• Natural Gas is Important in Mix of Resources

    Since your Missouri Electric Cooperatives built its first natural gas power plant in 1999, gas has become an increasingly important generation fuel for members.

    The diversity of your Cooperatives' generation, coupled with flexible, negotiated fuel supply contracts, helps the cooperative take advantage of lower gas prices to serve member load reliably. In fact, when not needed for member load, your Missouri Electric Cooperatives' gas plants can competitively generate for off-system sales. This brings in revenue to help keep member rates as low as possible.

    The flexibility of switching between gas and coal, depending on price, supply and demand, has enabled your Cooperatives to sell power to members at a lower average cost than nonmember distribution cooperatives pay in the surrounding eight states.

    The selling points of gas add up:

    • Plentiful domestic natural gas supply, lower prices and less volatility make gas attractive for generating electricity.
    • In addition to its competitive price, gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels, producing the least carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions.
    • Gas plants are less costly to build, operate, maintain and staff than coal plants, which face increasing costs due to new and uncertain environmental regulations.
    • Peaking gas units can start in nine to 15 minutes – much, much faster than coal units – to meet peak energy demand, the fluctuations that come with wind energy and federal reliability standards set by North American Electric Reliability Corp.
    • A combined-cycle gas plant can produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity more efficiently than a coal plant.

    Your Cooperatives gets in the gas business Natural gas traditionally was a fuel for heating homes, but in the mid-1990s that changed as wholesale generators began building lower-cost, gas-based power plants.

    Needing to diversify its power supply and add peaking generation, you Cooperatives saw these indicators and worked with a consultant to broker the construction of St. Francis Power Plant in 1999. In rapid order came Holden, Essex and Nodaway peaking plants; expansion of St. Francis; addition of Chouteau and Dell power plants; and expansion of Chouteau. Today, your Cooperatives' gas fleet is a highly valuable asset that gives the cooperative great flexibility for providing clean, affordable, reliable electricity for members.

    Your Cooperatives' gas supply comes from domestic sources connected to the country’s vast pipeline network, ranging from small, locally owned producers to some of the world’s largest energy companies.

    Contracts with pipelines also help stabilize delivered cost of gas. Vast new deposits of shale gas – estimated at more than 100 years – being drilled are expected to continue to stabilize gas prices.

    How does price affect costs?

    Like most commodities – think oil, wheat, corn, livestock – natural gas trades daily on exchanges such as the Intercontinental Exchange Inc. and New York Mercantile exchange. These trades, influenced by supply and demand, establish the price of gas for a given day or future timeframe. Your Cooperatives' fuels department procures and manages gas supply, seeking terms that reduce risk, provide reliable deliveries and minimize costs.

    Of course, your Cooperatives must consider current and future prices for all generating resources. The cooperative uses the lowest-cost resources and power plants available to supply members.

    Typically, hydropower and wind generation are used first, and that’s partly due to your Cooperatives' contracts that require taking all wind power produced. Then coal, gas or even purchased power, if its cost is lower than your Cooperatives can generate, are used.

    Your Cooperatives' diverse resource mix keeps its wholesale rates among the lowest in the country.

    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

  • Your Extensive Guide to Electrical Safety

    Learn how to keep you and your loved ones safe around electricity

    Each year, many people are injured or killed in and around their homes due to unsafe conditions that create fire and electrical shock hazards. Your Missouri Electric Cooperatives wanted to share information to create a safe indoor and outdoor environment for you and your family.

    Indoor electrical safety

    Electrical outlets – Check for loose–fitting plugs, and replace missing or broken wall plates so wiring and components are not exposed. If you have young children in your home, cover outlets with plastic safety caps.

    Plugs – Never force them into outlets. Don’t remove the grounding pin (third prong) to make a three-prong plug fit a two-prong outlet, and avoid overloading outlets.

    Cords – Make sure they are not frayed or cracked, placed under carpets or rugs or located in high traffic areas. Do not nail or staple them to walls, floors or other objects.

    Extension cords – Use them only on a temporary basis, not as permanent household wiring. Make sure cords have safety closures to protect young children from shock and mouth burn injuries.

    Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) – Make sure GFCI outlets are installed in your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, workshop, basement and garage as well as on outdoor outlets. Test them monthly to ensure they’re working properly.

    Appliances/Electronics – If an appliance repeatedly blows a fuse, trips a circuit breaker or has given you an electrical shock, immediately unplug it and have it repaired or replaced. Look for cracks or damage in wiring and connectors. Use surge protectors to protect expensive electronics.

    Electrical wiring - Wiring defects are a major cause of residential blazes. Check periodically for loose wall receptacles, loose wires or loose lighting fixtures. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that spark and flicker.

    Service capacity – As you add more lighting, appliances and electronics, your home’s electrical service capacity may become overburdened. If fuses blow or trip frequently, have a licensed electrician determine the appropriate service requirements.

    Outdoor electrical safety

    Remember the following when working or playing outside to stay safe.

    • Teach children to stay away from electric utility equipment. Never enter a substation; don’t play on pad mounted transformers; fly kites safely away from overhead power lines.
    • If you see a downed or sagging power line, stay far away, warn others to stay away and call the utility company or 911.
    • If you are involved in a vehicle accident and your vehicle is touching power lines, stay in the car until an electric utility worker tells you it is safe.
    • Don’t use electric yard tools if it’s raining or the ground is wet.
    • Make sure your outdoor outlets have ground fault (GFCI) protection; use a portable GFCI if your outdoor outlets don’t have one.

    Watch out for overhead power lines...

    In many neighborhoods overhead electric lines are part of the landscape, and may be overlooked because we are so familiar with them. Failure to notice electric lines can be a deadly mistake. Some overhead power lines can carry thousands of volts of electricity. Keep yourself and equipment at least ten feet away from power lines and service connections.

    • Always look up before using long tools like pruning poles, ladders or antennas.
    • Never place tall items like a ladder or antenna near a power line or electric service connection to your home.
    • When trimming trees, be aware that broken or dislodged branches may have also become tangled in overhead electric lines, or pushed the wire closer to the ground.
    • Be especially aware when working near backyard swimming pools. Pool cleaning equipment, like long metal poles on leaf skimmers, will conduct current to the person holding it.
    • ...And be aware of underground lines

    When you plan your next project such as building or remodeling a deck, planting trees or shrubs or anything else that requires digging, protect yourself first and call before you dig! Underground utilities, such as buried gas, water and electric lines, can be a shovel thrust away from turning a project into a disaster.

    To find out where utility lines run on your property, dial 811 from anywhere in the country, or visit a few days prior to digging. Indicate where you’re planning to dig and what type of work you will be doing, and affected local utilities will be notified. In a few days, a locator will arrive to designate the approximate location of any underground lines, pipes and cables with flags or marking paint so you’ll know what’s below. Then the safe digging can begin.

    Never assume the location or depth of underground utility lines! The 811 service is free and can help you avoid serious injury.

    Learn More About Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives 
    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.

  • Saving Energy in the Laundry Room

    Whether you like it or not, the laundry has to happen! What our Member-Owners may not realize is how much your appliances might contribute to your electric bill. Your Missouri Electric Cooperatives shares helpful tips to savings in your laundry room.

    Find the right washer for you

    When shopping for a clothes washer, use the EnergyGuide labels to purchase the most efficient model. The Federal Trade Commission requires a yellow EnergyGuide label on most home appliances that estimates a yearly operating cost, along with estimated electricity or gas usage.

    The label also shows the highest and lowest cost estimates of similar appliance models. Energy use for a standard top-loading washer, for example, ranges from 267 kWh per year for the most efficient model to 1818 kWh for the least efficient.

    Also look for an ENERGY STAR logo, either on the EnergyGuide label or the clothes washer. The logo signifies that an appliance meets strict energy-efficiency criteria established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.* Most full-sized ENERGY STAR-qualified washers consume 40 percent less energy than standard washers and use about half the water per load.

    ENERGY STAR-qualified models extract much more water from the clothes—meaning that time in the dryer will be reduced and take less energy. Most laundry loads can be washed in cold or warm water, significantly reducing the amount of energy used to heat water.

    Just as important, look for models with multiple settings for water-level and water-temperature controls. Since up to 90 percent of the energy needed to wash clothes is used to heat water, look for controls that allow settings for smaller loads and cooler water. Remember, however, that one large load uses less energy than two small loads.

    Consider a front-loading machine; this type of washer is more efficient and uses less water and detergent, significantly reducing monthly operating costs. Some front-loaders use only 15 gallons of water per cycle, compared to 30 to 40 gallons for top-loading machines. Front-loading machines are also gentler on washable items, as there is no central agitator.

    Always use High-Efficiency detergent, as front-loading clothes washers are designed to use only this type of detergent. Using regular detergent in a front-loading washer will create too many suds, leading to decreased washing and rinsing performance. The lowered performance can lead to mechanical problems and foul odors.

    Choose an efficient dryer 

    Energy Guide labels are not required on clothes dryers. The one sure way to save money on dryer energy is to buy an ENERGY ST AR-labeled washer that spins out most of the excess moisture. To buy the most efficient dryer, look for energy-efficient features such as an automatic temperature control, a moisture-sensor control, a cool-down cycle, and a no-heat cycle. These features can be found on both gas and electric dryers.

    The dryer may have several selections based on type of fabrics being dried; regardless of the number of these options, dryers have either two or three heat settings. Since pilot lights increase annual gas consumption, save money by selecting a dryer with electronic ignition.

    Moisture sensors automatically turn the dryer off as soon as the clothes are dry, and typically cut energy use by 10 to 15 percent. With a timer only, the dryer may run longer than necessary. Look for a dryer with an alarm announcing the end of the drying cycle and a post-heat tumbling cycle to prevent wrinkling.

    Dryer operation 

    The most important way to save energy and money with clothes dryers is to shorten the drying time. Set the dryer moisture sensor and automatic temperature control to keep drying time to a minimum and to prevent over-drying. Over-drying not only wastes energy, it also shortens fabric life, causes wrinkles, and generates static.

    Remember that the clothes-dryer exhaust removes air from the home and can be a factor in reducing the amount of combustion air available for furnaces and other fuel-burning appliances. A shortage of combustion air can cause backdrafting of dangerous gases into the home, so it's important to ensure an adequate combustion air supply.

    Energy-Saving Tips

    • Two small loads will consume more energy than one large load; be careful not to overload the dryer, however, since this causes wrinkling and uneven drying.
    • Clean the lint screen before each load. Lint restricts air movement, which can mean longer drying times per load.
    • Twice a year, disconnect the exhaust hose and clear out the lint. Always use smooth metal ducting for the dryer exhaust. Flexible exhaust hoses increase operation time and trap lint, increasing fire risk. Tape all seams in the metal ducting.
    • Check the dryer exhaust vent periodically to make sure it operates properly and doesn't leak. The flapper on the outside should open and close freely; if it remains open, it allows heated air to escape from the house during the winter. Check the flapper once a month and remove lint buildup.
    • Always vent dryers outside to prevent moisture damage to the home and to keep laundry contaminants out of the household air.

    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

  • Energy-Saving Residential Refrigeration

    Keys to kitchen efficiency

    Making your kitchen more energy-efficient requires a careful look at all the appliances you use to store food, keep it fresh, and prepare it for meals.

    Even though you can take steps to make most of your appliances more efficient, the single biggest energy-consuming appliance in most kitchens is the refrigerator.

    To increase energy efficiency, you might consider replacing an older refrigerator with a new ENERGY STAR-qualified model, which by definition must be at least 20% more efficient than the federal minimum energy standard. ENERGY STAR is a government program designed to help protect the environment by promoting energy efficiency.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which administrate the program, estimate that replacing a refrigerator bought in 1990 with a new ENERGY STAR qualified model would save enough energy to light the average household for nearly four months.

    Ways to start saving now

    Whether with a standard unit or an ENERGY STAR-qualified model, you can decrease energy use for your refrigerator or freezer by taking a few simple steps:

    • Keep the refrigerator away from sources of heat, including the oven, dishwasher, or direct sunlight.
    • Leave enough space between the wall or cabinets and the refrigerator or freezer to allow air to circulate around the condenser coils.
    • Clean coils regularly. Just unplug the appliance, remove the trim plate, and use a long, narrow vacuum-cleaner nozzle or coil brush to clean gently around the coils, removing dust and debris. Replace the trim plate or cover and then plug the cord back in. 3
    • Check door seals to be sure they’re airtight.
    • Buy a small refrigerator thermometer and adjust the temperature between 35˚F and 38˚F. Set your freezer’s temperature at 0˚F.
    • Minimize the amount of time the refrigerator door is open.
    • Recycle an older or “second” refrigerator, especially if it’s not being used efficiently (e.g., located in an unconditioned space such as a garage, not being kept full, not being defrosted, etc.). Details on how to recycle old refrigerators are listed on the reverse of this page.

    How to shop for an efficient refrigerator or freezer 

    The easiest way to be sure you're buying an energy-efficient refrigerator or freezer is to ask for an ENERGY STAR-qualified model. Here are some more ways you can determine the best energy-efficient appliances for your home:

    • Check the EnergyGuide label. This is a yellow sticker attached to the appliance showing how much energy it uses, how its efficiency compares to similar models, and approximately how much it would cost to operate it on an annual basis.
    • Get the right size. In most cases, bigger models use more energy; refrigerators of 16-20 cubic feet are usually most efficient, and chest freezers typically use less energy than other configurations.
    • Look at top-freezer refrigerators, which use 10-25% less energy than side-by-sides.
    • Forego the ice-maker and dispenser, which increase energy use by 14--20% and can cost an extra$75-250 at the time of purchase.
    • Select a model with automatic moisture control, which prevents moisture from building up on the outside of the appliance without using a heater. ("Anti-sweat" heaters actually use 5-10% more energy than other models.)
    • Consider a manual-defrost model, which uses about half as much energy as an automatic-defrost model.
    • But remember, manual-defrost refrigerators won't save energy unless they are defrosted whenever frost build-up approaches one-quarter of an inch.

    Recycle your old fridge 

    As part of the ENERGY STAR program, the DOE has created a campaign to help you get rid of your old refrigerators, lower your energy bills, and help protect the environment by recycling those obsolete appliances. It's called "Make A Cool Change: Recycle Your Old Fridge (Or Freezer)," and it's a big project. More than 47 million refrigerators more than ten years old are estimated to be in use in the U.S.-and all of these older models are using more energy than necessary to do the job. The DOE encourages anyone who owns an old refrigerator or freezer to participate in this unique recycling program, which can even help save money when you buy a new ENERGY STAR-qualified model.

    Learn More About Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives 
    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.

  • The Truth About Tankless Water Heaters

    The tankless water heater claim

    Many homeowners have seen advertisements for tankless water heaters that promise great features and big savings. An unlimited supply of hot water definitely sounds like a sweet deal. So do reduced water heating costs and instantaneous hot water on demand. But are these claims accurate?

    Instant hot water?

    A tankless water heater is really no better at producing hot water “instantly” than a traditional tank water heater. If a tankless unit is installed in a basement the same distance from a shower as a tank water heater, it may take more time for hot water to reach the shower from the tankless unit. Tank water heaters send hot water to the plumbing lines as soon as the faucet is turned to hot. But tankless units require a little more time to start sending hot water into the lines because they have to produce it first.

    They may not work well for families

    Even the largest whole-house tankless unit may not supply enough hot water for simultaneous, multiple uses. Such a unit may be able to supply only two showers simultaneously or perhaps one shower, a dishwasher and a sink. If the users demand too much water, the temperature will drop. A tankless system probably won’t meet the needs of a large family.

    In an emergency situation, a tankless water heater doesn’t provide stored potable water like a tank water heater would provide.

    The initial investment is higher

    Tankless electric water heaters are often more expensive to purchase than tank water heaters, and installation costs are normally higher as well. The higher costs are because the construction of tankless units are more complex and thus require a contractor who is highly experienced in installing the units.

    Hidden costs

    True, tankless water heaters do not require a lot of space, but they do often require an upgrade in electrical service. This means members who want to replace an existing tank water heater with a tankless unit, or add one as part of a home-remodeling project, will incur additional costs.

    If a tankless water heater is installed without upgrading the electrical service, low voltage or sudden voltage drops are likely. This will cause dimming and blinking lights, and other problems.

    The extra load also necessitates a larger and more expensive meter loop and main breaker panel for the house. In some cases, members also must pay for new wiring between the distribution transformer and electric meter. Check with a licensed electrician or your local electric cooperative to determine if you must upgrade your electric service connections to support a tankless water heater.

    Gas tankless vs. electric tankless

    Gas tankless water heaters generally do not require upgrades to a home’s basic services like an electric tankless water heater does. However, the same considerations must be made when determining how many hot water faucets will be turned on at any given time and how far away the tankless heater is from sinks and showers that will be using the water. In addition, a study done by Consumer Reports states that the payback for the higher cost of a gas tankless unit is up to 22 years; longer than the 20-year projected life of many models.1

    Finding the right water heater

    Members looking for an efficient water heater should consider a tank electric water heater that is heavily insulated. Look for an energy factor of .9 or higher. These water heaters are often the most cost effective option over the life of the water heater. In addition, your local electric cooperative may offer rebates on these models.

    Did you know? A tank water heater provides a settling point for hard water build-up. With no tank, your appliances become the settling point. This may result in a decreased life span for shower heads, faucets, clothes washers and dishwashers.

    Tips to lower your water heating use and costs

    * Use less, pay less. Fix leaks, install low-flow fixtures, and purchase an energy-efficient dishwasher and clothes washer to conserve hot water.

    * Lower the thermostat setting on your water heater. Each 10 degree reduction in water temperature can save three to five percent in energy costs.

    * Insulate your tank. Unless your water heater’s storage tank already has a high insulation value, adding insulation to it can reduce standby heat losses by 25 to 45 percent. This will save you about four to nine percent in water heating costs.

    If you don’t know the insulation value of your water heater tank, touch it. A tank that’s warm to the touch needs additional insulation.

    * Insulate your hot water pipes. This reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature two to four degrees more than uninsulated pipes can deliver, allowing for a lower water temperature setting.

    You also won’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on a faucet or shower head, which helps conserve water.

    Source: U.S. Department of Energy

    Inside a tankless water heater

    Unlike a traditional tank water heater, a wall-mounted tankless model does not store hot water. It heats water only as it is used, with heating elements that are activated when a hot water faucet or valve is opened.

    Consumers can generally save more on energy costs by using traditional tank water heaters efficiently.

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