With the hot summer months likely to produce higher electric usage and potentially severe weather, FirstEnergy Corp.'s Ohio electric companies — Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison — recently completed inspections and conducted equipment maintenance expected to enhance service reliability for customers. The work builds upon vast equipment and technology upgrades FirstEnergy has made to its electric grid in Ohio over the past two years to help prevent power outages and reduce many interruptions to just a brief or momentary outage.
"We proactively inspect, maintain and upgrade our equipment to help minimize the length and impact of service interruptions," said Ed Shuttleworth, president of FirstEnergy's Ohio operations. "Since 2020, FirstEnergy has invested more than US$ 300 million in new automated equipment and technology across its Ohio service area to help keep power flowing to our customers in all types of weather conditions."
Proactive equipment inspections include using thermovision cameras to capture infrared images of electrical equipment, helping detect potential problems within substations and on power lines that cannot be observed during regular visual inspections. The infrared technology shows heat on a color scale, with brighter colors or "hot spots" indicating areas that could need repairs. These images can identify equipment issues such as loose connections, corrosion and load imbalances, and utility workers are able to make repairs to prevent potential power outages in the future.
Other utility work being done by FirstEnergy utility personnel includes inspecting electrical equipment, like transformers, located along neighborhood power lines and within substations to ensure the infrastructure is ready to perform efficiently when demand for electricity increases during the summer, typically due to air conditioning usage.
In addition, helicopter patrols have completed inspections of more than 7,200 miles of transmission lines owned by American Transmission Systems, Inc. (ATSI), a FirstEnergy subsidiary, across the company's Ohio footprint. The inspections are designed to look for damaged wire, broken cross arms and other hardware problems not visible from the ground. Any potential reliability issues identified during the inspections are addressed as quickly as possible.
Beyond infrastructure work, FirstEnergy's utility employees participate in readiness exercises and drills throughout the year to test the company's restoration process used to address storm-related power outages. Storm drills are becoming more common in the utility industry in the wake of severe weather over the last several years.
Customers can get tips to prepare in advance of severe weather, and view restoration updates if storms do cause power outages, by visiting FirstEnergy's 24x7 Power Center at www.firstenergycorp.com/outages.
With the summer storm season also comes higher-than-usual temperatures and rising energy costs. Customers can take steps to beat the heat while also managing their electricity bill this summer. The following tips can help customers use electricity wisely during this period of high demand:
- Set thermostats as high as comfort will allow. Every degree a customer can increase the temperature in their home will result in using about 3% less energy during the summer.
- Use fans — moving air cools skin faster, resulting in greater comfort on hot days.
- During sunny weather, close drapes or blinds on windows facing the sun to prevent direct radiant heating from impacting interior temperatures.
- Use a programmable or smart thermostat to keep temperatures higher when no one is home and to reduce the temperature before arrival back home.
- Seal any leaks with caulk or weather stripping to prevent hot air from sneaking into your home.
- Check air conditioner and furnace fan filters. Clogged filters waste energy and money by forcing HVAC systems to work harder than necessary.
- Avoid using heat-producing appliances during the hottest hours of the day. The less heat produced at home, the less work the air conditioner must do.
- Payment arrangements and assistance programs are available for customers who need help with their electric bills. For more information, visit www.firstenergycorp.com/billassist.
Summer is also a time when contractors and homeowners spend more time outdoors completing projects. Important outdoor electrical safety tips are available at www.firstenergycorp.com/publicsafety.