Panola-Harrison Electric News Pages 8-9â€˘April 2010 â€˘ Vol. 27, No. 1
Gadgets and gizmos can drain more power than you might think
C O N t e n t s
On the Cover
Gadgets and Gizmos
Studies have shown that the rising demand for power can be traced back to the increasing number of electronic gadgets and gizmos that are found in many American homes. Many of these devices use power even when we think they’re off. See page 6 for the story. viewpoint
Being a “Mac Sheep” means getting led to the poorhouse..................4
Well-tended azaleas show their true spring colors................................4
get it growing
Small changes in energy use can add up to big savings.......................5
Take care when tackling home wiring projects......................................7
Make a budget that works for you and your family.............................10
Do tankless water heaters live up to the hype?................................... 11
Tracking energy use in your home........................................................12
Samples from Southern Living’s Farmers Market Cookbook..............13
going tankless? loe down
Straight from the farm
Louisiana Country Your Cooperative Connection Formerly
Rural Louisiana, founded March, 1950
Vol. 27, No. 1
Randall C. Pierce CEO/Publisher Billy Gibson Director of Communications Louisiana Country is published in the interest of members of the electric cooperatives in Louisiana and is the official publication of the following co-ops:
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Beauregard Electric Co-op, DeRidder Claiborne Electric Co-op, Homer Jefferson Davis Electric Co-op, Jennings Northeast Louisiana Power Co-op, Winnsboro Panola-Harrison Electric Co-op, Marshall, Texas Pointe Coupee Electric Co-op, New Roads South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association, Houma Valley Electric Membership Corp., Natchitoches Washington-St. Tammany Electric Co-op, Franklinton Advertising is accepted and published in Louisiana Country on the premise that the merchandise and services offered are accurately described and sold at the advertised prices. Louisiana Country and Louisiana’s electric cooperatives do not endorse any products or services advertised herein. Address inquiries and rate card requests to: Louisiana Country, 10725 Airline Hwy., Baton Rouge, LA 70816. National Advertising Representatives: The Weiss Group, 9414 E. San Salvador Dr. #226, Scottsdale, AZ 85258; National Country Market, 611 S. Congress, Suite 504, Austin, TX 78704.
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Investing and emotions just don’t mix It’s difficult to separate your feelings from your money
Sometimes it’s hard to separate your emotion from your money. When you are saving for retirement, you are coping with the financial stresses of today, but also trying to anticipate for the financial needs of tomorrow. Ups and downs and fluctuations in the financial markets can make us even more anxious. What should you do? If your account balance is going down, your natural instinct may be to “fix” the situation—and make a few adjustments to prevent your balances from decreasing further. This is a great example of “emotional investing,” or letting your emotions convince you to throw away your established investment strategy as you react to your fears. You probably weren’t even aware of it; you just thought you were going to fix this problem like you would a leaky faucet.
Keep changes in perspective If you look at historic market performance, you will notice that investment returns have gone through cycles over the decades. But, over the long term, investors have enjoyed gains. Since retirement is generally a long-term goal for most, you have the relative luxury of being able to weather market fluctuations. When you are able to remove your emotional response from your retirement strategy, you can continue to make regular contributions to your 401(k) account even when the market drops. And, when the market is low, bear in mind that you are able to purchase shares at a lower cost or at a “discount.” As the market cycles upward, the investments that you’ve been purchasing will begin to increase in value— along with your account balance. If you let emotions guide your investment strategy, you may have sold your shares when returns were low, af-
ter they had already begun losing money. When the market begins its recovery and you start investing again, you face buying into that same investment at a higher cost. Pick your road and stay the course Make sure your strategy is in tune with your tolerance for risk and your portfolio consists of a variety of invest-
ment options. Assuming you have created an appropriate investment mix, avoid the urge change your investment mix when the market begins a downturn. Ask for Help Not sure where to begin? Or want to make sure your strategy still meets
your needs? There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Check with your benefits administrator to see what resources are available to you within your retirement program or see a qualified financial advisor. Tips to Avoid Emotional Investing So, be sure to remember these tips:
• Make sure your strategy lines up with your tolerance for risk. • After you set your strategy, stay the course even the market fluctuates. • Remember that there is opportunity in a down market. • Choosing a variety of investment options helps you limit risk.
April 2010 • Louisiana Country • Page 3
Being a ‘Mac Sheep’ means getting led to the poorhouse
The suggestion was made by my wife in good faith and with the best intentions, I’m sure. But the sinister nature of her words sent shock waves through the core of my soul and caused me to recoil in an unholy blend of disbelief and downright disgust. “Well…” she paused for a few seconds because she knew that what followed might cause me to spontaneously combust right there on the spot, “...we could always buy a PC.” She winched. I glared. I shot a piercing look her way that could have ripped right through a sixinch plate of titanium steel. I simply could not fathom that this repulsive utterance had just emanated from the mouth of the woman I married, the mother of my two children. I felt unclean, as if I needed to go bathe with a wire brush. It didn’t take long to forgive and forget, though, because my better half was just trying to save the family a little – actually, a lot – of money after our home computer crossed the threshold into obsolescence. Discovering that our old desk top model was no longer upgradable, we were now in the market for a new computer. And she knew that when it comes to the computing world I am unapologetically, unabashedly, obstinately, intractably, unalterably, passionately, perhaps even foolishly Mac. And if you’ve ever gone out shopping for a computer and priced the two prevailing platforms, you know what that means: Big Money. That little bite carved out of the Apple logo does not symbolize taking a bite of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. It symbolizes taking a bite out of
by Billy Gibson Director of Communications Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives
your wallet! My wife – who decided to marry me anyway – knows my predilection for Macs is a profound inconsistency in my character. Though I’m tight as the skin on a Buddy Rich snare drum, I’d go into debt, sell my spleen, even hock my grandmother’s antique jewelry, to make Apple my environment of choice when entering the world of virtual reality. This preference was not exactly planned but was imprinted decades ago by a combination of circumstance and career choice. I’m old enough to remember back when computer science meant dealing with towering decks of IBM keypunch cards. But by the time I graduated from college, worked for a few years as a newspaper reporter and ventured back to the halls of higher education to take graduate classes at LSU’s Manship School of Journalism, Mac was the operating system of choice in the field of newspaper design and print communication. It’s easy to see how Apple technology mesmerized those in the creative disciplines with its development of the Graphics User Interface (GUI) system – or “gooey” as it was called. That’s the major breakthrough that allowed logic-challenged people like me to just click on an icon or a picture instead of having to type
in a confusing string of arcane keyboard symbols that, to me, always seemed to translate into cartoon expletives, something Sgt. Snorkel might say to Beetle Bailey in a snit, “$#%%&*^*()#@! Outta that bunk, soldier!” You needed to study a complex computer manual eight inches thick just to decipher the code and figure out how to set a column of type. Trying to commit to memory the code sequences for rudimentary functions was like trying to learn trig, not so easy for an English minor. Back then, being able to simply point-and-click to get your work done was the difference between using a nail gun instead of a ball-peen hammer. Less work, less aggravation, easier to complete your task. So, from the time of my first session in the computer lab back in 1989 where a dozen or so grad students and I composed publications while staring into the matchbox screens on our SE 30 models, I was hooked. And I have never been able to cross over to that Dark Side. I have to admit that it was kind of cool at the time to dwell within the Apple counter-culture. And even as IBM and Microsoft were teaming up to monopolize the entire market of business-based applications, networks and systems, the fact that Apple was getting ground finan-
cially into mealy applesauce only made the brand more bohemian. Nowadays, even though Apple’s advertising agency wants to make it still seem hip, for a middle-aged guy like me with a family to feed and whose cool quotient diminished years ago, it’s just plain expensive. But like an addict who would rather remain on the fringe of the mainstream than change his destructive ways, or maybe like that old Tareyton cigarette commercial – “I’d rather fight than switch” – I’ve remained true to Apple products when it would have been less costly and perhaps more fiscally responsible to just give in, conform, and purchase a cheaper PC. I’m afraid that any psychologist who attempted to alter my mind set after months and maybe years of intense therapy would just have to finally call together my wife and kids and give them the bad news, “I’m sorry, we’ve tried just about all we can do short of a full-scale cranial lobotomy, so it looks like you’re just going to have to deal with him the way he is.” Now it’s time to look under the seat cushions, whip out the piggy bank, reach for granny’s antique earrings, say so-long to my spleen and head out to the Apple Store. It’s a sickness. My main concerns at this point are, not only that I’m depleting my kids’ college fund, but that they might inherit the disease. My 8-year-old daughter asked me the other day, “Daddy, do all computers have an apple on them?” My quick reply: “No, Baby, they don’t. Just the good ones!”
Well-tended Azaleas show their true colors in the spring
April is the time when azaleas strut their stuff. No other shrub beats azaleas for flower power when they’re in full bloom. Although the display may be relatively short, it ensures the continued popularity of this traditional Southern shrub. Azaleas may be planted now and are quite reliable if planted properly in the right growing conditions. Azaleas require good drainage but also need an even supply of moisture. They won’t thrive where it’s constantly wet or constantly dry. Many varieties will tolerate full sun if they’re provided with adequate moisture. Generally, however, azaleas grow best when they receive some shade. Four to six hours of morning sun provided by an eastern exposure is ideal. Careful bed preparation before planting will help ensure success. A soil high in organic matter is important. After removing weeds, turn the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches, break up the clods and spread 3-4 inches of compost, aged manure, ground pine bark or peat moss. Azaleas prefer an acid soil, so if
Get it Growing
by Dan Gill LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
your soil is alkaline, apply ground sulfur or copperas (iron sulfate). Finally, sprinkle in an all-purpose or acid-loving plant fertilizer. Thoroughly incorporate everything into the bed, rake it smooth and you’re ready to plant. Arrange azaleas while they’re still in their pots to get the spacing and arrangement right. When you take it out of the pot to plant, you may see a dense network of roots around the outside of the root ball. This is not uncommon in container-grown plants. Use a knife to vertically cut into the root ball in several places, or use your fingers to loosen it up. This will encourage the roots to grow out into the surrounding soil and increase the plant’s chances of survival. Plant azaleas so that the top of the
Page 4 • Louisiana Country • April 2009
root ball is at or slightly above the soil level in the bed. Do not plant them too deep! Gently firm the soil around each plant with your hands to eliminate air pockets. Azaleas are shallow-rooted and benefit from mulch. As soon as they are planted, mulch the bed with about 3 inches of pine straw, leaves or pine bark. Finally, thoroughly water the bed to finish settling the soil. It will be important to thoroughly and regularly water your azaleas when the weather is dry. Azaleas already in the landscape should be fertilized when they finish flowering. Apply a general-purpose or acid-loving plant fertilizer. If the leaves at the ends of the branches are yellowish-green with green
veins, the azaleas need iron. This is common when azaleas are grown in alkaline soil. Treat them with chelated iron, and acidify the soil with sulfur, copperas or a liquid soil acidifier. As flowering finishes, evaluate your azaleas for pruning. April and May are good months to trim, but only do it if it’s necessary. Generally, a little shaping is all that’s required, although controlling size is a common reason for pruning. This is especially true if large-growing varieties were planted where smaller ones should have been used. Unless you’re trying to create a formal, clipped hedge, avoid shearing azaleas with clippers because this destroys their attractive natural shape. It’s better to use hand pruners to individually remove or shorten selected branches to achieve the shape and size you want. Azaleas are among the most beautiful of our spring-flowering shrubs. Planted in the proper conditions and provided the right care, they are reliable, long-lived shrubs that play an important role in Southern landscaping.
Small changes in energy use can add up to big savings Sometimes the little things we do in life mean a lot. Simple steps that you can take such as turning off lights when you leave a room, unplugging appliances when you’re not using them, and raising the temperature on your thermostat a bit as our weather warms up, when done together, can help your family rack up big energy savings throughout the year. Louisiana’s locally-owned electric cooperatives are always looking for more ways to help you, our members. With energy costs continually rising due to a growing nationwide demand for electricity, higher power plant costs, and federal regulations, energy efficiency remains a key part of our efforts to keep rates affordable for families and businesses across Louisiana. Best of all, energy efficiency— simply making the electricity you use do more—saves your family money. Because we’re part of the Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives network, you have access to a valuable resource that not only identifies simple energy-saving tasks but also illustrates the real-dollar savings they produce, specific to your home. TogetherWeSave.com uses real savings calculations—based on our cooperative’s rates and climate zone—to motivate and inspire small changes in behavior. Intrigued? Check it out at www. TogetherWeSave.com. You’ll be asked for your ZIP code; this helps us provide accurate electricity rates for your home. The Virtual Home Tour provides a good starting point. As you move through each of the six rooms, clicking on areas highlighted in yellow prompts you to take various interactive energy-saving measures and shows how these changes translate into savings on your electric bill. A visit to the attic, for example, recommends adding insulation. Slide the arrow up the scale to add extra inches of insulation and watch the exciting end result. Adding nine inches of insulation saves up to $143 a year. Add 15 inches, and that figure jumps to $241. Now head downstairs to the living room. Most folks enjoy watching television and playing Wii or Xbox video
by Randy Pierce Chief Executive Officer, Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives
games, but you don’t need these gadgets on 24 hours a day. By unplugging entertainment center devices when they’re not in use, you could save up to $174 every year. Seems
simple enough—and every small step adds up to big savings. In fact, just lowering your thermostat one degree in winter could save $82. Want more in-depth information
on energy efficiency? TogetherWeSave.com also includes a library of short videos on various topics. Finding ways to help you save energy dollars during tough times is important to us. Valuable tools like TogetherWeSave.com are just one more way we are looking out for you. Want to learn more ways to make your home more energy efficient? Call or drop by your local electric co-op and they will be happy to assist you and answer your energy-efficiency questions.
600,000 voices and counting. More than 600,000 electric co-op members from across the nation wrote to their U.S. Senators in 2009. Each postcard called for Congress to pursue fair, affordable, and achievable climate change goals. Has your voice been heard?
Speak up at www.ourenergy.coop April 2010 • Louisiana Country • Page 5
Gadgets and gizmos drain power even when ‘asleep’
Advances in energy efficiency offset by more use
By Megan McKoy Odds are your home has a big-screen television, a satellite or cable box, a DVD or Blu-ray player - maybe two or three. Add to that an Xbox, Wii, PlayStation, or other video game console, and your entertainment center’s ready to go. Indeed, most of us depend on a large number of electronic gadgets these days - and not just for entertainment. Personal computers, stereos, alarm clocks, coffee makers, battery chargers, cell phones…the list goes on. Most of the electricity used in the average home goes toward heating and air conditioning, water heating, and lighting, all of which are significantly more energy efficient than a decade ago. Yet our demand for new electronic devices means we continue to consume more electricity every year - a whopping 15.6 percent rise since 2000. Younger American consumers spend more time playing games, listening to music, and watching TV on cell phones than talking on them, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Despite anticipated improvements in energy efficiency, any energy savings are likely to be overshadowed by rising demand for technology,” cautions Nobuo Tanaka, executive director for the International Energy Agency (IEA). He estimates by 2030 consumer electronic use will climb threefold—equivalent to the combined residential electricity consumption of the U.S. and Japan. However, there are ways to avoid the coming energy pile-up. For example, cell phones are now extremely energy efficient because of consumer demand for longer battery life. “Many mobile devices are already far more efficient in their use of power than other products which run solely off a main electricity supply,” explains Tanaka. “Because extending battery life is a selling point, manufacturers placed an emphasis on designing products which require very little power. This shows us what can be achieved.” If consumers demand manufacturers reach the same level of efficiency with other electronics like gaming consoles, televisions, and even alarm clocks, IEA believes energy use in this sector could be cut in half. Electric cooperatives are active on this front, performing home energy audits, offering financial assistance for weatherization and various energy efficiency projects, as well as educating consumers on the benefits of purchasing energy-efficient appliances. Making consumers aware of how many energy dollars small electronic devices drain from a family budget is just one more way co-ops are working to keep electric bills affordable for rural Americans.
Appliance Accountability Computers and monitors were the first products to receive an energy efficiency rating from Energy Star, a program launched in 1992 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
a consumer up to $135 per year on his/ her electric bill. Replacing a refrigerator made before 1993 could save up to $65 annually. However, 44 percent of refrigerators that could be retired and recycled are converted into a second fridge, given away, or sold—keeping inefficient tech-
information available to the American consumer,” reports DOE General Counsel Scott Blake Harris. Silent Energy Drains Oddly enough, many electronic devices draw power while waiting to be used. Very likely, your big-screen TV, DVD player, and stereo burn kilowatthours even when turned off. According to IEA, this standby (or vampire) load accounts for more than 5 percent of residential electricity demand. Although the amount of standby power used by individual appliances may be small - often between 0.5 watts and 10 watts - a typical home may have 20 appliances on standby at any given time. For the last decade, IEA has encouraged appliance manufacturers around the globe to cut this wasted power to no more than 1 watt. The Energy Star program takes this measurement into account when certifying many appliances. Cash for Appliances Thinking about replacing an old refrigerator or washing machine? This spring the last of the state-specific “Cash
Many U.S. households have more consumer electronic devices than just a few years ago. While many of these devices use less power, their numbers are increasing, resulting in a higher overall demand for electricity. Since then, more than 60 categories have been added, from dishwashers and windows to DVD players. Energy Star-rated products deliver the same or better performance as comparable models while using less energy. Although actual energy savings depend on what’s being replaced, new Energy Star appliances save significantly more energy. For example, switching out a clothes washer made before 2000 with a 2010 Energy Star model could save
Page 6 • Louisiana Country • April 2010
nology in American homes. In the wake of Energy Star’s success (more than 2 billion Energy Star-rated products have been purchased), DOE has been pushing for more items to meet efficiency standards. In January, manufacturers sent energy use data on more than 600,000 residential appliances in 15 product categories to the department. “The Department of Energy’s newly enhanced enforcement efforts are improving the quality of energy efficiency
for Appliances” programs, mandated by the federal stimulus bill, went into effect. These programs provide rebates ranging from $50 to $250 as an incentive for Americans to switch from energy-guzzling, outdated appliances to new Energy Star-rated alternatives. More than $4 million has been made available through Louisiana’s program. For details on how Louisiana citizens can take advantage of the program, visit www.energysavers.gov/rebates.
Take care when tackling home wiring projects
If spring sends you into remodeling mode, consider checking with professionals before you migrate to the nearest hardware store. While do-it-yourself (DIY) projects can be very satisfying to complete, they pose risks when it comes to electricity. â€œMistakes can be costlyâ€”or even deadly,â€? warns John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager for Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., (UL), a Chicago, Ill.based not-for-profit firm that tests and sets minimum standards for electric-consuming items. â€œThe first and best safety tip is to call in an expert rather than be your own electrician.â€? An ongoing study by the Quincy, Mass.-based Fire Protection Research Foundation has given UL engineers a better understanding of typical DIY wiring mistakes. The most common: Working with a live wire It may seem perfectly obvious, but thousands of DIYers receive electric shock injuries each year. To avoid becoming a statistic, always turn off the circuit breaker (or remove the fuse) before working on or replacing electrical equipment. If you have a pre-1940s home, be mindful that you probably have more than one breaker box, or panel board, as electricians call them. Using the wrong lightbulb Most lighting fixtures feature a sticker on the socket that tells you the proper type and maximum wattage of the lightbulb to use. Installing a different type of bulb, or one with higher wattage, will not only make the room brighter, but could also damage the lights and cause a fire. Heat is usually the catalyst in this case: the higher the wattage, the hotter
the bulb and the hotter the wire that goes to the lighting fixture. Not being grounded For optimal safety, receptacles should be wired with the proper grounding and polarity. Generally, three-pronged outlets signify an effective ground path in the circuit. However, homes built before the mid-1960s probably donâ€™t have a ground-
ing path, and simply replacing the existing outlet with a three-pronged outlet wonâ€™t give you one. â€œYou see instances of this in homes with older wiring,â€? Drengenberg says. â€œItâ€™s no worse than if you plug your two-pronged devise into a two-pronged outlet. But it does give the homeowner a false sense of security.â€? Wiring with a grounding path usually sports a copper grounding wire with the cable. If you are uncertain about whether your homeâ€™s wiring is grounded, inexpensive UL-listed outlet circuit testers
are available to check for proper grounding and polarity. If your outlet is improperly grounded, call an electrician before moving forward in any project. Splicing, splicing, splicing Always make sure your wiring size and type match. Splicing wires by simply twisting them together and covering them with electrical tape is rarely a good idea. Instead, use wiring suitable to your homeâ€™s wiring and place wiring connections in metal or plastic boxes to decrease fire risk. Also keep in mind that circuits protected by 15-amp fuses or breakers should be wired with No. 14 AWG copper wire minimum. For 20 amps, use No. 12 AWG minimum size copper wire. Other guidelines apply, so if you expect to do any splicing, seek professional help before you begin. Hooking new lights to old wires Most light fixtures are marked with instructions for supply connections, such as â€œUse wire rated for at least 90C,â€? which refers to the maximum temperatureâ€”90 degrees Celsius or about 200 degrees Fahrenheitâ€”under which a wireâ€™s insulation can safely be used. Again, if you have an older home (pre1984, in this case), wiring may have a lower temperature rating than a new luminaire. â€œThis isnâ€™t something most DIYers even think to consider,â€? Drengenberg cautions. â€œIt probably wonâ€™t burst into flame immediately, but it does increase the risk of a fire.â€? To avoid that risk, check your wire rating first, and either upgrade it or buy fixtures within the supply connection range.
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April 2010 • Louisiana Country • Page 9
Make a budget that works for you and your family
By Lisa Hughes-Daniel
Who among us is not trying to pare down the household budget these days? Just one problem—it can be tough to turn good intentions into dollars saved. For instance, does this exercise sound familiar? Sit down with a pad of paper and list categories of expenses. Write down how much money you intend to spend per month in each category so that you’ll have X amount left over, to save. Put paper in a safe place. What happens next? If you’re like most people, not much. Why do well-meaning spending plans fall flat? And what can you do to overcome those obstacles? Here are a few steps you can take to turn your monthly balance sheet around: 1. Set goals. First things first: What are you hoping to accomplish by trimming your expenses? What steps would move you toward a healthier financial profile? Think both short-term and longterm. Then write down specific goals, such as “put $300 a month into the family emergency savings fund” or “pay an additional $200 a month on my credit card balance.” The more concrete your goals, the greater your chances of success. 2. Find out where your money is going. Most people aren’t completely
honest with themselves about how much money they’re already spending—in fact, many underestimate these figures by 20 percent or more, says Laura Schumann, a financial advisor with National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Before any plan you design will work, you need to get a clear picture of your current expenditures. Here’s how: Collect the past year’s worth of statements for all your bank and credit card accounts. Group your expenses into categories and list every expenditure. Divide your total annual expenses by 12. This is your average monthly outflow of dollars. Divide the category totals by 12, too, to see how costs break down each month. (Your bank and credit card companies may allow you to download these figures online—check their web sites for details.) It may sound like a daunting exercise, but a small investment of time can provide invaluable insights into your spending patterns. 3. Carve out the dollars. Now, look at your expenses from the past year. It’s time for some reflection and decision-making. What spending habits would need to change in order to meet your goals? Quantify these choices for yourself. For example, if you cut out two restaurant visits per month, how much extra could go into your 401(k)? You don’t need to judge your past purchases—just
Page 10 • Louisiana Country • April 2010
instead of a credit card, for all your purchases, so the money comes directly out of your checking account—and has finite limits. Another way to keep your priorities straight: Set up automatic, regular payments to savings accounts and retirement accounts—and even credit card accounts, if you set a payment goal each month. Then keep the remainder of your income in one or more checking accounts from which you can pay other expenses. After three months, then six, tally your average expenditures again. How are you doing? Pat yourself on the back if you’re moving in the right direction. Make some additional adjustments if you need to, and keep working toward your goals.
decide which choices you can make, and live with, that will move you in the right direction financially. 4. Create accountability. Finally, you need a system that discourages cheating. What happens if you go over budget and your new goals get shortchanged? Do credit card balances just go higher? Don’t let that happen. Consider using a debit card,
Lisa Hughes-Daniel is a marketing communications consultant who writes and edits employee benefitsrelated materials for the Insurance & Financial Services Department of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.
Do tankless water heaters live up to all the hype?
An unlimited supply of hot water definitely sounds like a sweet deal to many homeowners. So do reduced water heating costs, instantaneous hot water on demand, and more space in the utility closet. These are all promises made by companies selling tankless water heaters. But does the technology really deliver? Unlike traditional electric resistance or gas-fired water heaters, tankless models do not store hot water they heat water as it’s used. One or a series of heating elements within a tankless water heater are activated when a hot water faucet or valve is opened. The unit heats water until the faucet or valve gets closed. ‘Unlimited’ Hot Water? An unlimited supply of hot water sounds great, but generally doesn’t make for responsible water use, particularly in areas of the country suffering from drought or chronic water shortages. Moreover, even the largest whole-house unit may not supply enough hot water for simultaneous, multiple uses. For example, such a unit may be able to supply only two showers simultaneously or perhaps one shower, a dishwasher and a sink. If users demand too much water, temperatures will drop, so a tankless system probably won’t meet the needs of a large family. In addition, water temperature depends on the volume coming out of a faucet. If you turn on the faucet only a trickle, water runs cold. If you open the faucet further, you will trigger hot water—the hottest possible. If you open the faucet to maximum, the temperature will drop back a bit. If you open more than one faucet, temperatures will drop even more. Hidden Costs Generally, tankless water heaters do not require a lot of space (a large unit can fit in an area no larger than 24 inches square, and extend from the wall 8-10 inches). But they do require an upgrade in electrical service - something retail stores often don’t mention and a chief reason electric co-ops generally don’t recommend the appliances. This means consumers who
want to replace an existing conventional water heater with a tankless unit or add one as part of a homeremodeling project will incur additional costs. For example, a traditional tank water heater with 4,500-watt elements operates on #10 wire and a 30-amp circuit breaker. One whole-house tankless model boasts four 7,000-watt elements for a total electrical load of 28,000 watts. This requires wire and a circuit breaker that will handle at least 120 amps. If a tankless water heater is installed in an existing home without upgrading the electrical service, low voltage or sudden voltage drops are likely. This will cause dimming lights, 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, consumers also must pay for new wiring between the distribution transformer and electric meter. Check with a licensed electrician or your local electric co-op to determine if you must improve your electric service connections to support a tankless water heater. While gas-fired tankless water heaters generally do not need basic service upgrades, 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 remains from sinks and showers. Other Options Consumers looking for an efficient water heater should consider a heavily insulated electric resistance unit. These appliances are often the most cost-effective option over the long term. And because of their hot water storage capabilities, many electric co-ops employ electric resistance water heaters as a key component of load management programs that shave power costs during times of peak demand - a proven way to help keep electric bills affordable. To reduce home water heating costs, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory suggests simple and inexpensive measures such as tank insulation, temperature setback,
timers, heat traps, and low-flow showerheads. All of these are more practical and provide a greater return on investment than putting in a tankless water heater. NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network monitors, evaluates, and applies technologies that help electric cooperatives control costs, increase productivity, and enhance service to their consumers. Courtesy of NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network.
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April 2010 • Louisiana Country • Page 11
L.O.E. Lower Operating Expense
by James Dulley
Dear Jim: I try to get my family to make life-style changes to reduce our maximum electricity use, but it’s tough. It may help if they can see how much is being used. What are my options to accomplish this, and what are the savings? - Ronald K. Dear Ronald: It is surprising how some minor life-style changes can impact the amount of energy your home consumes. This is not only a matter of saving money on your utility bills, but it is also important for your family’s future. As our lives and our homes become more and more dependent upon electricity to function properly, conserving energy from all sources is a wise move. Another key reason to reduce electricity consumption is controlling what’s called peak demand. It’s like rush hour for the electric grid—the time of day when folks come home, switch on lights, crank up the air conditioner, and start bustling around the house. If you want to always have electricity available, your electric cooperative has to have enough electric generation capacity to meet this peak consumer demand. And since building a generating plant is extremely expensive, using less electricity overall can eliminate or delay the need for more
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plants, keeping electric rates down. In order to trim energy use in your home, Ronald, it may help to first educate your family on which electric devices use the most electricity so they can minimize the use of these devices. Generally, any appliance or device that creates heat uses the most electricity. Some devices, which do not have heating as their primary purpose, may surprise you with the amount of heat they put out (essentially a waste of energy). Incandescent light bulbs are a good example. You might consider labeling some of these devices with a red sticker to remind everyone of the major electricity consumers. If you have an electric meter with a visible spinning wheel, switch on various appliances while your family members are watching the meter. It is pretty impressive and it may create a lasting impression when they see how much the wheel speeds up when you switch on a hair blow dryer or the clothes dryer. Switch off all nonessential appliances to see how slow you can make it go. As a next step, a number of new energy management devices are available to help monitor and control the electricity used in your home. The simplest ones basically accomplish the same goal as watching the electric meter. An example is the Power Monitor by Black and Decker. This is a two-piece system: a wireless sensor attaches to the electric meter outside, and a small digital display is kept inside to relay the meter reading. Local electric rates can be programmed in to accurately calculate the real time cost in dollars. In order to see how much a specific appliance costs to miscellaneous
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use, just switch it on and watch the dissmart electric meters which allow twoplay to see how much more electricity is way communication between the utility and the home meter. This can be used to being used. These work on most electric lower peak demand: through a voluntary meters, but not all, so check their web program, the utility can be allowed resite for compatibility. mote access to switch off a water heater Another, more expensive example is or lower the thermostat when systemTED (The Energy Detective) by Energy, wide electricity use is at its peak. In Inc., which operates in a similar fashion return, the utility typically compensates except it senses electricity use from current transformers (CTs) on the circuit the homeowner by providing free mainbreaker panel. There are two TED modtenance of the appliance or may adjust els: the more advanced “TED 5000” can electric rates. The following companies offer enbe monitored from a personal computer ergy management devices and control or even a mobile phone, taking all the mystery out of how much electricity your home is using at any given time. More advanced energy management systems have wireless sensors on electric and gas appliances. The main control unit and display compiles this information so you can program and control the electricity use of each appliance. If there are problems or excessive energy use alerts, these systems can send out notifications by email or text message. These sophisticated systems are particularly effective in areas with time-of-use rates because A smaller portable monitor shows the real they can run appliances or change time electricity usage and the dollar cost. thermostat settings based on the Photo credit - Energy, Inc. (TED) local rate structure, ensuring that electricity is used when rates are low. systems: Agilewaves, (650) 839-0170, Many of these “smart” devices comwww.agilewaves.com; Black & Decker, municate with each other using ZigBee (800) 544-6986, www.blackanddecker. communication protocol. This allows com/energy/; Control4, (888) 400-4070, components from one energy managewww.control4.com; Energy Inc., (800) ment company to function with another 959-5833, www.theenergydetective.com; company’s components. and Onset, (800) 564-4377, www.onset Some electric utilities are installing comp.com.
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Farmers Market Cookbook recipes come straight from the farm
The age-old secret to delicious, nutritious cuisine? Fresh, local ingredients. Farmers Market Cookbook from Southern Living is the ultimate celebration of the local culinary experience - from ground to market to table. Here are some samples from the new cookbook published by Oxmoor House, a Time, Inc., company:
Beef and Asparagus Bundles • 16 asparagus spears • 1 4-oz. package garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese • 2 heads Bibb lettuce, leaves separated • 8 thin slices deli roast beef, halved • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 16 strips • 16 fresh chives (optional) Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus. Cut asparagus tips into 3-1/2 inch pieces, reserving any remaining end portions for another use. Cook asparagus in boiling water to cover 1-2 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry with paper towels. Spoon cheese into a 1-qt. zip-top plastic freezer bag. Do not seal. Snip one corner of the bag to make a small hole, and pipe cheese down center of each lettuce leaf. Arrange one roast beef slice, one asparagus spear, and one red bell pepper strip in each lettuce leaf. If desired, wrap sides of lettuce around roast beef and vegetables, and tie bundles with chives. Green Peas with Crispy Bacon • 6 cups shelled fresh sweet green peas
• 4 bacon slices • 2 shallots, sliced • 1 tsp. orange zest • 1 cup fresh orange juice • 1 tsp. pepper • 1/2 tsp. salt • 2-3 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint • 1 Tbsp. butter Cook peas in boiling water to cover five minutes; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove and crumble bacon; reserve two tsp. drippings in skillet. Saute shallots in hot drippings over medium-high heat two minutes or until tender. Stir in orange zest, orange juice, pepper and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, five minutes or until reduced by half. Add peas and cook five minutes; stir in mint and butter. Transfer peas to a serving dish and sprinkle with crumbled bacon.
Mushroom and Spinach Toss • 1/2 (16-oz.) package farfalle or bowtie pasta • 1/4 cup pine nuts • 2 Tbsp. butter • 1 Tbsp. olive oil • 1 (8-oz.) package sliced fresh mushrooms • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and coarsely chopped • 2 garlic cloves, minced • 1/4 cup dry white wine • 1 (6-oz.) package fresh baby spinach, thoroughly washed • 3/4 tsp. salt • 1/2 tsp. pepper • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Prepare pasta according to the package directions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange 1/4 cup pine nuts in a single layer in a shallow pan. Bake pine nuts 5-7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Melt butter with oil in a large skillet over mediumhigh heat; add the mushrooms and then saute 5-6 minutes or until golden brown and most liquid has evaporated. Reduce heat to medium and add tomatoes and garlic, cook, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes. Stir in wine and cook 30 seconds, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Stir in hot cooked pasta and spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Stir in salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately. Sweet Onion Pudding • 1/2 cup butter • 6 medium-size sweet onions, thinly sliced • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten • 2 cups whipping cream
• 1 (3-oz.) package shredded Parmesan cheese • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour • 2 Tbsp. sugar • 2 tsp. baking powder • 1 tsp. salt • Garnish: fresh thyme sprigs Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onions. Cook, stirring often, 30-40 minutes or until caramel colored; remove from heat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together eggs, cream and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Combine flour and next three ingredients in a separate bowl; gradually whisk into egg mixture until blended. Stir onions into egg mixture; spoon into a lightly greased 13x9 baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until set. Garnish, if desired.
Salted Caramel Strawberries • 20 large fresh strawberries • 40 caramels • 3 Tbsp. whipping cream • 1/4 tsp. salt • 1-1/4 cups coarsely chopped mixed nuts • wax paper Pat strawberries completely dry with paper towels. Microwave caramels, 3 Tbsp. whipping cream and 1/4 tsp. salt in a 1-qt. microwave-safe bowl at medium power, 3-1/2 minutes or until smooth, stirring at one-minute intervals. Dip each strawberry halfway into caramel mixture. Roll in nuts, and place on lightly greased wax paper. Let stand 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 8 hours.
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Country Calendar APRIL 7-30 • Live Thoroughbred Racing, Opelousas, Wed.-Sat. 6:20 p.m., Evangeline Downs Racino, 2235 Creswell Lane Ext., 337-594-3000 www.evangelinedowns.com 8-10 • La. Railroad Days Festival, DeQuincy Railroad Museum, 400 Lake Charles Ave., 337-786-2691 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 • Rockin’ the Rails at the
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www.townofabitasprings.com/currentevents 17 • Louisiana Doll Festival, Downtown DeRidder, 337-463-8014, www.ladollfestival.com 17-18 • Lake Charles Gun and Knife Show, Lake Charles Civic Center, 337527-9885,www.gatorguns.com 17-18 • SpringFest 2010, craft booths, bands, food booths and more, Livingston, 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Livingston Parish Fairgrounds, Hwy. 190, 985-796-5853 17-18 • Louisiana Coastal Wildlife Artists and Carvers Exposition, downtown Houma, 985-873-6408 17-18 • SF A Pro Speck Series, Coco Marina, 106 Pier 56, Chauvin, 6:30 a.m. each day. 1-800-648-2626 18 • Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet, Hwy. 56 Chauvin, noon, 985-594-5859 18 • Earth Day, Downtown Baton Rouge, 225-571-9591, www.earthdaybr.org 18 • 2010 Chauvin Art Folk Festival, Chauvin, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 5337 Bayouside Dr., 985-4a48-4715 19-25 • Zurich Classic of New Orleans, www.zurichgolfclassic.com 22-24 • Spring Arts Festival, Minden, Corner of E. Union and Talton Streets, 318-393-5991, www.artsinminden.com 22-24 • Mid South Peach Classic, Ruston, Thomas Assembly Center, Lambright Center, 318-255-2031, www.midsouthpeachclassic.com 23-25 • Louisiana Forest Festival, downtown Winnfield, www.laforestfestival. com 23 • 23rd Annual LSU Fighting Tigers Celebrity Golf Tournament, Houma, Ellendale C.C., 7:45 a.m. and 12:45 tee
times, 868-3500 23-May 2 • New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, 504-410-4100, www. nojazzfest.com 24 • Elks Charities Poker Run Houma Lodge 1193, Downtown Gallery, 630 Belanger St., Houma, 985-868-1719 24 • Baton Rouge Blues Festival, Baton Rouge, Downtown, Repentance Park, 225-324-4440, www.louisianasmusic. com 24-25 • Barksdale Air Show, Bossier City, Barksdale Air Force Base, 318-3565650 27-May 9 • Contraband Days Pirate Festival, Lake Charles Civic Center, 337436-5508, www.contrabanddays.com 30-May 1 • Antique Truck, Tractor and Engine Show, Franklinton, 8 a.m., Washington Parish Fairgrounds, 100 Main St., 985-732-3950 30–May 2 • Webster Parish Trade Days, Minden, Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Woods Convention Center, 214 Miller St., 318-518-4176 May 1 • Lead Belly Blues Festival, Shreveport, Festival Plaza, 101 Crockett St., 615995-1414 1 • Southern Forest Heritage Museum Heritage Day, Longleaf, Southern Forest Heritage Museum, 318-748-8404, www.forestheritagemuseum.org 1 • Spring Street Fair, Franklinton, 8 a.m.4 p.m., Varnado Store Museum, 936 Pearl St. 985-795-0680, www.varnadostoremuseum.org 1-2 • Fest For All, Baton Rouge, Downtown, 225-344-8558, www.artsbr.org
April 2010 • Louisiana Country • Page 15
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