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Keeping the lights on: Bright electricity resources

Alicia Colombo

By Kathleen Harte Simone

Electricity is an essential part of daily life, powering lights, appliances and most communications devices. This article contains information on how to prepare for power outages, conserve energy and get help paying your electric bill.

Plan for power outages
Spring rainstorms can wreak havoc on trees and bring down power lines. Be prepared by creating an emergency kit. Place necessary items in a large tub and store it in an easily accessible spot for quick access if/when needed. Your kit should include several flashlights, new batteries, battery-operated clock, non-perishable foods, two gallons of water for every household member, first-aid kit and blankets for cool spring nights. If possible, include a fully charged cell phone and cash in case credit card machines and ATMs are not operating due to a power outage.

Develop a family emergency plan. Know where you will go if you need to leave your home. This is imperative for people who rely on electric-powered medical equipment, such as power wheelchairs or mobility devices, ventilators, oxygen concentrators, feeding equipment, chair lifts, and CPAP devices. Make a list of emergency phone numbers.

When the lights go out
Don’t panic! Rest assured that you are well prepared and know these essential tools:

Report the outage by calling 1-800-841-4141 or go online to where you’ll also be able to monitor the outage status, view a map of outages and sign up for customized alerts.

While the power is out, protect your food. Only open your refrigerator and freezer doors if/when absolutely necessary. Food will stay fresher longer – up to 36 hours – in a freezer with the door closed.

Protect expensive electronic equipment, which can be damaged beyond repair from the surge of power when it comes back on. Unplug or turn off the circuit breaker to all large appliances, including your furnace, air conditioner, and water heater to avoid overloading circuits. Plug equipment into separate, grounded circuits.

Save money, conserve
PECO offers rebates for purchases of certified Energy Star rated appliances, water heaters, heating and air conditioning units, and lighting fixtures. PECO also offers a $75 rebate for recycling your old refrigerator, and they’ll even pick it up.

Income-eligible customers can receive free energy checkups. A certified Energy Advisor will assess and provide a report detailing ways to save energy by using energy-saving products, such as LED bulbs, low-flow shower heads and smart power strips.

Need help with your bill?
Just announced in February, the Pennsylvania Homeowners Assistance Fund assists homeowners who have encountered pandemic-related financial hardships. The grant, which is capped at 24 months or $3,000, can be applied to a customer’s electric and natural gas bill to pay outstanding balances. The fund also helps with mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance. Applications are open to eligible Pennsylvania homeowners, regardless of income.

The Matching Energy Assistance Fund (MEAF) is an energy assistance program that provides bill payment support to residential customers with incomes at or below 175% of the federal poverty income guidelines. The maximum grant is $500 (per commodity) every 24 months. To apply for MEAF in Philadelphia County, contact the Utility Emergency Services Fund at 1608 Walnut St., Suite 600; 215-972-5170; or

Powering the future
The Reliability & Resiliency Plan will help to prevent customer outages, modernize the electric grid, reduce the impact of extreme weather on electric infrastructure, and support the adoption of clean energy resources.

“The strategic investments we’re making will continue to enhance service reliability for our customers and will build upon our strong foundation of providing safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy for our customers,” said PECO Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John McDonald.

Learn more at or by contacting their customer service department at 1-800-494-4000.

Kathleen Harte Simone is a Philadelphia-based journalist.

Categories: Finances Milestones eNews


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