FirstEnergy’s Ohio Utilities Complete Pre-Winter Inspections, Maintenance and Grid Modernization Work to Keep Power Flowing Safely and Reliably
Companies offer tips for customers to manage seasonal heating bills
AKRON, Ohio, Nov. 29, 2022 — With the cold-weather months expected to produce higher electric use, FirstEnergy Corp.’s (NYSE: FE) Ohio utilities – Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison – recently completed inspections and conducted equipment maintenance to help enhance service reliability for customers when temperatures fall. The companies also are collectively wrapping up more than $500 million in smart grid enhancements in their service areas that began in 2020 under the initial Grid Modernization plan, approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
“Completing inspections and equipment maintenance now can help enhance system reliability to keep power flowing to customers when severe winter weather strikes,” said Pat Mullin, acting president of FirstEnergy’s Ohio operations. “This work complements the smart grid investments recently made across our Ohio service area, including the installation of new automated equipment and technology in dozens of communities we serve, to help prevent power outages or minimize their impact when they do occur.”
Helicopter inspections have been completed on nearly 7,200 miles of high-voltage transmission lines owned by FirstEnergy transmission subsidiaries across the company’s entire Ohio footprint. The inspections are designed to detect early-stage equipment issues not visible from the ground. Any potential reliability issues identified during the inspections are addressed.
Tree trimming throughout the year also helps reinforce the power system ahead of the winter season by maintaining proper clearances around electrical equipment and helping to protect against tree-related outages caused by the weight of ice and heavy, wet snow on branches. FirstEnergy’s utility tree contractors have completed trimming work along more than 7,000 miles of transmission and distribution power lines to date this year across Ohio, and they are on track to complete an additional 1,000 miles of tree trimming by the end of December.
On the ground, proactive equipment inspections include using thermovision cameras to capture infrared images of electrical equipment that can 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 proactively make repairs to prevent potential power outages in the future.
Other winter preparation work completed by FirstEnergy utility personnel includes inspections on electrical equipment along neighborhood power lines, like transformers, to ensure the equipment is operational and the lines are ready to perform efficiently when demand for electricity increases during the winter, typically due to heating.
Lastly, company bucket trucks and other vehicles are being inspected to help ensure safe operation during the winter season. Special emphasis is placed on the condition of tires and air braking systems, which can freeze up if moisture is present. Snow removal equipment is also being checked.
Beyond infrastructure maintenance, FirstEnergy’s utility employees also participated in readiness exercises and drills throughout the year to test the company’s restoration process used to address winter storm-related power outages. Storm drills are becoming more common in the utility industry in response to severe weather that has occurred over the last several years.
Customers can review tips to prepare in advance of severe weather, and view restoration updates if storms do cause power outages, by visiting FirstEnergy’s 24/7 Power Center at www.firstenergycorp.com/outages.
With the winter storm season also comes frigid temperatures and rising energy costs. Customers can take steps to keep their homes comfortable while managing their electricity bill this cold season. The following tips can help customers use electricity wisely during this period of high demand:
- Set thermostats as low as comfort will allow. Every degree a customer can decrease the temperature in their home will result in using about 3 percent less energy during the winter.
- Seal any leaks around windows and door frames with caulk or weather stripping to prevent cold air from sneaking into your home.
- Close the fireplace damper when it is not in use to keep cold air out.
- Close the drapes at night. During the day, only open those that receive direct sunlight.
- Use a programmable or smart thermostat to keep temperatures lower when no one is home and to increase the temperature before arrival back home.
- Check furnace fan filters. Clogged filters waste energy and money by forcing a heating system to work harder than necessary.
- Make sure your home is properly insulated. If you have less than six inches of insulation, you’ll benefit by adding more.
- Payment arrangements and assistance programs are available for customers who need help with their electric bills. For more information, visit www.firstenergycorp.com/billassist.
The Illuminating Company serves 750,000 customers across Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties. Connect with The Illuminating Company at www.illuminatingcompany.com, on Twitter @IlluminatingCo and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/IlluminatingCo.
FirstEnergy is dedicated to integrity, safety, reliability and operational excellence. Its 10 electric distribution companies form one of the nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company’s transmission subsidiaries operate approximately 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Follow FirstEnergy online at www.firstenergycorp.com. Follow FirstEnergy on Twitter: @FirstEnergyCorp.
Editor’s Note: Photos of workers conducting inspections to enhance service reliability for FirstEnergy’s utility customers are available for download on Flickr. A video of utility personnel conducting a thermovision inspection and explaining the work can be found on the company’s YouTube channel.