Monday, February 19, 2007

Record electric use set in cold weather, Duke Energy reports

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 9:24 AM CST

Indiana set a new snowfall record for Feb. 6 with 5.2 inches officially recorded at Indianapolis. The amounts varied across central Indiana, including 3.8 inches, officially, at Terre Haute.

Some would agree with the man who told The Brazil Times, “I swear we got 8!”

Regardless of how much snow is on the ground, it has been cold and people have used electricity and propane (as well as wood,natural gas and even corn) to heat their homes.

Duke Energy set a new record for electricity use on Monday, breaking a two-year record set Jan. 18, 2005.

At 9 a.m. Monday, electricity demand by Duke Energy customers reached 5,701 megawatts compared to 5,528 megawatts set on Jan. 18, 2005. A megawatt is 1,000 kilowatts or 1 million watts, compared to the 60-watt lightbulbs in many lamps.

Duke Energy offers these Top 10 tips for lowering energy bills:

1. If your windows allow cold air to leak into your home, the most cost-effective measure is to seal the entire window with a layer of plastic for the winter. New heat-shrinking films are airtight and easy to see through.

2. Install the proper amount of insulation in exterior walls, roofs, ceilings and floors above cold spaces. If you currently have no insulation in one of these areas, installing insulation will cut your energy bills dramatically.

3. If you have ductwork in the attic or garage, be sure it is covered with at least 6 inches of insulation. Seal the seams and joints in these ducts with a duct-sealing compound sold at hardware/home centers.

4. Lower your thermostat temperature to the lowest temperature that is comfortable to your family. You may save as much as 3 percent on your energy bill for each degree you lower your thermostat.

5. If your home has a crawl space with air vents in the walls, close the vents and seal with insulation from the inside during the winter.

6. Never switch a heat pump to the “emergency heat” setting on the thermostat, unless the unit is malfunctioning. This switch will turn off your energy efficient heat pump. Using only your backup electric furnace without the heat pump could double your heating costs.

7. Most fireplaces that are open to the living space will increase winter heating costs. Do not use a fireplace during periods of extreme cold. Keep your fireplace damper closed tightly when not in use. Consider installing doors over the fireplace opening to cut down on drafts and heat loss through the chimney.

8. Consider adding a heat pump to any electric, gas or oil furnace to take advantage of a “dual fuel” heating system. The electric heat pump will heat a home for much less for most of the winter heating hours. The new heat pump will also serve as a new air conditioner and could save up to 50 percent on cooling costs, compared to a 15-year-old air conditioner.

9. Energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs use up to 75 percent less energy than standard bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

10. A new ENERGY STAR® refrigerator can use approximately one-third less energy than a 15-year-old model. Refrain from leaving the old refrigerator plugged in as a backup.

In addition to lighting their homes and perhaps heating and cooking with electricity, many people have propane furnaces, stoves and water heaters.

Ferrellgas, a leading provider of propane gas, reminds those with propane gas to be careful. If you smell gas (it is made to smell like rotten eggs or garlic), follow these safety tips:

Immediately extinguish any smoking materials or other open flames. Do not operate light switches, telephones, or other appliances. Sparks from these devices can trigger a fire, or even an explosion.

Leave the area immediately. Get everyone out of the building or area where you suspect gas is leaking.

If it is safe to do so, turn off the gas supply valve on the propane tank. To close the valve, turn it to the right (clockwise). If your gas service is metered, use a tool to close the gas valve located at the meter.

Report the leak. From a neighbor's home or other location away from the gas leak, call your propane retailer right away. If you cannot reach the retailer right away, call 911 or the local fire department.

Do not return to the area until your propane retailer determines it is safe to do so.

These suggestions were compiled by Ferrellgas, the National Propane Gas Association, and the Propane Education & Research Council.

On the Net:

Duke Energy:

Ferrell Gas: