Santa Claus is scheduled to make his annual journey around the globe this weekend, but the North Pole weather will be headed to our neighborhood a few days before. As you have probably heard by now, a dangerously cold weather system will enter the Tennessee Valley on Thursday night and continue through the holiday weekend. Low temperatures in the single digits are likely both Thursday night and Friday night. Lows in the teens are expected Saturday and Sunday night. Daytime high temperatures will not warm above freezing until Monday afternoon.
So what does this mean for Cullman Electric Cooperative?
The biggest concern — for people, animals and the electric co-op — is the wind. Strong wind, with gusts up to 35 mph, will result in sub-zero wind chills both Thursday and Friday night. It’s not very often you see a weather forecast map that has -9 degrees wind chill for Cullman County, but that’s what we are anticipating overnight on Thursday and Friday.
For Cullman Electric, strong winds pose the same problem any time of year with falling trees or broken branches snapping power lines and causing power outages. If your power goes out, there are multiple ways you can report it. (Now would be a great time to sign up for text message outage reporting; just make sure your cell phone number is listed on your co-op account.)
Winter weather challenges
Winter weather storms do have some unique challenges as co-op linemen and operations staff work to get the lights back on as quickly as possible.
The first and most obvious issue is it’s freezing cold outside. Working conditions — especially 30 feet high in a bucket truck — are not ideal. Linemen will work as quickly as they can while staying safe, but adding frigid temperatures to an already dangerous job means it could take a little bit longer to get the job done.
The second major issue has to do with “flipping the switch” to restore power once the repair work is finished. Home heating systems demand a lot of electricity. If a large area experiences a power outage and every home heating system came back on at the same time it could overwhelm the co-op’s electrical system, causing another power outage. Cullman Electric’s engineering team will strategically add electric load while closely monitor the electric grid’s stability. The process could add a few minutes (not hours) before your lights come back on, but it will help avoid further problems.
High winter bills are never fun. When it’s cold outside, there are several budget-friendly ways you can keep comfortable without turning up the thermostat.
Mind the thermostat — This is one of the easiest ways to manage your home energy use. National energy experts recommend setting your thermostat to 68 degrees (or lower) when you are home. And let’s be honest, when it feels like -9 degrees outside, 68 degrees inside will feel downright tropical. When you’re sleeping or away for an extended period of time, try turning the heat down a few more degrees; there’s no need to heat your home when you’re away or sleeping and less active.
Seal the air leaks — The Department of Energy estimates that air leaks account for 24% to 40% of the energy used for heating and cooling a home. Caulking and weather stripping around windows and doors is another simple, cost-effective way to increase comfort and save energy. If you can feel drafts while standing near a window or door, it likely needs to be sealed. For a quick, temporary fix, place a towel at the bottom of a leaky door to block the air flow from outside.
Bundle up — wear warm clothes around the house. Blankets can help, and an electric blanket can deliver quick warmth. Our feet play a critical role in regulating body temperature, so when your feet are warm, your body automatically feels warmer. Try a pair of comfortable wool socks or house slippers to stay toasty, and
Use window coverings wisely — Open blinds, drapes or other window coverings during the day (Friday should be bright and sunny) to allow natural sunlight in to warm your home. Close them at night to keep the cold, drafty air out. If you feel cold air around windows, consider hanging curtains or drapes in a thicker material; heavier window coverings can make a significant difference in blocking cold outdoor air.
Space heater safety
Space heaters are a great way to warm specific rooms in your home without having to crank up the thermostat, but make sure to follow these tips to keep your family safe.
• Plug your space heater directly into a wall outlet. DO NOT use extension cords or power strips which can overheat.
• Make sure the cord is not frayed or cracked, and there is no damage to the plug or prongs.
• Keep your space heater a safe distance — at least 3 feet — from children, pets and any flammable items like curtains, clothing, furniture or bedding.
• If you are buying a space heater, purchase one with an automatic shutoff in case the unti tips over or you forget to shut it off.