Where does our electricity come from?
There are three basic steps involved in providing electricity to your home or business. The steps are generation, transmission, and distribution.
Meade County RECC (MCRECC) is a member-owner of Big Rivers Electric Corporation (BREC). MCRECC is a distribution cooperative that purchases its wholesale electricity from BREC—a generation and transmission cooperative.
Generation is the process where a natural resource, in our case coal, is converted to electric power. Coal is pulverized into a very fine powder and burned to heat water into steam. The steam turns a turbine, which turns a generator to produce electric power. It takes about one pound of coal to produce one-kilowatt hour of electricity; about the amount it takes to power your stove burner for one hour.
Transmission is the step where the electricity is transported from the power plant to the various substations located in your communities. The voltage is raised to 69,000 – 765,000 volts. As the voltage is increased the current is lowered, this permits smaller wires to be used and to lower power losses.
Distribution is where MCRECC takes over. At the substation the voltage is lowered again to a more useable level at 7,200 volts. Our distribution lines carry the power to a transformer outside your home or business, where the voltage is lowered once again to between 120 – 480 volts for use by our members.
Electric Meter Questions
What is a kilowatt-hour?
A kilowatt-hour (kwh) is a unit of electrical energy equal to the energy delivered by the flow of one kilowatt (1,000 watts) of electrical power for one hour. For example, a 100-watt bulb burning for 10 hours will use one kilowatt-hour of energy.
How do I know how much electricity I use?
The amount of electricity you use is measured by your meter. Your meter measures kilowatt-hours continuously the same way your car’s odometer measures miles and is read in the same fashion, from left to right.
How do I know my meter is accurate?
Members frequently assume there must be something wrong with their electric meter if they receive a larger-than-expected electric bill.
The fact is electric meters are very reliable devices. Before a meter is installed, we test the meter for accuracy. Upon request, MCRECC will test a member’s meter for accuracy for $40.
What if the meter test detects something wrong with my meter?
If a meter test shows a meter is faulty, either slow or fast, MCRECC will adjust the bill. However, if the meter is within the two percent tolerance allowed by our “Terms and Conditions for Supplying Electric Service”, the bill will not be adjusted.
What are some causes of higher-than-normal bills?
If you receive a bill that is higher than normal, the first thing to look for is how many days of service were included in that billing period. Find the average daily cost for service on the lower portion of your bill. Compare that number to previous bills for the past few months.
If it’s significantly different, stop to think if you have added a major appliance or altered your lifestyle in some way that would account for the increased usage.
Why do my bills vary when I don’t have any new electrical equipment?
Many factors can cause your electric bills to vary. Most commonly they include weather and changes of habits or lifestyles.
In hotter weather there can be increased usage due to air conditioning or even window fans. Hotter weather also leads to higher humidity so some dehumidifiers may run more often and for long periods of time.
In colder weather electric consumption can be increased by use of central heating equipment or space heaters. Typically during the colder parts of the year it gets dark earlier and people stay inside more. This leads to more use of lights, televisions, radios and other electronic equipment.
Changes in habits or lifestyles can also lead to varying electric bills. During the holidays your family may cook more. You may have overnight guests. Cooking and guests can lead to more use of water (and hot water). If you have a well and/or electric water heater this will lead to more electric usage.
Another major change may be the addition of a new family member. Bringing a baby into a home usually adds to more laundry being washed, higher desired room temperatures and more lighting on at night.
Why does my oil or natural gas furnace contribute to my higher electric bills in the winter?
Furnaces have electric blower fans that operate when the furnace is on, and continue to run until the furnace cools past a preset level and then shuts off.
Vacation & Seasonal Use Questions
Will my electric hot water heater use electricity when I’m away?
If you have an electric water heater it will use less electricity when you are away than if you were home using hot water. If an electric water heater is left energized during your vacation it will continue to maintain the tank temperature, even if you’re not using hot water.
Heat is lost through the insulation and copper pipes that come out the top. If you are going to be away for more than a few days, you might want to consider turning your water heater off at the panel box.
Won’t my furnace use less electricity when I’m gone if I set the thermostat lower?
If the temperature drops while you are away your furnace or electric heat will still run to maintain the temperature set on your thermostat. Setting the thermostat lower may save you money, but this might not always be the case.
Be careful not to set the thermostat so low that a potential for freezing could occur in your home.
How much will my refrigerator or freezer use when I’m gone?
If refrigerators and freezers are not emptied and turned off while you are away they will continue to operate in order to maintain preset temperatures. Other electrical appliances like clocks, security lights, water heaters and televisions with an “instant-on” feature will continue to use electricity if they are not unplugged or shut off at the panel box.
Can I eliminate electricity usage when my house is vacant?
If you are determined to use no electricity during your vacation, turn off the main breaker in your home. But remember, when you do this the automatic appliances and lighting will stop. Your refrigerator and freezer will defrost, your water heater will not have hot water ready for use upon your return, and your home may experience freezing problems or be very cold when you return.
Can I install my own emergency generator?
The National Electric Code (NEC), Article 700-6 and Article 230-83 requires that for safety reasons a “double-pole, double-throw transfer switch be installed.” It is MCRECC’s recommendation that the transfer switch be installed by a licensed electrician for safety reasons as well as for proper application.
Are fireplaces good energy savers?
Not really. In most fireplaces all the energy (heat) from the burning wood, plus some of the home’s other heat, is lost up the chimney. Open fireplaces act as a vent to the outside of your home. Therefore, even when the fireplace is not in use heat can escape through the chimney if the damper in not tightly closed.
When should I turn off standard fluorescent fixtures?
It is a myth that it costs more to turn off fluorescent lights than to leave them on. This was true in the 1940s when fluorescent lamps first became popular because turning them off and on again greatly shortened the lamp life. Today’s lamps are not as affected by start-up damage and the energy surge to start them up is so small that it’s cheaper to switch them off when they’re not needed..
Can I do anything to reduce my lighting costs?
Use only the amount of light you need. Compact fluorescent lights and 3-way incandescent bulbs let you choose.
For maximum lighting efficiency use a higher lumen-per-watt bulb. Watts measure the amount of energy going into a bulb. Lumens measure the light output or brightness of a bulb. This information is printed on bulb packages. To determine efficiency, divide the lumens by the watts of electricity used.
For example, the efficiency of a 100-watt bulb measuring 1710 lumens would be 17.1 lumens-per-watt.
Is there any advantage to using compact fluorescent lighting?
Compact fluorescent lighting delivers three to four times the light of incandescent bulbs of the same wattage and last up to 10 times longer.
Are long-life bulbs more economical?
Long-life bulbs are less efficient, so use them only in hard-to-reach places where it’s difficult to change bulbs.
Will I save on my electric bill if I replace my old refrigerator with a new one?
A 20-year old refrigerator will cost more per month to operate than a new refrigerator. This is due to the increased efficiency of compressors and the higher quality insulation value found in newer model refrigerators.
How do I calculate the electricity costs for my appliances?
To find your monthly cost to operate each appliance, multiply the total kilowatt-hours used by the current energy rate (you can find in our electric rates section).
How do I determine how much energy (kwh) an appliance uses?
You need no more than three pieces of information.
First, look at the name plate on the appliance. You are looking for a number with a “W” beside it. This stands for wattage. Some appliances provide the amperage (A) and voltage (V) in place of the wattage. To get wattage, simply multiply amps by volts. An example would be a 120 V heater rated at 12.5 amps. This would equal 1500 watts.
Now to determine kilowatt-hours (kwh) you need to take the length of time (in hours) an appliance operates. Take watts and multiply by the hours of operation. Using our heater example above we would have 1500 watts times the number of hours of use. If we use that heater for two (2) hours we would have 3000 watt-hours of electricity used.
To convert watt-hours to kilowatt-hours you must divide by 1000. Therefore, our 1500 watt heater operating for two hours would use three (3) kilowatt-hours.
Energy Saving Questions
Are thermostat timers a good thing to have?
If you have a mechanical thermostat it would be beneficial to install a programmable thermostat and then you can program it to come on.
Is it OK to adjust your thermostat up or down at night or during the day when you’re not at home, and put it back to a normal setting when you are? If so, what’s the maximum amount you should fluctuate the temperature in your house?
Normally with a heat pump, it is recommended to leave it on a desired setting, but if you want to move it, do so in one degree increments.
Is there an advantage to shutting off rooms in the house that are not being used?
If you are using a heat pump as your source of heat, no. Heat pumps are designed to operate more efficiently with an open house effect because of the balancing and cold air returns of the system.
If you replace your heat pump for energy efficiency, but increase the tonnage of the heat pump, will your usage decrease?
Usually the usage will increase because the unit you install may need more electricity to operate because of the compressor size.
Are the new space heaters as efficient as advertised if used as the main source of heat?
No, if used as a main source of heat, a 1500 watt heater uses 1.5 kW per hour of operation.
How often should filters be replaced on a heating system?
At least two times a year, but you should check them monthly and replace more often if needed.
Are ceiling fans more efficient than air conditioning?
Yes, because they do not have compressors and do not use the same energy levels as an air conditioner.
How often should heat pumps be serviced?
You should check the information provided by the manufacturer or installer, however, as a rule it is recommended that you should have heat pumps serviced before the heating season and before the cooling season.
Does setting the thermostat higher in winter and lower in summer cause more energy consumption?
Yes. The recommended temperature setting is 68 degrees in winter and 78 degrees in summer.
Does lowering your water heater’s thermostat help conserve energy?
Yes, the recommended temperature range is 120 to 125 degrees.
Does insulation on water lines help reduce energy usage?
Yes, if you insulate the first six feet of the hot water line.
Do old appliances use more energy than new appliances?
Yes, the technology used today makes energy efficient appliances a fairly long term return on your investment.
Should we replace incandescent bulbs with CFL or fluorescent?
Yes, it is recommended to use CFL, fluorescent, or the new LED lighting in areas that are used most frequently in your home.
Should we wash full loads or smaller loads in the dishwasher and the washing machine?
You should do full loads to get the most from the electricity used for the cycle, regardless of the size. You should also try to run these appliances during off-peak hours.
Should I unplug toasters, lamps, coffee makers, radios, etc. to save energy?
No, there’s not enough load in these appliances and devices to carry (phantom load).