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Energy Explorer Fall 2015 newsletter

Kids Saying HelloStart the School Year by Welcoming New Students and Neighbors

The new school year can be a challenging time for some children and their parents.

That’s because about 20–25 percent of students change schools each year. Sometimes they move to a completely different area of the country. For some, it may even mean moving to a different country, with new customs, food and language.

This can be difficult for many kids and their parents, especially if they don’t know anyone in the new area. Some children are shy and have trouble making new friends. Adults can also be shy.

So it’s nice to try and help out. What can you do? A good way to help is to imagine what you would feel like if you were in their shoes.

What would make you feel more comfortable? What could people say that would help strike up a conversation? What things do you need to know about the school, the town and the kids?

Maybe you’re shy, too, but it’s always nice to make an effort in welcoming new students and new neighbors. The first step is simple: Just say hello.

That automatically “breaks the ice” and lets the new kids know that they’re welcome. Ask questions about where they’re from and what kinds of things they like. Who’s their teacher? What’s their favorite subject?

In this way, you’ll get to know them better and they’ll feel more at ease, sensing that someone cares about them.

You can also ask about their favorite music, food, TV shows and sports. Try to include them in activities with other kids. It’s always good to introduce new kids to others. You can say, “This is Joe, he’s from Ohio and just moved here.” Then mention something about the new person’s interests.

The same thing applies to new neighbors. Take notice of anyone moving into your neighborhood and welcome them as well. Try to think how you would feel if you had moved to a new place and didn’t know anyone. It would be really nice if someone came up to you, introduced himself or herself and was friendly, right?

The great thing about welcoming new people is that it makes you feel good, too, because you’re helping someone. And you just might find a really good friend.

Cooking on Gas Stove

Step-By-Step Process to Delivering Natural Gas

Although the first natural gas well was dug in 1821, it took more than 100 years for people to start using gas to heat their homes. Prior to that, Americans used wood and coal as the primary fuels for heat.

Today, more than half of the homes in the country use natural gas for heating and cooking. Gas has become a popular choice because it burns more cleanly than other fuels, making it better for the environment.

In order to deliver gas to millions of homes, we need an elaborate system of pipelines. In the U.S., there are more than 2 million miles of natural gas pipelines. That’s enough to go around the earth 80 times! Most of these pipelines are located underground.

There are several steps needed to safely deliver natural gas. The first step is removing gas from the ground with a gas well. The first gas well was only 27 feet deep but modern technology and equipment now enable us to dig up to 30,000 feet into the ground.

Natural gas from the well is transported to the processing plant through gathering lines, which are usually 18 inches or less in diameter. At the processing plant, impurities are removed from the gas so it burns more efficiently.

The next step is to pump the gas to local gas companies like National Grid. Transmission pipelines, usually 2–3 feet in diameter, are used for this purpose. In many cases, the gas needs to travel hundreds of miles so the pipelines are generally made of a very strong material like steel.

The local utility then delivers the gas to homes in its area, using smaller pipelines that are 2–24 inches in diameter. These are called distribution pipelines and are made of iron, steel, copper or plastic. Some of the gas is stored in large tanks for future use.

Before natural gas is delivered to your home, there is an important process that takes place. Because gas is invisible and has no smell, the local utility adds a chemical called mercaptan. It smells like sulfur or rotten eggs and gives us a way to tell if there is a gas leak.

Since the use of natural gas is increasing, it’s important to use it wisely. The earth’s supply of natural gas will not last forever. We can conserve this valuable resource by using energy-efficient heating and hot water systems, and using only as much heat and hot water as we really need.

Energy-efficient Appliances Save Money and Energy

Energy Efficient Appliances Can Make a Big Difference

Modern technology makes it possible for manufacturers to build home appliances that are far more efficient than ever before. Today’s models reduce electric and water bills, saving money for homeowners. They’re also better for the environment because when we use less energy, there are smaller amounts of harmful pollutants produced.

It also takes energy to pump and treat water, so appliances that use less water also reduce our energy consumption.

Looking for the ENERGY STAR® label is a good way to find energy-efficient appliances. ENERGY STAR appliances are designed to use less energy and water, usually about 30–50 percent less.

Below we’ll look at four common household appliances and see how they save energy.

1. Refrigerators
Because it runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the refrigerator consumes more energy than any other appliance in most homes. The federal government sets a minimum level of efficiency on all new refrigerators, and ENERGY STAR refrigerators use at least 20 percent less electricity than this minimum standard.

But refrigerators last a long time, sometimes 20 or 30 years. Older models use much more electricity than today’s standard refrigerators. An energy-efficient refrigerator uses about 75 percent less electricity than a 20-year-old model so buying a new refrigerator can cut energy costs quite a bit.

2. Clothes washers
The amount of energy savings depends on whether you use hot or cold water to wash clothes. Heating the water requires energy. Today’s clothes washers and detergents usually do a good job with cold water, so changing the settings to a cold water wash and rinse can save a great deal of energy.

Clothes washers also last a long time. Replacing a 20-year-old washer with an ENERGY STAR model can save $110 a year in electric and water bills. The ENERGY STAR clothes washer also uses about half the water of a standard model and, in many cases, gets clothes cleaner with smaller amounts of detergent.

The water savings really add up. An efficient clothes washer saves about 27,000 gallons over its lifetime.

3. Clothes dryers
Most clothes dryers are pretty much the same in terms of energy usage but dryers that use natural gas are generally more efficient than those that use electricity. It depends on the current price of electricity and gas, of course, but clothes dryers that run on natural gas can save up to 50 percent on utility bills.

4. Dishwashers
Dishwashers manufactured today are not only much more efficient than older models, but they also do a better job of cleaning the dishes. Energy Star dishwashers use 25 percent less energy than standard models.

They also use about 40 percent less water. Over the lifetime of the dishwasher, this adds up to around 13,000 gallons.

When compared to dishwashers that are 10 or 15 years old, an energy-efficient model uses about 60–70 percent less water and electricity.

Remember, when we save energy, we save money and resources. So, when your family is in need of a new appliance, be sure to look for energy-efficient models. And, for other energy-saving ideas, check out the energy efficiency section of our website at

Emergency KitHow to Prepare for Hurricanes

In many areas of the country, hurricane season is nearing so it’s important to prepare yourself and your home, and also know what to do when a storm strikes. Below are some tips that can help you get ready for severe weather.

Emergency Kit
The first step is to prepare an emergency kit. Even if it’s not hurricane season, you never know when a storm is going to knock out electricity in your house. There are other events, like automobile accidents, snowstorms and flooding, that can also cause electrical outages.

Remember to keep the emergency kit in a place where you can find it easily. It may be dark when you need it.

The emergency kit should contain a portable radio and flashlights, extra batteries, bottled water, canned food, and a can opener and a first aid kit.

Never place an emergency kit in the basement, where the items could be damaged by flooding.

Family Communications Plan
It’s also important to have a plan that will enable family members to contact each other if they are separated during the storm. All children of appropriate age should have a cell phone with everyone’s phone numbers.

You can also choose a friend or relative who lives out of the area as a person to contact if family members are separated. During a storm, it is sometimes more difficult to make a local call than to phone someone long distance. In some cases, text messages can get through when regular phone calls cannot.

Downed Wires
If you see a downed power line, leave the area immediately and call 911. If a power line falls on your car, call 911 and stay inside the car until help arrives. And, if you must leave the car because of fire or other dangers, be sure to follow proper safety practices (See “If a power line touches your car” section of our website).

Keep in mind that falling trees and trash caused by the storm can hide downed power lines.  Be extra careful in areas where there is visible damage.

Other Tips

  • If there is a storm warning, bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that might get blown around.
  • When a storm strikes, get inside a building and stay away from windows.
  • Avoid using candles. If you must use one, never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • Turn off your heating, air conditioning and electric stove.
  • Unplug televisions, DVD players, microwave ovens and computers. A sudden surge of electricity can damage these items when power is turned back on.
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