HARRISBURG – With weather forecasts calling for high heat and humidity and an increased risk for potentially severe thunderstorms, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today offered residents tips on conserving energy and staying cool, and what steps they can consider taking in the event of a power outage.  Most concerning is the potential for storms to produce extended electric outages immediately followed by a heat wave Friday through Sunday.

Noting the current hot weather alert issued by PJM, the region’s power transmission organization, and the anticipated increase in electricity demand, the PUC is pointing consumers to its Summer Heat Wave fact sheet on the PUC website for the following energy conservation and cooling suggestions:

Turn off non-essential appliances and as many lights as possible. Postpone using appliances that produce heat, such as clothes dryers, dishwashers and stoves until after 7 p.m. These appliances also use significant amounts of electricity adding to the demand on an electric infrastructure that is already stressed during peak hours due to heat. Use ceiling fans to circulate the air, keeping rooms and you cooler. Close curtains or window blinds to block sunlight and heat or relax in rooms that do not receive direct sunlight. If you have window air conditioning units, close off rooms not in use. Make sure all air conditioner filters are clean and in good shape. Replace filters monthly for maximum benefit and check air and return vents on a regular basis to keep circulation air paths clear. On hot and humid days, set your thermostat at 78 degrees when you are home and 85 degrees or off when you are away for long periods.

Residents are also urged to carefully review heat-related health tips from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Department of Aging and other state agencies.

The PUC remains in close communication with electric distribution companies, PJM and other key stakeholders during this current hot weather alert, which runs through Saturday, July 20th, and will continue to actively monitor utility systems across the state to ensure that resources are available to meet energy demands.

Additionally, the Commission cautioned residents that higher heat and humidity levels often fuel severe weather outbreaks which, in turn, can lead to power outages.  The PUC encourages residents to consider the following storm tips:

Pre-Storm tips:

Write down, print or save toll-free outage hotlines for your electric utility and/or your natural gas utility, which are listed on your monthly bills and posted on the PUC website. Save the website address for your utility’s outage reporting system, which can provide updates on repair and restoration efforts. Those electric utility outage sites and natural gas company websites are available on the PUC website. Keep your cell phone charged, so you can contact your utility, other emergency services and family members during any power outage. Secure necessary food, medicine and other supplies, including batteries for flashlights. 

Should you lose power during a storm, consider the following:

Call your utility hotline to report outages - Do not assume that the utility already knows about your outage or that others have already called. Do NOT touch or approach any fallen lines. Stay away from objects or puddles in contact with downed power lines. Do NOT try to remove trees or limbs from power lines. Pre-charge cellular phones or keep a portable cell phone charger on hand.  Plan to use a corded phone, cordless phones won’t work without electricity. Do NOT call 9-1-1 to report power outages. Those calls take dispatchers away from other emergencies and can also slow a storm response because you're not talking directly to the utility. SPECIAL NOTE: If you have a downed power line or another hazardous situation, call 9-1-1 and then contact your utility.

Tips to help stay safe until power is restored:

Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards. If you use a generator, do NOT run it inside a home or garage. Also, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator, not your home's electrical system, which could shock or injure utility crews working on nearby power lines. Additional generator tips are available here. Turn off lights and electrical appliances (except for the refrigerator and freezer). When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can damage equipment. After you turn the lights off, turn one lamp on so you will know when power is restored. Wait at least 15 minutes after power is restored before turning on other appliances. Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs who might need additional assistance.

Consumers using natural gas appliances can also be impacted by storms:

Electric power outages can affect home appliances. If they do not function properly when power is restored, call a professional for service. If you smell natural gas, get everyone out of the building immediately. Leave the door open and do NOT use phones; do NOT switch lights or appliances on or off; and do NOT take any other action while inside the building. After you are safely outside, call 9-1-1 from your cell phone or neighbor’s home.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.pa.gov. Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility.  “Like” Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Facebook for easy access to information on utility issues.