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Safety: Give ’em a Brake!

Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative utility crews want to remind you to stay safe when you come upon a work zone. Orange cones, flashing signals and other warning signs are placed along roadways to slow traffic when linemen are repairing or replacing electrical lines and poles.

road safety

Work done by EIEC linemen often involves electrical lines high above the ground – lines usually carrying high-voltage electricity. Linemen must be fully engaged and alert to do their jobs and avoid injury or death. They need you to take precautions and pay attention when you come upon a utility truck in a work zone.

To help prevent fatalities and injuries, follow these guidelines when you are driving and come upon an electric utility truck and work zone:

1. Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment, and workers.

2. Be patient. Traffic delays are sometimes inevitable, so try to allow time for unexpected occurrences in your schedule.

3. Obey all signs and utility crew instructions. Use caution, slow down and be prepared to stop, if necessary, for crew members or on-coming traffic.

4. Reduce speed even more during inclement weather. Rain, snow and ice can cause hazardous situations for linemen as they repair and replace electrical lines and poles. Crews are often working under extreme conditions and need your assistance to decrease speed to avoid an accident.

5. Minimize distractions Avoid activities that limit your awareness of your surroundings. Avoid operating a radio or cell phone and limit eating while driving. Focus on the road ahead and be prepared for any potential dangers or hazards.

The next time you are driving on a rural road and come upon a work zone and linemen, follow these five guidelines and keep everyone alive.

Safety comes first at Eastern Illini when it comes to you, our member/owners, and our employees.

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Energy Efficiency: Not all filters are created equal

Forced air heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems require effective air filtration for optimum energy efficiency, maintaining clean(ish) ductwork and good indoor air quality. Air filters should be changed regularly.

How often they need changing depends upon a number of factors including, but not limited to:

   • Presence of pets that shed

   • Amount of carpeted versus hardwood floors

   • Where you live – amounts of dust, pollen, etc.

   • Use of wood-burning supplemental heat sources

   • Presence of cigarette smoke

The air inside our homes is full of particles originating from inside and outside sources. As the name “forced air” implies, conditioned air is blown into the house through ductwork. In order to operate efficiently, the air supplied is returned to the system for reconditioning, taking with it all the particles in the air and the occasional “tumbleweed” of pet hair that many of us are familiar with.

This junk-laden air flows through a filter before encountering the HVAC equipment. For cooling, there is usually an A-frame arrangement of what looks like car radiators. For heating, it is generally a combustion chamber. Without a filter, the cooling coils would get clogged and the heating side would burn off whatever was in the air.

Air filters trap a lot of debris that otherwise would end up back in the house, stuck in ductwork, clogging HVAC equipment – or in our lungs. But enough with the HVAC and air quality primer. Let’s tackle types of air filters.

Filters have more choices than you can shake a stick at. Fortunately, they can be broken down into two nicely defined categories, making the selection process manageable. The two are:

   • Permanent or disposable

   • Flat or pleated media (with a handy MERV rating)

Disposable are the most prevalent.

Some in the flat media group look like they will stop only particles larger than a golf ball. They have flimsy cardboard frames and a thin, flat mesh you can easily see through. While they are cheap, don’t waste your money. Your HVAC system and lungs deserve better.

Pleated filters perform better using media you cannot see through. While they look impervious, air can move through under pressure leaving its airborne cargo trapped. Pleated filters are better.

Remember MERV? That is a rating system that tells you how effective a filter is at trapping particles. Standing for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, it’s a measure of efficiency. The scale runs from one to 16 (higher is better) and is based on trapping particles three to 10 microns in diameter. Research shows that residential filters with a MERV rating between seven and 13 are likely to be as effective as true HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestance) filters. This class of filter is used in clean room manufacturing and at the extreme end can trap particles much smaller than the diameter of a human hair, as small as one micron.

So, should you jump in and grab a supply of high MERV filters?

Not without some research. All filters increase resistance to air flow. HVAC systems are designed to operate at a particular pressure and should support MERV ratings of one to four. A higher MERV value increases resistance, making the system work harder. It loses efficiency and increases wear on operating components.

So, how do you decide which level of filter to use? If you have your system’s operating manual or can grab it online, check for recommendations. Otherwise,  go with a decent (MERV three to five) pleated filter and check it once a month to see how it is performing. Also, check to see if the dust inside abates.

Spend a little more and breathe a lot easier with a regular schedule of air filter replacement. A simple change that pays big dividends.

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Cooperation Among Cooperatives

message from the presidentDuring October, we participate in National Cooperative Month, in which people across the country celebrate the movement’s history and economic impact. The sixth cooperative principle is Cooperation among Cooperatives. It seems that national or regional catastrophes bring out the best traits of people.

Even before Hurricane Irma had entered Florida, electric cooperatives in the southeast U.S. had requested mutual aid assistance from their cooperative family.

Illinois cooperatives responded in a big way. EIEC contributed to this effort by sending ten line personnel along with equipment and trucks. As of this writing, they ended up initially providing restoration help in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

We, too, will request help from other cooperatives when needed. Generally, our biggest and most widespread outage risk is a devastating ice storm. However, severe storms with widespread straight line winds (a derecho) could also impact our service territory.

Our mission is to provide you – our member/owners – a combination of reliable electric supply and excellent service from our loyal and dedicated employees at a reasonable cost, given the constraints of our low density service territory. We have been fortunate in the recent past to have missed any widespread outage conditions, and our distribution rates have remained stable since 2013.

We hope that we, as employees, exceed your expectations daily. We take great pride in our ability to provide you with electric service.

Please know that we are constantly seeking ways to improve this service and to continue providing a reliable and cost effective supply of electricity. However, we also understand that we are not just in the business of selling electricity, but as a cooperative, are part of a larger family of businesses to help improve your quality of life.

Please take a moment to complete our annual survey on page 3. We value your input on how we are doing, and how we can improve our service to you.

Please put safety at the forefront of your harvest and daily activities.

Cooperatively,    

Bob Hunzinger

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Energy Fair Scheduled for September 8

Please join us on Friday, Sept. 8 from 1-6 p.m. in Gilman at the Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative Energy Fair!

Have you ever wondered how you can save money on your utility bills? Or how about what type of insulation is the best for your home? Does your home need a new furnace or air-conditioner, but you don’t know what your options are?

We’re excited to join forces with L&H Services to co-host an Energy Fair at their Gilman location on Friday, September 8.

The fair will run from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m., and free food and drinks will be available.

We’ll also have experts from throughout the industry on hand to answer all of your energy questions.

Some of the products and services represented during the energy fair will include:

  • Sunrise Solar
  • Space pak
  • Bosch  – IDS heat pumps
  • Insulation Materials
  • Well Connect
  • Mitsubishi

L&H Services is located at 410 East Crescent Street in Gilman. You can reach them by calling 815-265-9926 or visiting their website at lhserviceshvac.com.

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Community Involvement: Sharing Success Program

Two location organizations have received a total of $8,000 from Eastern Illini and CoBank.

Save the Lorraine Theatre, a local non-profit organization in Hoopeston dedicated to revitalizing a classic theatre, and the Bryce Ash-Grove Education Center, a co-op public school serving students with disabilities in grades K-12, have each received a $4,000 donation from Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative and CoBank, a cooperative bank serving vital industries throughout rural America.

Eastern Illini’s President/CEO Bob Hunzinger, Bryce Ash Grove Principal Trent Eshleman, Eastern Illini board member Kevin Moore, Bryce Ash-Grove Secretary Renee Rapp, and CoBank’s Aaron Johnson.

The principal of Bryce Ash-Grove, Trent Eshleman, noted, “With the uncertainty and inconsistency in school funding, especially in rural areas, we are grateful for EIEC’s and CoBank’s commitment to partnering with us in “providing light” to our students in both their educational needs as well as their physical learning environment. This partnership exemplifies what cooperatives like ours stand for.”

Eastern Illini’s donations were matched by CoBank through its Sharing Success program. Sharing Success was established in 2012 to celebrate the International Year of the Cooperative. Since the program’s inception, CoBank and its customers have together provided more than $25 million in support to charitable organizations across the nation.

From left to right: Hunzinger, Save the Lorraine board members Jim Richards, Jeanette André, Marilyn Tyler, Carol Hicks, and Alex Houmes, and Johnson.

“Sharing Success has had a broader and deeper impact than we ever imagined,” said Tom Halverson, CoBank’s president & chief executive officer. “We are delighted with the growing participation in the program by our customers, and deeply grateful to them for their assistance in identifying worthy charitable causes deserving of our support.”

If you know of an organization (non-profit or school system) that may want to participate in the Sharing Success program, please contact Mike Wilson at 800-824-5102.

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Message from the President – Back to School

message from the president

Can you believe it! School has started and there has been a hint of early fall in the air for most of August. In a sense, our board of directors attend school on a continual basis through various state and national electric cooperative training sessions. Directors are required to take continuing education classes to remain a board member, so they can best represent you.

During the second week of August, your EIEC directors participated in a two-day strategic planning process that concentrated on the next five-year period, along with a review of long-term business trends and industry changes. The directors reaffirmed the core purpose and business of EIEC – which is to provide safe, reliable, and economically priced electricity and services to our members.

In addition, there was a lot of discussion on how the cooperative can remain relevant with all types of members, especially younger ones. There were a couple of sessions devoted to the trends in the rural economy, specifically in Illinois and the ten-county area served by EIEC. The question is, how can the cooperative help to strengthen the communities and the region it serves?

There is not a simple answer to this question. However, the seventh cooperative principle is “Concern for Community”, where cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies supported by the membership. Recently, one of our employees, Susan Brown, chaperoned the Youth to Washington (YTW) trip for Illinois students. The YTW program brings thousands of cooperative students from across the country to the nation’s capital for education, camaraderie, and leadership skills, with a specific emphasis on America’s electric cooperatives. EIEC helped to sponsor five local students. The group got a first-hand lesson in crisis management in government as they were there when the Congressional ball field shooting occurred.

Our directors discussed services that could help to improve the quality of life or provide other benefits to our rural area. They gave direction for staff to begin researching high-speed internet, along with solar and other renewable energy sources.

Take time to enjoy your local high school sporting events this fall, and root for the Illini! Please be safe in all that you do, especially as harvest begins later in the month.

Please know that all of our employees are dedicated to providing excellent service to our members. If we can answer any questions or provide any information, please contact us.

Cooperatively,

Bob Hunzinger

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Tips for a Safe Harvest

Harvest workers urged to take time to reap a safe harvest this fall.

It can be an exciting and exhausting time, the culmination of a season of hard work. However, the rush to harvest can also yield tragic outcomes. Each year, dozens of farm workers are killed and hundreds are injured in accidents involving power lines and electrical equipment.

“Things people see every day can fade from view and in the busyness of harvest time, it’s easy for farm workers to forget about the power lines overhead,” says Richard McCracken of the Safe Electricity Advisory Board. “But failure to notice them can be a deadly oversight.”   

Make sure you inspect the height of farm equipment to determine clearance. Keep equipment at least 10 feet away from power lines – above, below and to the side.

“Always lower grain augers before moving them, even if it’s only a few feet,” says Bob Aherin, PhD, CSP & University of Illinois Professor and Agricultural Safety & Health Program Leader. “Variables like wind, uneven ground, shifting weight or other conditions can combine to create an unexpected result. Also use extreme caution when raising the bed of a grain truck.”

Farm workers should remember these steps to ensure a safe harvest:

   • Use care when raising augers around power lines.

   • Use a spotter when operating large machinery near power lines. Do not let the spotter  touch the machinery while it is being moved anywhere near power lines.

   • As with any outdoor work, be careful not to raise any equipment such as ladders, poles or rods into power lines. Remember, non-metallic materials such as lumber, tree limbs, ropes and hay will conduct electricity depending on dampness, dust and dirt contamination.

   • Never attempt to raise or move a power line to clear a path!

   • Don’t use metal poles to break up bridged grain inside bins. Know where and how to shut off the power in an emergency.

Operators of farm equipment or vehicles must also know what to do if the vehicle comes in contact with a power line: Stay on the equipment, warn others to stay away and call 911. Do not get off the equipment until the utility crew says it is safe to do so.

“If the power line is energized and you step outside, touching the vehicle and ground, your body becomes the path and electrocution is the result,” Aherin said. “Even if a power line has landed on the ground, the potential for the area nearby to be energized still exists. Stay inside the vehicle unless there’s fire or an imminent risk of fire.”

It is very important that all farm workers are informed of electrical hazards and trained in proper procedures to avoid injury.

For more information about electrical safety, visit www.SafeElectricity.org.

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Energy Efficiency: Easy and Tasty No-bake Recipes

This summer, keep your kitchen cool with easy, no-bake recipes!

Cooking in the summer can be unbearable, and the last thing you want to do on the hottest, most humid days is turn on the oven to make dinner. Your air conditioner works extra hard during summer months to keep your home cool, so why not give it a break with easy, efficient, no-bake recipes. The recipes below are meant to help you make a delicious meal for your family, without breaking a sweat!

Tzatziki
This refreshing dip can be eaten with pita chips or veggies. You can also add it to some grilled chicken or veggies as a sauce, or even add it to a salad to make a creamy dressing! Here’s the recipe:

2 cups (plus one tablespoon) 2 percent Greek yogurt

1 cup cucumber grated

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves minced garlic

3 tablespoons dill leaves (plus extra for garnish)

Salt and pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients to a bowl, then stir gently to mix.

 

Lemon Truffles
These quick and easy lemon truffles from Premeditated Leftovers is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth! Here’s the recipe:

For Lemon Cake Mix:

2 3/4 cups cake flour

1 3/4 cups fine white sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

Zest of two lemons

2 1/2 cups lemon cake mix

8 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Zest of one large lemon

Combine the cake mix ingredients into a large bowl, stir gently to combine. Add the melted butter, lemon juice and lemon zest. Use your hands to combine until the flour is moist and flaky. Roll dough into two inch balls, roll in sugar and serve!   

Remember, no-bake recipes are a great way to keep your kitchen cool during the summer and show off your culinary skills.

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Message from the President: Time Marches On

message from the presidentAugust. The dog days of summer. Crops start to mature. Football practice. School begins.

For two of our long-time employees who recently retired, they may be asking “How did my time at Eastern Illini go by so quickly?” I would like to recognize Alan Schweighart and Bob Dickey for their loyal, dedicated, and hard work on your behalf over many years. Their efforts moved the cooperative forward!

Alan retired as your Vice President of Operations and Engineering after nearly 39 years of service. Bob retired as your Vice President of Marketing and Economic Development after more than 22 years of service.

Congratulations to Alan and his wife Sandy, and Bob and his wife Gloria on their great careers. We wish them good health and the best in retirement.

The time is also here to both allocate and pay out another round of capital credits to members. These capital credits represent members’ contribution to equity in EIEC. This equity provides funding to help operate, maintain, and upgrade cooperative facilities, while helping to reduce borrowing costs. Member economic participation is one of the Seven Cooperative Principles that contribute to our unique business model.

The amount of your equity contribution for the prior year is shown annually on the August bill statement. Take a moment and look for your 2016 calendar year allocation on your bill.

In the cooperative not-for-profit business model, current allocated margins (such as 2016 above) are returned to the members at a future time period, typically within 25 – 30 years, based on your board of directors’ assessment of the financial condition of the cooperative.

This coming November, we will pay back approximately $1.6 million in previously allocated capital credit payments to members who received electricity in 1986 through the first half of 1988. We are progressing toward achieving a 25-year payback cycle by 2020.

Eastern Illini, and its predecessor co-ops, have paid back nearly $16 million to members since our formation 80 years ago. If you have questions about the capital credit process or anything in general, please give us a call at 800-824-5102.

Thank you for allowing us to be your local and trusted energy provider.

Please stay safe!

Bob Hunzinger

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