Natural Gas Safety
The crisp, cool air and the brightly-colored leaves are among the first signs that fall is coming. They’re also one of the first signals as families start up their furnaces across Michigan. While the heat is necessary to keep your homes cozy during the cold months, it’s an especially important time to protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Governor Rick Snyder has declared this week Carbon Monoxide Safety and Awareness Week in Michigan. This declaration serves as a reminder for residents to take preventative measures and learn to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The Silent Killer
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that’s odorless, colorless and tasteless and is produced when common household appliances aren’t properly ventilated. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur from appliances like:
- Wood Stoves
- Charcoal grills
- Kerosene heaters
- Gasoline-powered generators
Know the Signs
Infants, the elderly, people with respiratory problems and pets are especially at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. When the deadly gas is breathed into the body, it is combined with the blood, preventing it from absorbing oxygen. Warning signs of a CO leak include:
- Stale/stuffy air
- Excessive moisture on windows and walls
- Soot buildup around appliance vents
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning often mimic the flu and include headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath and burning of the eyes. Prolonged exposure can cause disorientation, convulsions, unconsciousness and eventually death.
9 Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
There are many different ways CO can cause poisoning, even uncommonly through blocked vehicle tailpipes and unventilated trailers. You can protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning with these tips:
- Install an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved CO detector with a powerful audible alarm. The best models plug into a standard electrical outlet and have important features like a rechargeable battery backup in case of a power outage.
- Make sure fuel-burning appliances are properly installed and have them maintained regularly.
- Visually inspect flues and chimneys on an annual basis to keep them clean of debris.
- Repair rusted or pitted flue pipes leading from your furnace and water heater to the chimney.
- Keep the furnace air intake clear and unobstructed.
- Never use a gas range or unvented space heaters (propane, gas, oil or kerosene) to heat a home or building.
- Never run a vehicle in the garage, even with the garage door open.
- Start lawn mowers and snow blowers outside, not inside the garage.
- Never use a portable generator or barbecue grill inside your home or on an enclosed porch or garage.
If you suspect CO poisoning in your home:
- Get everyone (pets included) out of the house and into fresh air
- Call 911 for immediate medical help
- Do not re-enter the house under any circumstance until help has arrived, your house has been investigated and the problem is corrected
- Call a qualified contractor or your gas utility to have your appliances checked
Although we’re rounding out the end of Careers in Energy Week, Consumers Energy wants to keep public awareness about energy-related jobs alive well after the statewide celebration. We plan to continue recruiting top Michigan talent for rewarding careers in energy.
Consumers Energy is pleased to work with DTE Energy and the Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium during this celebration to raise awareness for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
To hear about job openings, follow Consumers Energy on LinkedIn!
A Day in the Life of a Consumers Energy Employee
From lineworkers to power plant operators, customer service representatives to accountants and technicians to engineers, there are a variety of careers Consumers Energy offers throughout the state of Michigan. Check out a few behind-the-scenes videos from Consumers Energy employees:
1. System Controller
2. Senior Project Manager
3. Lineworker Trainer
4. Electric Field Leader
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It’s easy to be swept away with the fun of October. Pumpkin patches, apple cider, hayrides and who could forget trick-or-treating! But one of the most important events every homeowner should focus on during the month of October is winter weatherization.
Try our free Home Energy Analyzer to find ways to stay warmer and spend less money on heating this winter.
Michigan Winter Checklist for Your Home
Consumers Energy is preparing for the upcoming cold months, and you should too! Check these winter weatherization tips off your list before the first snowfall:
- Replace Furnace Filter
A dirty furnace filter restricts airflow, making your fan motor work harder and your energy bill rise rapidly. Dirty furnace filters also reduce the air quality in your home, aggravating allergies and asthma for your family. Choose a furnace filter that provides a balance of particle capture and airflow to prevent stress on the system. This will reduce the amount of energy needed to reach desired temperatures during the winter.
- Test Run Your Heater
Testing your heater before the winter months can help save you both money and unnecessary shivers. Set your heater for 80 degrees and check all the vents in your home. This is also a great opportunity to move any obstacles blocking your heating vents. Make sure to turn off the heat directly after the test run. If your heater isn’t running properly, contact a qualified service technician before temperatures begin to drop. Consumers Energy offers rebates up to $900 for natural gas furnaces.
- Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat lets you automatically turn your heat up before you get out of bed, down when you leave for work, up before you return from work and then down again before bedtime. Installing one before the heating season could also save you as much as 20 percent on your heating costs. Consumers Energy offers $10-$50 rebates for programmable thermostats.
- Reset Your Ceiling Fan
Set your ceiling fan to spin on the low setting in reverse (clockwise). This will re-circulate warmer air that may be trapped near the ceiling down to floor level.
- Clean Out Your Chimney
Who can resist a warm fireplace during the winter? Before use, make sure it’s clear of bird or animal nests and soot. Have it swept and checked for damage or cracks. Unknown damage could be a huge fire hazard for your home.
- Check for Carbon Monoxide Leaks
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is colorless, odorless and tasteless and can be produced when appliances aren’t operating or venting properly. It’s important to protect your family from the silent killer, especially during the winter months. Easily check for leaks by installing a carbon monoxide alarm that can be plugged in year-round. If you already have one and it’s past the warranty, replace it!
- Prep Your Windows
Check for leaks in your windows by feeling around for cool air during a chilly, fall day. Caulk or fill if necessary. If your home’s windows simply need an upgrade, there’s no better time to switch to high performance windows. Double-pane or triple-pane works the best. You can also use clear plastic or vinyl sheeting on the inside of your windows to make a temporary double-pane window. Consumers Energy offers rebates on windows and insulation.
- Check Your Doors
Just like windows, your doors can let in cold air if there are leaks. Check for weather-stripping on the side and bottoms and replace it if you feel cold air slipping through.
- Pack Emergency Supplies
Dangerous winter weather may happen without much notice—but that doesn’t mean your family can’t be prepared. Watch Consumers Energy’s video below to see what your family should be packing:
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Tis the season for freshly sharpened pencils and brand new folders. That’s right—September is back-to-school month in Michigan. As parents are preparing lunches and students are filling school buses, Consumers Energy launches its new smartphone app and classroom program called EmPOWERed Kids. The new technology provides Michigan students, teachers and parents with an engaging way to learn about energy.
EmPOWERed Kids Across Michigan
Every year, Consumers Energy teams up with Michigan schools to deliver important lessons about electricity and natural gas, renewable energy and safety. Not only are we committed to energy lessons in the classroom with the EmPOWERed Kids program, but parents may also download the free app at home for continued learning.
The EmPOWERed Kids app is available for most smartphone devices and tablets including iPads. Search “EmPOWERed Kids” in the App or Play Store to download now. Our engaging app teaches kids about:
- How electricity is made from coal, wind, water and even cow manure
- How to recognize danger signs involving electricity and natural gas
- What natural gas smells like and what to do to stay safe
For more information, teachers and parents can readRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
For Jim Sunday, there is no average day as a Consumers Energy Senior Project Manager I. Rain or shine, Jim enjoys his exciting job regulating the Southwest Michigan 1200B Natural Gas Pipeline. This project focuses on constructing 24 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline, part of an investment Consumers Energy made to improve the reliability of its natural gas infrastructure.
The line will run northeast through St. Joseph and Branch counties. This project completes a 90-mile dual gas transmission pipeline corridor, increasing system reliability for our 1.7 million natural gas customers.
The project involves five main phases:
- Land clearing
- Trench excavating
- Pipeline installation
Why Consumers Energy Invests in Natural Gas Pipeline
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, pipelines are the safest, most reliable and cost effective means of transporting energy products over long distances. Inspecting, assessing and replacing the natural gas pipelines provide many benefits for customers such as:
After the new 1200B pipe is completed, we will be able to perform routine safety inspections on either of its parallel pipelines—while keeping the gas flowing.
Transporting larger volumes of natural gas will not only encourage economic growth in Michigan, but it will protect our customers from price spikes.
Customers can save money by purchasing natural gas during the summer when prices are lower and storing it until it’s needed in the winter.
More information on the Southwest Michigan Pipeline Project.
VIDEO: featuring Jim Sunday as a Senior Project Manager I at Consumers Energy.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
Consumers Energy Investing $150 Million to Strengthen and Expand Natural Gas Lines Throughout Michigan
We’re spending over $150 million this year to strengthen and expand our natural gas system throughout Michigan as part of our ongoing plan to provide safe, reliable natural gas service in the communities we serve.
We are proud that these efforts also involve putting more Michiganders to work. Consumers Energy has hired an additional 450 skilled employees over the past two years who are dedicated to a significant portion of this work.
The gas system improvements will upgrade portions of Consumers Energy’s 29,000 miles of distribution and transmission gas pipelines that serve 1.7 million natural gas customers in Michigan. The company’s $82 million enhanced infrastructure program includes 59 projects to replace 88 miles of pipeline. VIDEO: Workers install natural gas pipeline. LEARN MORE: How natural gas gets to your home or business.
Key enhancement projects for 2014 include:
- 18 projects in numerous cities within Oakland and Wayne counties
- 12 projects in Flint, Burton, Mt. Morris, and Imlay City
- Nine projects in Kalamazoo and Decatur
- Seven projects in Saginaw, Bay City, Kochville and Bangor Township
- Seven projects in Lansing, Webberville, Williamston and Portland
- Three projects in Hastings and Owosso
- Two projects in Alma
- One project in Tecumseh
These projects are in addition to more than $68 million that Consumers Energy will spend this year to expand and enhance other areas of its statewide natural gas system:
- More than $21 million to replace or move natural gas lines and related infrastructure due to civic improvement projects such as road and sewer work
- Nearly $17 million to accommodate new business growth as the state’s economy continues to improve
- More than $26 million to add more than 2,500 new customers to its natural gas system, who are switching from another heating fuel, such as propane
- Over $4 million to upgrade service to existing customers in targeted areas
“Teachers teach because they care. Teaching young people is what they do best. It requires long hours, patience, and care.”
Horace Mann (1796-1859), education reformist
When it comes to shaping young minds and preparing our future workforce, Michigan teachers are the apple of our eye at Consumers Energy.
On National Teacher Day, we salute teachers across Michigan today and every day for their commitment and dedication. As we say in our business, Carpe Vigorem “Seize the Energy” in education and our communities.
From activities and online games to workbooks and in-classroom presentations, we’re pleased to offer students, scouts, teachers and parents opportunities to stay safe and learn more about energy. Topics include: lesson plans, energy history, careers in energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainability and electric and natural gas safety. We even offer a new Ask an Energy Expert feature.
Check out our education website, called Brain Station.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
Now that a record Michigan winter has finally given way to warmer temperatures, homeowners and contractors are reminded to call MISS DIG at 811 to have underground utilities marked before beginning any digging projects.
The Dig Safely partners of MISS DIG System, Inc. are sponsoring a drawing for one lucky Michigan resident to win a 2014 Ford F-150 STX 4×4 truck as an incentive for residents to remember to call 811.
Residents are encouraged to enter the drawing now through Aug. 10 by visiting the MISS DIG website at www.missdig.org or by sending a postcard to the one-call center’s Auburn Hills headquarters: MISS DIG System, Inc., 3285 Lapeer Road West, Auburn Hills, MI 48326. The drawing will be held and the winner announced on Aug. 11 (8-11).
The Dig Safely partners of MISS DIG System, Inc., are Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, SEMCO Energy and TransCanada.
Anyone planning to dig needs to call 811 at least three working days before beginning any digging project to have underground utilities marked. This helps prevent unintentional dig-ins to gas, electric, cable, water, sewer and fiber optic lines as well as property damage and possible personal injury. Every digging job requires a call, from small jobs like planting trees and shrubs to large projects like building and road construction.
Safe digging tips for homeowners include:
- Call 811/MISS DIG at least three working days before digging to have underground utilities marked
- Wait to start projects until you’re sure all lines are marked or cleared by the utility. This can be confirmed by contacting MISS DIG at 811
- Respect the marks and dig with care, especially if using power equipment. If your project is within four feet of the utility marks modify your plans and stay more than four feet from the marks, or use a wooden handle shovel to carefully expose the lines before starting excavation
- Ask your contractor to confirm 811 has been contacted before allowing any digging work to proceed
As we all look forward to warmer weather and getting outdoors, we remind you to dig safely and watch out for overhead wires. Look up and look out for wires, and always call 811 before starting any digging project to mark underground pipes and wires.
Now that we are thinking safety first, here’s a quick look back in our winter wrap-up.
- One of the coldest winters in a generation caused Michigan homeowners to use 20 percent more natural gas this winter compared to a year ago.
— However, the typical Consumers Energy residential customer paid just 10 percent more for natural gas
— Consumers Energy prices were down 8 percent from last winter
- We created the Severe Weather Assistance Team to help Michigan residents concerned about bills
— The team made 120,000 calls to customers in less than six weeks
— Made payment arrangements with customers, enrolled them in our Budget Plan and provided energy savings tips VIDEO: Ways to Save
“I was blown away at the response from customers!” said Randi Richards, one of our severe weather team members. “People were setting up payment arrangements, and they were telling me what was going on in their lives, how hard this winter has been, and what worked for their budget. They shared how touched they were that we were reaching out to them.”
- The majority of meters are being read. VIDEO: Meter Reading
– However, the extreme weather has created challenges in physically reaching every one of our 1.8 million natural gas meters
— We have increased the number of meter readers we have on the job. They are working extended hours, including weekends
Resources for Michigan Residents
- Concerned about your bill? Call (800) 477-5050
- Call 2-1-1 and ask about assistance programs
- Learn more about how to save at ConsumersEnergy.com/energyanswers
- Enroll in Consumers Energy’s Budget Plan, which levels out payments
Our Work Continues
- We are preparing for next winter. We will replenish our Michigan underground natural gas storage system, the nation’s fourth-largest
- Warm weather brings outdoor work – tree trimming and strengthening our gas and electric systems. We’ll be spending $60 million this year, for example, just to upgrade underground gas mains
Working to deliver the energy you need, whenever you need it. That’s our Promise to Michigan.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
Consumers Energy gets about 30 reports every year of damaged meters caused by falling ice. Recently, building fires in Walker and near Lansing were sparked when ice fell and broke off a gas meter. Additionally, ice can fall on people, cars and air conditioning units.
Here are 5 tips to help prevent falling ice:
- Knock down icicles when they’re still small, if it is safe to do so, to keep them from getting big enough cause damage when they fall
- If ice gets to damaging size above meters, consider leaning a sheet of 3/4″ plywood against the wall and over the meters to deflect falling ice away from the meters. Act fast, to limit time spent in that potentially dangerous location under the ice
- Do not park or walk under icicles which may fall unexpectedly
- Keep down spouts unplugged before winter begins to help prevent the problem of ice forming over meters
- Ice dams on roofs/gutters also can be caused by improper insulation and ventilation. For professional advice, select a contractor who participates in the Consumers Energy Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® rebate program
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