 50 bucks a year. The sunshine naturally warms your home, so in the winter, it gives your heating elements a warming boost…. at no charge! So close the curtains in summer, and open them when the snow falls.

* Beat the (water) heat: Water heaters need not be set for more than 120 degrees. Reduce your settings from 135 degrees to 120 degrees and save the $60 or so you save each year for water skis, water falls or water towers… anything but wasted energy on your water heater.

Check out other tips at TogetherWeSave.com.

So, how do you save money on power bills?