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  • Keep Your Kids Safe with Tamper Resistant Receptacles

    Your toddler is playing on the floor of the living room while you prep dinner in the kitchen. He tirelessly constructs wooden block tower after wooden block tower, only to knock each one down in squeals of delight.

    “Five minutes until dinner will be ready!” you call to him as you end down to put your dirty cutting board into the dishwasher.

    Instead of hearing your sweet boy say, “otay, Mommy!” you hear a sound every parent fears: a heart-wrenching scream.

    As you rush into the living room to grab your boy, you see the plastic plug cover from the nearby electrical outlet sitting on the floor. Your son is screaming and showing you his blistered fingers, and you immediately realize that it’ll take more than a kiss to make this boo-boo better.

    You pull out your phone and call 9-1-1-…

    ***

    Each year, more than 2,000 children are burned or shocked by electrical outlets when they stick something into the outlet that doesn’t belong there. Sometimes it’s the child’s own finger and other times it’s a foreign object like a bobby pin or a coin, but the results are the same: burns, shocks, and even electrocution.


    (source)

    An Inexpensive Way to Improve Home Electrical Safety
    Tamper resistant electrical receptacles are an inexpensive way to significantly reduce the chance that electrical outlets in your family’s home will injure your son or daughter. You can upgrade receptacles for about $2 each — that’s only $0.50 or so more per outlet than the cost of a traditional power outlet.

    According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the average home has approximately 75 electric receptacles. That means that it only costs about $40 more to upgrade to tamper resistant outlets than it does to put in new outlets that aren’t tamper resistant (source).

    If your home was built or renovated since 2014, it should already have tamper resistant outlets installed as required by the National Electrical Code®(NEC®). If your home was built or renovated before 2014, though, your Missouri Electric Cooperatives encourage you to upgrade your home’s electrical outlets (with the help of a licensed electrician) to tamper resistant ones.

    How Tamper Resistant Receptacles Work

    Tamper resistant receptacles are easy to use, and they look perfectly normal in your home. According to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi), tamper resistant receptacles, “look just like ordinary outlets, but are designed with spring-loaded receptacle cover plates that close off the receptacle openings, or slots.”

    In order for power to pass through the outlet, those cover plates must be open. And those cover plates won’t open unless equal pressure is applied into both prong holes of the outlet.

    “Without this simultaneous pressure,” ESFi explains, “the cover plate remain closed, preventing insertion of foreign objects (source).”

    Spring-loaded cover plates might sound strong — like you’d need to use extra pressure or force to plug in a standard electrical plug. Thankfully, though, that’s not the case. The NFPA says that tamper resistant receptacles require comparable force to use as regular receptacles do.


    Tamper resistant receptacles are just one easy and inexpensive way that you can help keep your kids safe from electric shock. You can learn more about tamper resistant electrical outlets on ESFi.org, and you can find more helpful electric safety tips right here on the blog.

    Was this piece helpful? Follow your Missouri Electric Cooperatives on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to learn how we work to provide safe, efficient energy to our rural Missouri Member-Owners and their families.

  • Are There Phantoms in Your Home?

    What would you say if your Missouri Electric Cooperatives told you that there’s a phantom load in your home that’s stealing energy from your outlets and money from your pockets? While it may sound a bit exaggerated, the truth is that there are devices and appliances in your home that cost your family energy and money every single year. We call that cost a “phantom load.”

    The “Take Control and Save” website describes a phantom load as, “any device that consumes electricity when turned off but still plugged into an outlet (source),” and Energy.gov says that phantom loads cost the average U.S. household about $100 every year (source).

    Examples of phantom load include the power from televisions, computers, and appliances that use energy when they’re plugged into the wall — even if they’re powered down.

    Leaving your printer plugged in when you aren’t using it? That creates phantom load. The same goes when you leave your coffee maker, audio system, or even your cell phone charger plugged in when it’s not in use.

    If you’re ready to reduce the phantom load in your home, Energy.gov offers three helpful tips: Unplug your electronics when they aren’t in use, shop for ENERGY STAR® appliances, and use power strips (surge bars) that have an on/off switch.

    Unplug and Save

    Unplugging your electronics when they aren’t in use is the cheapest and most effective way for to reduce their phantom load, but it’s also the least convenient. From resetting digital clocks to reminding your kids to unplug the microwave after each use, the reality is that unplugging might not be a viable option for many Missouri Electric Cooperative Member-Owners. 

    Reduce Phantom Load with ENERGY STAR® Appliances

    Another way to reduce phantom load is to invest in ENERGY STAR® products: products that are third-party certified for their energy efficiency, and include everything from washers and dryers to office equipment like printers and copying machines.

    ENERGY STAR® products are designed to reduce energy waste when they’re idle, producing a lower overall energy output than comparable products. You can find out more about ENERGY STAR products including appliances, lighting, building products, office equipment, and more right here.

    Use Power Strips with On/Off Switches

    If unplugging is inconvenient and buying new electronics is too expensive, your Missouri Electric Cooperative recommends a happy middle ground: replacing your family’s traditional surge bars and power strips with ones that have an on/off switch.

    When you plug all of our devices in a certain area of the home into the same power strip or surge bar, you can easily power them all down at once, saving your family significant energy and money.

    Take your home entertainment center for example. If you have a 50’ LCD TV, a cable box, a DVR, and a game console, “Take Control and Save” estimates that you’re generating $42.41/year in phantom load in your living room, alone. By plugging those devices into a single power strip with an on/off switch that you power down when it’s not in use, you can safe more than $40 per year!

    Another good example is your home office. If you plug your PC, monitor, and printer into a power strip that you can turn off, you can save about $10 per year in phantom electrical expenses. At that rate, a new six-outlet surge bar with an on/off switch will pay for itself in less than a year.

    Your Missouri Electric Cooperatives want to help you save the energy — and the money — that phantom load is costing you every single year. Visit “Take Control and Save’s” Phantom Load Calculator to estimate your home’s phantom load, and consider unplugging or upgrading your appliances and using on/off power strips and surge protectors to save money on your electric bill.

    Learn more about Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, and how we work to provide safe, efficient energy to rural Missouri by following us on Facebook , Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

  • Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives and Net Metering

    Most of Missouri’s Electric Cooperative Member-Owners have a fairly simple rate structure made up of two parts: a member charge and a kilowatt hour charge. The member charge is a fixed amount and the kilowatt hour charge varies based on the number of kilowatt hours you use during the month.

    The member charge helps your Cooperative recover a small part of the fixed distribution costs of serving you, including expenses such as administration, operations, and maintenance. However, the majority of revenue needed to cover your Cooperative’s distribution costs comes from your bill’s kilowatt hour charge.

    Your kilowatt hour charge is made up of three parts — energy (kilowatt hour), demand (kilowatt), and distribution system expenses — which are shown proportionally in the graph below.

    • Energy: The operational costs, including fuel and labor, of generating electricity
    • Demand: The overhead costs of owning and maintaining transmission and generating facilities
    • Distribution Expenses: Administration, operations, maintenance, depreciation, interest, and margins

    Missouri Net Metering
    Net metering is a process that enables Missouri’s Electric Cooperative Member-Owners with a solar or wind system on their home or business to export power that is in excess of their immediate on-site needs. This offsets an equal amount of power supplied by your Cooperative at a different time within the same monthly billing period. In this situation the Member-Owner with a solar or wind system is billed at your Cooperative’s regular retail rate for the “net” amount of power used that is in excess of power the Member-Owner generates on site.

    If the Member-Owner generates more power than his or her home uses during the monthly billing period, the excess is metered and put out onto the electric grid. Your Cooperative subtracts the amount of power purchased from the grid from the amount generated out to the grid and provides the Member-Owner with a “credit” for the “net excess” power. For most Missouri Electric Cooperatives, the credit is calculated by multiplying the number of “net excess” kilowatt hours by your Cooperative’s cost to purchase the fuel needed to generate a kilowatt hour (called avoided cost).

    Example:
    Member Solar Panels Generate to the Grid: 1,000 kWhs
    Member Receives from the Grid: 950 kWhs
    Member Receives Avoided Cost Credit for: 50 kWhs

    Under current net metering laws, your Cooperative is not able to recover distribution expenses and demand costs through kilowatt hour sales when a Member-Owner installs a solar array or wind turbine. Those distribution expenses and demand costs are spread to your Cooperative’s membership without wind or solar to maintain vital infrastructure: distribution lines, poles and equipment, and the transmission network and power plants that deliver 24/7 electricity to all Member-Owners.

    Why are those other resources needed? The energy output from a solar array or wind turbine does not typically coincide with your Cooperative’s peak load: early in the morning on a cold winter day. That is why a diverse power supply including coal and gas is so important. The chart below shows that replacing your Cooperative’s existing baseload resources with 5,000 megawatts of wind or solar leaves a huge gap between what Member-Owners need to power their homes and what wind and solar would provide on a peak winter day.


    Expanding Current Net Metering Laws Would Negatively Impact Member-Owners
    Renewable interest groups and solar vendors would like to see significant changes made to Missouri’s current net metering statutes. Those changes would increase subsidies paid by Missouri’s Electric Cooperative Member-Owners who don’t have wind or solar. Key points of their suggested changes are listed below:

    Increase System Size: Currently, Missouri law limits net metering to systems of 100 kilowatts or less. These groups would like to increase the size to 500 kilowatts or less. This would allow businesses to put in larger arrays that generate more electricity, reducing the kilowatt hours they purchase from your Cooperative. This would shift more costs to the rest of your Cooperative’s Member-Owners.

    Retail Rate Credits for Net ExcessPaying the retail rate for a kilowatt hour unfairly shifts costs onto your Cooperative’s Member-Owners who do not have a solar or wind system. It also forces your Cooperative to pay a higher cost to purchase power than it would incur with its own generators.

    Annualized Net Metering Billing: This has the same effect as paying retail for any net excess. Annualizing the net metering account would carry the monthly net excess forward as kilowatt hours at a retail rate, not a credit for kilowatt hours at avoided cost.

    State Income Tax Credit: Solar and wind systems are already heavily subsidized with a 30 percent federal income tax credit and current net metering laws. Renewable interest groups have encouraged implementing a Missouri state tax credit that would mean more subsidies and that would cause additional burden on Missouri taxpayers. This could lead to state tax increases to comply with Missouri’s balanced budget requirement.

    Learn More
    Learn more about Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, and how we work to provide safe, efficient energy to rural Missouri by following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

  • Protect Your Home and Your Business: Celebrate National Electrical Safety Month!

    Electrical safety is no joke. Every year in the U.S., there are an estimated 187 electrical-related deaths, including deaths at home and at work. If you’d like to help prevent electrical injury and death in Missouri, May is the perfect time to start.

    Each may, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) celebrates National Electrical Safety Month. Electrical Safety Month is all about prevention and education: EFSI wants to educate you about preventing electrically-related fires, fatalities, and more.

    Your electric coop wants to protect your home and business against electricity-related injuries and damages, too. Keep reading to learn how you can protect your home and business during National Electrical Safety Month.

    Protect Your Home Against Electrical Fire
    For most Missourians, electrical safety starts at home. Overloaded outlets, improper use of extension cords, and faulty home wiring can create major safety issues for your family. In fact, faulty wiring, alone, causes more than 26,000 house fires every single year in the U.S.

    To protect your home against fault wiring, SafeElectricity.org recommends that homeowners take extra precautions as summer weather approaches. Why summer? Because home electricity consumption is at its peak in the summer months when kids are home from school and air conditioners are running on high.

    This month, take the time to check the cords on your appliances and to examine the outlets in your home. If you notice frayed wiring or loose or missing outlet covers, have them replaced or repaired right away. For a longer checklist for electrical safety at home, visit SafeElectricity.org.

    Home Electricity Safety Tip: Install GFCIs in all “wet” areas of the home. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that GFCIs could prevent more than two-thirds of America’s annual home electrocutions.    


    Protect Your Business
    No business owner wants to be bear the ethical, legal, or financial responsibility for an employee’s injury or death, but every year in America, nearly two hundred businesses have to do exactly that.

    OSHA estimates that approximately 187 American workers are killed at work in an electrically-related accident annually, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission says that each of those deaths costs the U.S. economy $5 million (source).

    If you own a business in Missouri, you can minimize the risk of employee injury or death in electrically-related accidents by running the right electrical safety tests for your industry.  

    Pre-market electrical safety testing is run on many electrical devices and components, but field safety tests for electrical safety can help businesses that use custom-built electrical equipment, or who have recently relocated their operations.

    Even when a business is using pre-tested equipment, it’s important (and in some cases, it’s required) for that same business to run product line testing to be sure that the entire production line runs safely when its many individually tested components are connected.  

    In addition to pre-market testing and field safety tests, business can save time and money by having electrical products tested for high voltage withstanding, current leakage, quality of electrical insulation, and ground continuity.

    Business Tip: Use an OSHA-recognized Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) to ensure that your business’s electrical equipment is safe for use in the workplace.  

    Learn more about Electrical Safety Testing on the Tüv Süd America website.

    Whether at work or at home, it’s never the wrong time to invest in electrical safety. To learn more about EFSI’s National Electrical Safety Month initiative, click here.

    Learn More
    In the meantime, we hope you’ll follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to see how Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives are powering more than 700,000 homes, businesses, and institutions across the state.

  • Unfair Cost Shifting in Net Metering Policies

    Net metering policies have been in effect since the 1980s, but not all of those policies still make sense today. Keep reading to learn what net metering is, and to find out how net metering might be costing your family more than you should have to pay for your home’s electricity.

    What is Net Metering?
    Net metering is a billing arrangement between a utility company or nonprofit Electric Cooperative and a smaller power producer (like the Watt Family, who has installed solar panels on their roof).

    The solar energy the Watt Family generates is used to power their home. Sometimes they’re even able to create even more energy than they need. When that happens, they can send their extra energy back to the Cooperative to be shared with the coop’s other Member-Owners.

    The net metering billing arrangement between the Watt Family and the Cooperative decides how the Watt Family will be credited for the excess energy it sends back to the power company. This is dictated in part by state and federal legal requirements. 

    What is a Net Meter?
    The net meter itself is a tool that tracks exactly how much energy the Watt Family is using from the coop’s power sources and exactly how much solar energy the Watts are sending back to the coop after powering their own home.

    Net metering started out with good intentions: it was designed as a simple way to track energy sharing by smaller energy producers like the Watts. While net meters are still fine, the policies surrounding net metering don’t always makes sense today.

    Why Net Metering Policies Don’t Make Sense Today
    Under current net metering legal regulations, your Cooperative may have to pay small producers like the Watt Family retail price for the wholesale electricity they add back to the power grid.

    When that happens, your Cooperative incurs costs that it cannot recoup. Your Cooperative has to shift some of that cost on to you, its member-owners, in your monthly electric bills.

    Unfair Cost Shifting
    If your local grocery store had to pay farmers retail prices for eggs, milk, or meat, your grocery bills would get a lot more expensive. That wouldn’t be fair to you, the shopper, right?

    Electrical power is no different. If your Cooperative is required by law to pay small power producers like the Watt Family retail prices for their wholesale power production, your electricity bill gets more expensive. That’s not fair to you, the Member-Owner, and that’s why we call it unfair cost shifting — because you shouldn’t have to pay the price of independent renewable energy production by other Member-Owners in your community.

    Member-Owners Cannot Afford to Foot the Bill
    A large majority of Missouri Electric Cooperatives' Member-Owners live on fixed incomes or low wages and cannot afford to install renewable energy systems. These Member-Owners need reliable, affordable electricity for their homes without any fancy bells or whistles.

    These fixed- or lower-income Member-Owners don’t have access to alternative energy sources like solar panels or wind energy because they simply cannot afford the installation costs. If they have to pay higher rates to subsidize those members who do have the ability to install renewable energy sources, it creates a system imbalance.

    Equity in Electricity
    Your Cooperative appreciates — and sometimes needs — the extra electric power that small producers like the Watt Family add back to the grid. The goal is to fairly reward families like the Watts for producing extra power without unfairly shifting the cost of renewable energy production on to the majority of our Member-Owners.

    Your Cooperative’s Principles make us stewards for our entire communities, which means that we must advocate for policies that make sense for all of our Member-Owners. Come back to the blog to learn more about policy options that encourage renewable energy creation without unfairly shifting its cost on the member-owners who can least afford it.

    Learn More
    Learn more about Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, and how we work to provide safe, efficient energy to rural Missouri by following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

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