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Utilities urge customers to conserve energy during heat wave

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 1:26 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times Ed Iseman of Burrell works on raking his field of hay in preparation to baling. The recent rainy weather reeked havoc on many farmers attempting to harvest their first cut. Tuesday July 16, 2013

As the heat wave settles in over the region, the drone of fans and air conditioning units seems to make all other summer sounds fade into the background.

Those looking for ways to reduce the incessant hum can still stay cool while conserving energy and reducing costs on summer electric bills.

Central Electric Cooperative announced in a news release Monday that electricity demands peak from noon to 6 p.m.

The utility company, which serves customers in Armstrong, Allegheny, Butler, Clarion, Forest, Mercer and Venango counties, urged people to turn off all nonessential electric items and set air conditioners at a minimum of 78 degrees.

According to the release, conserving energy “helps keep energy costs stable for all members.”

West Penn Power spokesman Todd Meyers said Tuesday that there are no concerns about the availability of electricity.

However, he noted, high temperatures are expected to continue through the week without significant cool-down temperatures in the evenings. That means transformers and substation equipment must be monitored to ensure equipment doesn't overheat.

“So far, there are no problems,” said Meyers, adding that linemen and substation electricians will be available if issues do arise.

West Penn Power, owned by First Energy Corp., is part of a 13-state power grid coordinated by PJM Interconnection — a regional transmission operator.

A heat alert issued by PJM on Tuesday said that the day's peak demand was expected to be about 156,000 megawatts.

“One megawatt of electricity can power a thousand homes,” said Meyers.

He said the all-time high for usage occurred in July 2011, with usage reaching 163,000 megawatts.

“We don't expect this week to be a record breaker,” said Meyers.

In addition to adjusting thermostats, he suggested that people avoid blocking registers with drapery or furniture to allow for optimal central air circulation, keeping drapes or blinds closed during the day and postponing use of dishwashers, clothes dryers and stoves until evening hours.

Not everyone, though, has easy access to cool air, and people can easily succumb to heat-related health issues.

Donna Pacella, executive director of the local chapter of the American Red Cross, said in a news release Tuesday that “excessive heat can cause numerous safety and health issues, including heat stroke and even death.”

The release advised that if someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen due to heat exhaustion, they should be moved to a cooler place, replenish fluids with half a glass of water every 15 minutes, and get some rest. Refusal of water, vomiting or loss of consciousness warrants a 911 call.

According to the Red Cross, people should check on neighbors and family members who don't have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more inclined to be affected by the heat.

Those without air conditioning should seek relief from the heat during the hottest part of the day at cooling places like schools, libraries, theaters and malls.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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