×

The life of a lineman

Linemen have one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

LinemenNightfall_smallIt’s challenging work, but also important work. That in itself is very rewarding. Although all 12,000 Eastern Illini member/owners – and their families and employees – depend on their electric service each and every day, very few actually consider how the electricity even got to them to begin with. Before you switch on the lights, Eastern Illini linemen have already put up the poles, connected miles of wire and flipped more than a few switches of their own. All to make sure your life is always powered. Linemen have always been the unsung heroes who labor without regard to their own comfort in order to ensure our member/owners have electricity. These men (and women at some co-ops) are committed to helping you weather any storm – before, during and after. Because between the rain, sleet, snow and wind, it is still the human element that differeniates electric cooperatives from other power companies. Our lineworkers form a solid team with one job: to deliver safe, reliable electricity. But that job can change in a million ways when rough weather steps in. Power restoration takes precedence on a lineworker’s to-do list. These brave men are always on call. We have four crews standing by to serve you 24 hours a day, in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning, weekends and holidays. Can you imagine getting a call at 3 a.m. telling you to work outside during bad weather? Not many people are willing to face storms. Our linemen face harsh elements daily, all to serve you. Linemen also focus on safety; the lives of their coworkers are on the line. Job safety is important to everyone, no matter your occupation. But for linemen, there can be no slip ups or careless actions. Mistakes can cost a limb or life. That’s one of the reasons linemen form a brotherhood. When you put your life in the hands of co-workers every day, they become more than colleagues. They’re family. That sense of family extends to electric co-ops across the nation. One of our principles is cooperation among cooperatives. We help other co-ops in their time of need, and they extend that service to us, too. It’s reassuring to know if a severe storm strikes, a national team of lineworkers stand ready to answer the call. To be ready to respond no matter the situation or weather conditions, linemen are highly trained. At Eastern Illini, our linemen go through special training to ensure they can work safely with various kinds of equipment. The equipment gets tested regularly too. These highly skilled men light our homes and businesses every day. They endure harsh weather and long hours, all to make our lives better. Today (and every day), please take a moment to thank them. Eastern Illini’s 22 linemen are the heart of Co-op Nation. and they are all dedicated to serving you.

Comments Off on The life of a lineman

President’s Message – Why climate regulations matter

MFTPThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is getting ready to release new rules to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at existing power plants. These rules, set to come out in June, could lead to more expensive electricity for you.

That’s why we’re asking everyone to send comments to the EPA through www.action.coop. This easy-to-use online tool sends your thoughts directly to Washington so regulators understand the potential harm of these rules.

We’re concerned because the EPA has chosen to write regulations that rely on technology for reducing CO2 emissions that has not been proven at commercial power plants. This “carbon capture and storage” method might look good on paper or in the lab, but unlike Washington, we’re not willing to take the risk with your electric bills.

According to an official from the U.S. Department of Energy, this technology may raise our wholesale costs by 70-80 percent. If that happens, we will have no choice but to pass those increases to you.

In case you’re wondering whether the EPA actually will read these comments, consider this: by law the EPA is required to ask the American public how a proposed rule would affect costs to consumers, the quality of life and the economic future of their communities. That’s why electric cooperatives are leading the charge with the 42 million members nationwide to raise our voices collectively so we’ll be heard loud and clear.

Already, tens of thousands of folks from across the country have shared their concerns. The country has not fully climbed out of the recession; many Americans are still struggling financially. We need to tell the EPA that cost matters. 

No matter where our energy comes from, we all have a responsibility to keep electricity reliable and affordable. Like the energy policy itself, the regulations proposed by the EPA are technical, but an increase in your electric bill is personal. That’s why we need you to speak up.

We care about the price of electricity because we’re a cooperative and we look out for you, our member/owners. We think about you with every decision we make. And we’re concerned that the EPA is making a decision that will force an increase in what you have to pay for power. 

This is a big deal for us because we invested in our state-of-the-art coal-fired power plant to provide you with long-term pricing stability. These potential regulations could harm that. 

Please visit www.action.coop. Just as important, get out and talk to people about what we’re doing and why we care about electricity prices. 

Sincerely,

Bob Hunzinger

Comments Off on President’s Message – Why climate regulations matter

Winter weather causes havoc

Exploding gas prices and record low temperatures raised energy bills all winter.

Besides the bad road conditions and school/event cancellations, the onslaught of cold weather this winter has brought another negative consequence…higher energy bills.

“It’s amazing how closely our member/owners’ electric bills are aligned with weather patterns,” noted Eastern Illini’s northern area energy specialist Mike Carroll. “Even people that heat their home with natural gas or propane can see a big jump in their electric bills. The blower system on a gas heating system is still electric and it’s been so cold that many people are using supplement electric heat (space heaters) to keep their homes warm.”

Space heater facts
And seemingly small space heaters can use a lot of energy if they are not managed properly. A simple 1,500-watt plug-in heater will use over 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity if left running for the whole month. That could cost you well over $100!

Even if you only ran the space heater for eight hours a day, you would still use almost 400 kWh – which would cost you around $50. 

Just how cold was it?
Another issue this winter is there were several days when the HIGH temperature barely got above zero – if at all. That makes heating systems operate longer since they are not cycling on and off as often. 

Degree days are a way to measure how cold or hot it is. They are based on comparing the actual temperature to a standard of 65 degrees – where there shouldn’t be any heating or cooling required to keep your home comfortable.

We track degree days each month on our website (www.eiec.org/efficiency/degree-days/). Carroll noted, “This January we had 1,413 heating degree days. Last January we had only 1,133. That means that this January was about 25 percent colder than last year. That obviously makes all of our energy bills go up.”

February was even worse compared to last year, unfortunately. This February was 31 percent colder than last year, and a whopping 54 percent colder than 2012. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1979 to find a February with more heating degree days!  

Degree Day Data

  2014 2013 2012
January 1,413 1,133 1,031
February 1,287 986 837

What can you do?
Tim Frick, Eastern Illini’s energy specialist in our southern area, recommends insulation as a critical step to lowering energy bills in general. “The key to keeping your home comfortable during extreme weather is to do everything you can to stop the flow of air into your home in the winter, and out of your home during the summer.” He notes that the best ways to do that are through properly insulating your entire home (especially walls, crawl spaces, basements and attics) and then follow that with caulking around all of the remaining cracks and crevices.  

You can also visit the energy efficiency section of our website. It has many tips, tricks and ideas to save you money on all of your energy bills. 

SmartHub can help
Our online (and smartphone) portal, SmartHub, also offers many tools to help you manage your electric use. You can use it to check your daily kWh use, and even view charts that show your use along with temperatures. That type of information offers a great visual indicator of how closely your electric use matches up with extreme weather patterns.

Of course you can also use SmartHub to pay your bill each month. To make things even easier, SmartHub can send you emails and text messages to alert you when your bill is available. SmartHub is available online and as a FREE app for both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. 

pl-201404-graph

 

Special electric heating rate
As you can see from the chart above, there are many electric heating options available that are very competitive with other heating options – especially propane. We have a special rate for homes that use electricity for both space and water heating. We call it Rate 20, and after using your first 1,000 kWh, the electric rate drops to $0.07346/kWh. View the chart above to get an idea on annual heating costs for an average home.

Energy Wise Home Loan
Investing in a new heating system can seem daunting, so we’ve developed an Energy Wise Home Loan program to help. We can offer suggestions on types of systems to consider (we like geothermal systems especially), and even provide a comprehensive list of dealers in your area to consider. Then, when you are ready, we can help you pay for the system with up to a $10,000 loan. 

Please call us at 800-824-5102 for more information on our loan program.

pl-201404-cold

Comments Off on Winter weather causes havoc

When to replace old appliances

Replacing outdated appliances can save you big money.

Saying goodbye to an old friend can be daunting. But pulling the plug on an outdated refrigerator or dishwasher might save you money; new appliances are often considerably more energy efficient.

A new refrigerator consumes 75 percent less energy than a 1970s model. Replace a vintage clothes washer and save $60 on utility bills and nearly 5,000 gallons of water a year, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Not every new appliance is a good bet; always look for the ENERGY STAR label. It signals energy-efficient models. 

Ready to save? Walk through your home to find opportunities to pull the plug! 

Laundry Costs
In the laundry room, a full-sized ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washer uses 15 gallons of water per load, compared to the 23 gallons used by a standard machine. During the machine’s lifetime, this saves 27,000 gallons of water. 

Cleaning Kitchen
Replace your kitchen’s classic refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR-certified model to save between $200 and $1,100 in lifetime energy costs. 

Today’s average refrigerator uses less energy than a continually lit 60-watt light bulb. Resist the urge to move the old refrigerator to the basement or the garage. Instead, say goodbye and recycle the energy-guzzler.

Was your dishwasher built before 1994? If so, you’re paying an extra $40 a year on your utility bills compared to neighbors with an ENERGY STAR-qualified model.

Screen Savings
Televisions might be a little more baffling. As screen sizes increase, energy consumption may also rise. You can still be a savvy shopper, though. 

ENERGY STAR-certified TVs are about 25 percent more efficient than conventional models. LED screens use 20 percent less energy than LCD TVs.

Once you purchase a TV, calibrate it by adjusting the contrast and brightness to a moderate level. By default, new televisions are set to dynamic, high-contrast settings. This consumes more power than standard, lower-contrast settings.

Smart Settings 
Attached to old appliances? You can still save with smart settings. For example, heating water creates the greatest expense when washing dishes or clothes. Set your water heater at 120 degrees and be sure your clothes washer or dishwasher is full whenever used.  

Here are a few other ways to save without buying new appliances:

Not too cool food: In the kitchen, don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37 to 40 degrees for the fresh food compartment and 5 degrees for the freezer section. 

Toast, don’t roast: Use toaster ovens or microwave ovens for small meals rather than your large stovetop or oven. 

Air-dry dishes: Use the dishwasher’s “eco” option or use a no-heat air dry feature. Scrape food pieces off the plates, rather than rinsing them.

Cold clothes: In the laundry room, wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible. Adjust load settings for smaller loads.

Lose lint: Clean the lint screen in the dryer after every use to improve the dryer’s efficiency.

For other tips on how to save energy, call our energy experts at 800-824-5102. Our trained professionals are happy to visit with you, and we even offer a complimentary walk-through to help you identify “energy hogs” in your home.

You can also find out how little changes add up to big savings at www.TogetherWeSave.com

Comments Off on When to replace old appliances

Between the lines

Spring cleaning delivers safe, reliable power.

Spring gives us a chance to thaw out after a chilly winter. Some take advantage of longer daylight hours by doing a little spring cleaning and yard work. Others hit the course to work on their golf swing. 

But the seasonal shift isn’t all good news. The rapid change from harsh, cold air to warmer temperatures can trigger severe weather. To protect our lines and keep power flowing safely to your home, Eastern Illini maintains our rights-of-way. Think of it as spring cleaning for power lines.

Right-of-way (ROW) maintenance keeps tree limbs and other obstacles away from high-voltage power lines. 

It’s an important part of the service we provide to you, our member/owners, for three reasons: safety, reliability, and cost. 

Our primary concern is the safety of our workers and members. Properly maintained ROW keeps our crews safe when they are restoring service and maintaining our system. Keeping trees clear of power lines also keeps your family safe. From making sure a child’s tree house doesn’t hit power lines to creating a safe environment while doing yard work, a well-maintained ROW helps avoid tragedy. 

Power lines are a constant part of our landscape; it’s easy to forget they are around. We work hard to keep the area around our lines clear, but we need your help. Be alert this spring. Don’t plant trees or tall vegetation under power lines, and keep an eye out for power lines when working in your yard. 

If severe spring weather blows through, a well-maintained ROW leads to fewer outages and faster response time. Trees are less of a threat. When trees do fall, crews are able to restore service more quickly than they could with poorly maintained areas. 

As a not-for-profit cooperative, we strive to keep costs affordable for you, our members. Maintaining our ROW is an important part of controlling costs. Fewer and shorter outages save money for everyone. When crews work in well-maintained areas, we can reduces risks for employees and equipment too – another way to keep costs low.

Safety, reliability, and cost: this is why we believe in ROW ‘spring cleaning.’ If we compromise on one of these areas, it impacts the others. At Eastern Illini, we aren’t willing to compromise. 

Maintaining our ROW is a priority for your safety, comfort, and pocketbook. 

Comments Off on Between the lines

Give blood, save lives

Join your community as we celebrate the American Red Cross in March. 

Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative is proud to help promote the American Red Cross this month.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt began the tradition in 1943, proclaiming March the month to recognize the work of the American Red Cross. The group began during the Second World War as a blood donor service. The President called on the public to help by giving blood, volunteering time, or donating money. Seventy-one years later, every U.S. president has echoed the proclamation. 

The Red Cross collects 6.3 million units of blood a year from roughly 3.7 million blood donors.  The group provides 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply.  Donors—called everyday heroes by the American Red Cross—may save up to three lives with each donation.

“It’s a small thing to do, and it means a lot to a family in need,” shares Gayle Ford, Eastern Illini’s blood drive organizer and a blood donor. “We really appreciate being able to give something tangible – and needed – in our community.”

Becoming a hero only takes about an hour from the time you arrive at the donation site until the time you leave. The donation process is also simple and relatively painless. 

Prepare to Donate

  • Eat a healthy meal that includes iron-rich foods. Avoid fatty foods; they can affect a blood test that you will be given to determine whether you are eligible to donate.
  • Drink an extra 16 oz. of water or other non-alcoholic fluids before the donation.
  • Bring identification: a donor card, driver’s license, or other form of ID.
  • Wear clothing with sleeves you can raise above the elbow. 

Donation Process 

  • Register at the donation site and complete a brief, confidential health history. 
  • Staff will check your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure, before drawing blood to determine your blood type. 
  • Staff will draw blood for the donation and place a bandage over the spot when the needle is removed.

After Your Donation

  • Drink extra water or other non-alcoholic fluids for the next 24 hours.
  • Keep the bandage on for the next several hours.
  • Avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for the rest of the day.
  • If you feel dizzy or light-headed, sit or lie down until you feel better.  
  • Call the American Red Cross Donor Hotline at 866-236-3276 with questions or health concerns following your donation.  
Comments Off on Give blood, save lives

President’s Message – Membership privileges

MFTPAs an electric company, we’re a bit unique. As you may know, we are a cooperative, which means we are owned by you. In addition to being customers, you are much more than that. We like to think of you as member/owners.

Being a member/owner brings with it several privileges and benefits: 

You have a say
We are governed by an elected board of directors made up of member/owners just like you. The board sets our guidelines and policies, and then tasks me and all of our employees with carrying out those guidelines.

We have nine board members, and each year at our annual meeting (June 12 this year) you have the privilege – and responsibility – of electing three board members (each board member serves a three-year term).

Your voting rights allow you to a have a big voice in how we operate.

Local presence
Eastern Illini, as a member-owned organization, is locally owned. Our main office is in Paxton, and we have warehouse facilities in both Gilman and Pesotum. 

Our employees live in the same neighborhoods you do, and they are always happy to answer your questions about the co-op, energy efficiency, or really anything else energy related.

Cooperation among Co-ops
We’ve banded together with nine other Illinois co-ops to form a cooperative called Prairie Power, Inc. (PPI) who is our generation and transmission provider.  The added buying power we receive by working together with other cooperatives allows us to increase our economies of scale.

This cooperation also gives us an edge when we need assistance during major storms. Our co-op network is ready!

National Alliance
Touchstone Energy is the national brand identity for electric co-ops. Through Touchstone Energy, we are happy to provide you with programs like the Co-op Connections Card

This free, money-saving membership card gives you discounts on everyday expenses. For instance, you can save up to 85 percent on prescription drugs, plus get discounts on other medical related services. To date, Eastern Illini member/owners have saved almost $150,000 on the drug discounts. Find out more by visiting connections.coop.

These are just a few of the reasons we think being a part of an electric co-op is special. We hope you do, too.

Respectfully,

Bob Hunzinger

Comments Off on President’s Message – Membership privileges

Frigid temps increase electric use

This January was 25% colder than last year.

Besides the bad road conditions and school/event cancellations, the recent onslaught of cold weather has brought another negative consequence…higher energy bills.

“It’s amazing how closely our member/owners’ electric bills are aligned with weather patterns,” noted Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative’s Energy Specialist Mike Carroll. “Even people that heat their home with natural gas or propane can see a big jump in the electric bills. The blower system on a gas heating system is still electric and it’s been so cold that many people are using supplement electric heat (space heaters) to keep their homes warm.”

And seemingly small space heaters can use a lot of energy if they are not managed. A simple 1,500-watt  plug-in heater will use over 1,000 kWh of electricity if left running for a whole month. That is well over $100!

Another issue this year is there were several days when the HIGH temperature barely got above zero – if at all. That makes heating systems operate longer since they are not cycling on and off as often.

Carroll noted, “This January we had 1,413 heating degree days. Last January was only 1,133. That means that this January was about 25 percent colder than last January. Unfortunately, that makes all of our bills go up.”

Degree days are a way to measure how cold or hot it is. They are based on comparing the actual temperature to a standard of 65 degrees – where there shouldn’t be any heating or cooling required. We track degree days each month here on our website.

Carroll recommends insulation as a key to lowering electric bills in general. Our energy efficiency portion of this website has many other tips and tricks, as well.

 

Comments Off on Frigid temps increase electric use

Email scam targets energy company customers

phishing_graphic_smA nationwide email scam is targeting energy company customers, including some electric cooperative member/owners, by sending bogus invoices directing them to a virus-infected website.

The fraudulent billing message tells member/owners their bill is ready and provides a hyperlink to view it. Do not click on the link! Reports say the link takes the person to a site that infects their device with malware. The malware could go after banking information or attempt to steal usernames or passwords.

All emails from Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative come from our SmartHub online service and specifically list both our name, and SmartHub. For safety reasons, you must then log-in to SmartHub to view and pay your bill. Some of these fraudulent emails do not list the name of the power company.

We advise member/owners to ignore suspicious requests for personal information, such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and usernames and passwords. We also recommend that you delete those emails and call us at 800-824-5102 to report the suspicious activity.

Comments Off on Email scam targets energy company customers

New bulb on the block

​There’s a new lighting mascot in town. Meet LED Lucy.

CFL Charlie, a cartoon mascot for Touchstone Energy Cooperatives®, the brand “ID” of the nation’s electric LEDLucy_WalkingwCharlie_NoShadowcooperatives, helps families become “Super Savers” by switching to energy efficient lightbulbs. In late 2013 he was joined by LED Lucy, a dazzling, spunky mascot lighting the way for even brighter bulb savings.

​Lighting standards started shifting away from traditional lightbulbs in 2012. CFL Charlie and LED Lucy want to make sure Eastern Illini  member/owners know about all lighting options.

​“I’m older than I look,” LED Lucy confides. The mascot’s light-emitting diodes beam. “The first LED was created in 1927. Since then we’ve added stylish colors, and costs dropped. I love bargains, and LED prices get lower every year!”

​The mascots share a few pointers on their energy efficiency namesakes.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
CFL Charlie – and other bulbs like him – are the most common and economical lightbulbs on the market. The swirly style is linked to the concept of efficient lighting, but some consumers haven’t warmed to the design.

​“Not everyone likes to see my swirls,” explains Charlie. “That’s fine by me—everyone has a different sense of style. Several of my friends are designed to look just like a traditional lightbulb.”

​CFLs offer 75 percent energy savings over traditional incandescent bulbs and pay for themselves in 9 months, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Light emitting diodes (LEDs)
​LEDs have been used for years in cell phones and other electronics. Most diodes are small—about half the size of a pencil eraser. By banding several small diodes together, a bright and dependable light emerges.

As their popularity grows, some companies are making light with a single, bright LED chip. New ways to build LEDs will help drive down costs.​

“It’s going to be fun to watch LED Lucy gain fans,” laughs Charlie. “She uses a little less energy than me, and lasts 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.”

​Since lighting adds up to 10 percent of a home’s electric bill, every bulb counts. To help children learn more about lighting, visit www.kidsenergyzone.com.  

Comments Off on New bulb on the block