National Grid Energy Explorer Newsletter
Spring 2014

Electrical and Natural Gas Safety

Call 811 so you can dig safely

Planting a Tree

After a long snowy winter, springtime is finally here. It’s a time for planting the garden and trees, putting up a fence, and maybe even building a pool or deck. There’s one very important thing you should remember about any type of digging project:

Call 811 before you dig
Why? Because there are all kinds of underground gas lines, electric power lines, water pipes, and telephone lines. Many of them are just a few feet under the ground. This is so utility workers can easily reach them and make repairs when necessary.

If you accidentally hit an underground line when digging, it can cause many different problems. If a gas line is struck, this can cause a gas leak, which might turn into a fire hazard or interrupt gas service for the whole neighborhood.

If you strike an underground power line, you could get a serious shock or cause a power outage. Hitting a water line could cause flooding and damage to your home.

Sometimes you might not even be aware that you’ve struck an underground line. But just a small crack, dent, or scrape in the line can create big trouble. It can cause a slow leak or a short circuit that might become a problem later on.

So it’s better to be safe than sorry. Whether it’s you, an adult, or a building contractor, remember: Call 811 before you dig.

811. Know what's below. Call before you dig.

What happens when you call 811?
The call is directed to a telephone operator in your area. After explaining where you’re planning to dig and what type of work you’re doing, the operator will contact the utilities who own the underground lines.

In a day or two, the utilities will send a worker to mark the location of the underground lines, pipes, and cables. When you know what’s below the surface, you can dig safely.

When should you call?
Call at least two days before starting to dig. And make sure you make a telephone call. Don’t send an e-mail.

By calling ahead, you can make sure there are no injuries, shocks, property damage, power outages, or service interruptions for you and others. It makes sense to take the proper precautions for any type of digging project, no matter who is doing it.


Energy and your environment

Use of wind power began
thousands of years ago

Girl with Pinwheel

Although the use of wind turbines to produce electricity has become very popular in the past few years, taking advantage of wind energy is nothing new. Thousands of years ago, man discovered the power of the wind and how it can be used.

The first known use of wind energy was around 7,000 years ago when boats used sails to travel along the Nile River in Africa. Several thousand years later, simple windmills were built in Asia to pump water and grind grain.

No one really knows how these windmills worked because there are no drawings or designs to explain this early technology. By 1100, the use of windmills was widespread in the Middle East, a part of Asia where merchants from Europe would travel to buy certain types of food and other products. The merchants not only took Middle Eastern food back with them, but they also spread the word about windmills and all the wonderful things they could do.

In the 1300s, the Dutch people, many of whom lived close to the ocean, used windmills to help drain flooded lands. People all over the world continued to use wind energy for pumping water, grinding grain, and other farm tasks.

Wind power used for electricity
When electricity became a big part of industry in the late 1800s, scientists and engineers tried to invent machines that could turn wind energy into electric power. It was very difficult because they did not have the knowledge or the tools that we have today.

In 1931, the first large wind turbine was built in Russia but there wasn’t much interest in wind power until about 40 years later. At most power plants, coal and oil were being used to produce electricity. These fuels were in great supply and were also inexpensive. Back then, no one knew about air pollution and global warming.

Wind turbines become popular
In the 1970s, the price of coal, oil, and gas increased greatly and running power plants with these fuels became expensive. Many countries looked for other ways to produce electricity and wind power became popular again.

In the next several decades, we also learned about the harmful effects of burning coal, oil, and gas in power plants. Scientists learned that one of the best ways to reduce pollution and climate change was to use renewable energy sources, like wind and water power. Today, thousands of years after man first discovered wind power, we’re still finding better ways to harness wind energy.

Wind Turbines


Teamwork doesn’t just apply
to sports


There are many situations where you need to be part of a team to get something done. It can be a sports team, a school project team, a Boy or Girl Scout troop, or volunteering for an organization. Creating a team to do any type of project is more complicated than just doing it yourself, but it has many advantages.

That’s because each individual can contribute something a little bit different. So a team can produce lots of new ideas and different approaches. When you add everyone’s contributions together, it can really be exciting to see how much can be accomplished.

A team also gives its members an opportunity to concentrate on one specific area. It can be something you’re really good at, something you want to learn about, or something you like. You don’t have to worry about doing the whole project. You can just focus on your part.

For example, let’s say your teacher divides the class into three-person teams and the project is to create a science poster. One person can do the research, another can organize the design, and the third team member can do the drawing and lettering.


Energy Efficiency

CFLs and LEDs save energy,
money, and a lot more

CFLs and LEDs More and more homes are using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs than ever before. CFLs and LEDs are specially-designed light bulbs that save energy. Many of them have a design that is quite different from regular incandescent light bulbs, but fit standard light bulb sockets nonetheless.

Why are more people using CFLs and LEDs? Because they save energy and have many other benefits, too. Let’s start with the energy savings.

CFLs and LEDs save electricity
A CFL uses 75 percent less electricity than an incandescent bulb and an LED uses about 80 percent less. This is because most of the energy used by the incandescent bulb produces heat instead of light. So it’s really wasted energy.

According to ENERGY STAR®, a government agency that studies the efficiency of appliances and other household items, each CFL saves about $6 a year in electricity costs. An LED saves slightly more. That might not seem like a lot but when you consider that the average home has more than 40 light bulbs, the savings really add up.

CFLs and LEDs save time
Compact fluorescent bulbs last 10-25 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs so they have to be changed much less frequently. That saves the time used to change bulbs and go to the store. If the CFL saves you a trip to the store, you’re also saving the gasoline needed to drive there.

LED bulbs last even longer, about three times more than CFLs and up to 50 times longer than incandescent lights.

If you spend three minutes changing a bulb, you can save several hours a year by switching to CFLs or LEDs.

CFLs and LEDs run cooler
Energy-efficient CFLs and LEDs produce 75 percent less heat that incandescent bulbs. So if your home uses these bulbs, you’ll need less electricity for air conditioning during the summer. That saves money, too.

Cooler-running CFLs and LEDs are also safer because there’s less of a chance to accidentally start a fire.

CFL in Outdoor Lamp

CFLs and LEDs save money 
Although CFLs and LEDs cost more than incandescent bulbs, they last much longer and use far less electricity. Overall, they can save an average homeowner more than $200 each year. The amount of savings can vary, depending on how many bulbs you have in your home and how they’re used, but there’s no question that CFLs and LEDs are far more energy-efficient than regular bulbs.

Although LEDs are more expensive than compact fluorescent bulbs, they are quickly becoming very popular. In addition to saving energy, LEDS are more durable, less sensitive to temperature, and last about three times longer. In addition, LEDs turn on more quickly.

More than 70 percent of all light sockets in the country are still using incandescent bulbs. If we can get each homeowner to switch just a few bulbs each year to CFLs or LEDs, there would be a tremendous amount of energy savings.


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