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Electric FAQs

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How do I report a power outage?

If the power in your house goes out, first ensure that the problem is not due to a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker in the main electrical panel.  A quick way to verify this is to check if your neighbors still have power and check the display of your electric meter to see if the numbers can be seen on the meter.

You can report an outage by calling HG&E’s 24 hour emergency line at (413) 536-9300. 

Does HG&E automatically know when my power goes out?

Currently, HG&E automatically knows about outages only when the majority of, or an entire circuit, is out.  Although HG&E is planning system upgrades that would allow it to automatically determine when any single customer is out of power, for the time being, the only way that HG&E can learn about a singular or small power outage is if it is reported by the customer.  Report an issue or outage.

I believe that my whole street is out of power. Should I call, or hope that others have already reported the outage?

You should call HG&E’s 24 hour emergency line at (413) 536-9300 to report the outage.  This way, you will ensure that the outage is reported to HG&E.  In the event that HG&E already knows that an entire area is out of power, a pre-recorded message will inform you and may potentially include any additional, pertinent information.

What should I do during a power outage?

(1)  While you are waiting for HG&E crews to arrive, unplug or turn off all appliances that turn on automatically when power is restored, including refrigerators, televisions, water pumps and furnaces.  Leave one light on so you will know when the power is back on.  Once power has been restored, gradually reconnect appliances and reset clocks and timers.

(2)  Unplug all unnecessary appliances and electric equipment such as stereos, TVs and computers.

(3)  Avoid opening your refrigerator or freezer (your food should stay fresh for at least 24 hours if the door is seldom opened).

(4)  To help prepare your family for power outages caused by storms, make sure you have the following available:

    • Flashlight and batteries;
    • Candles and matches;
    • Extra food and water;
    • First aid supplies and medicine; and
    • Fire extinguisher.

Also, ensure all cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices are fully charged before an impending storm begins.

(5) Do not plug a backup generator into an outlet in your home without first disconnecting from HG&E’s system; otherwise the power from your generator will flow backwards into our distribution system and may seriously injure our linemen.

(6) Do not burn charcoal for heat because it gives off dangerous fumes.  Furthermore, a fireplace may pull more warm air from a house than it gives out.

Electric Generator Usage and Safety

Portable electric generators are meant to be used as powered outlets with extension cords used to feed the appliances you chose to have run during an outage. If improperly installed to feed electricity into your home’s system, this power can feed back onto the power lines and electrocute the line workers who are working hard to restore your power.  Cord and plug methods to tie a generator directly into your house wiring system without using a transfer switch are illegal, and potentially very dangerous, or deadly.  Below please find a list of dos and don’ts when using electric generators:

DO DO NOT
If you are installing a stationary or stand-by emergency generator, have the work done by a qualified electrician and inspected by the City Wiring Inspector. Connect the generator to your home's main electrical panel - this could put your life and that of your family, neighbors, and HG&E's line workers in jeopardy.
If your generator is wired into your house system, a manual or automatic transfer switch must be installed as required by the National Electric Code.  The switch prevents the generator from backfeeding electricity onto power lines, which could be deadly to unsuspecting workers, your neighbors, as well as you and your home. Plug a portable electric generator into a regular household outlet - this can energize "dead" power lines and injure neighbors or utility workers.
Carefully read and observe all manufacturer's instructions in your portable electric generator's owner's manual, and always follow state, local and national fire and electric codes. Overload the generator or operate more appliances and equipment than your generator's output rating.  Overloading your generator can seriously damage your valuable electronics and appliances, so you must  prioritize your needs.  A portable electric generator should also be used only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment.
Operate your generator outdoors in a well ventilated and dry area where fumes will not get into your house. Operate your generator indoors, in your garage or in your basement as it emits carbon monoxide fumes.
Before shutting down your generator, shut off or unplug the connected appliances.
Keep children and pets away from portable electric generators at all times.
For more information, check out our electric generator safety page.

Do you keep a record of customers that depend on life-sustaining medical equipment? How do I get on that list?

HG&E has a list of health-related customers that depend on electrically powered, life-sustaining medical equipment in their homes, such as chest respirators and kidney machines, and prioritizes those customers in the event of a power outage.  If you depend on such equipment, you can get onto this list by calling our Electric Distribution Office at (413) 536-9355.  A medical note from a doctor stating the reason for being included on this list is required.  Depending on the nature of the outage at hand, HG&E does not necessarily guarantee expedient restoration times and it is therefore recommended that such customers have a generator available for use.

How do I report a streetlight that isn't functioning properly?

In order to report issues with a streetlight, you can use our online form or you can call our Electric Distribution Office at (413) 536-9355.

What do I do if I see something on HG&E's system that needs maintenance?

In order to report maintenance issues on HG&E’s system, such as low wires, sneakers on wires or branches on wires, please use our online form or you can call our Electric Distribution Office at (413) 536-9355.

Why is HG&E trimming trees in my area?

In order to comply with the National Electric Safety Code, utilities have the right to, and must, trim or remove trees that are growing near electric lines and threaten to disrupt service.  If HG&E is trimming trees in your area, it is because those trees are within a specified setback area for an electric line, increasing the threat of an outage on that line during a storm.  Such preventative maintenance is intended to reduce outages.  For more information, refer to our tree trimming page.

Why have all of the streetlights being changed out?

Between 2011 and 2014, HG&E replaced all of its high pressure sodium (HPS) streetlights with light emitting diode (LED) technology in order to reduce
energy consumption and save the City money on lighting costs.  For more information, visit our LED streetlights page.

What factors affect my electricity costs? Why would my bill change month to month?

There are a number of variables that can cause your HG&E utility bill to fluctuate each month.  For example, the use of an air conditioner during the summer or electric heat during the winter can significantly increase the amount of your bill. In addition, the number of days in the billing period, or changes in the number of people in your household, can affect your bill.

Aside from the efficiency of your central heating system, the following appliances are likely to be the biggest energy users in your home:

  • Portable space heaters
  • Electric water  heaters
  • Air conditioners
  • Refrigerators and freezers
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Water bed heaters

You can save money by making wise energy choices and purchases. It is important to remember that energy costs build up over time.  For that reason, it is important to look at the cost to run an appliance over its lifetime.

How can HG&E help me reduce my energy costs?

HG&E offers various energy efficiency incentive programs to help customers decrease their energy usage, thereby decreasing energy costs.  For residential customers, two of these programs involve rebates on select Energy Star appliances and free home energy audits through HG&E’s energy services partner, MuniHELPS.  In order to schedule an audit, you can contact MuniHELPS directly at (888) 333-7525. 

HG&E also offers zero interest loans for energy efficient projects for both residential and commercial customers.  Generally, $1.5 million is available for loans every year, and the typical loan term is five years.  Applications are handled on a first come, first serve basis. 

Learn how you can save energy and money, and check out our energy conservation tips!

What are HG&E's electric rates and how do they compare to other utilities?

HG&E has some of the lowest electric rates in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Current electrical rates for all customer classes are posted on this website.

What is the annual outage time that an average customer experiences?

HG&E provides extremely reliable power, with its average customer experiencing less than an hour of outage time every year (note that outages caused by force majeure events such as large storms which cause multiple day outages are not taken into account when developing this estimate).  HG&E currently holds a platinum designation from the American Public Power Association through its Reliable Public Power Provider program; An honor which was attained through HG&E’s ongoing commitment to reliability, safety, workforce development and continued system development, and that only 7% of all public utilities hold.

What are the benefits of public power?

Community owned, not for profit power providers are ultimately owned by you, their ratepayers, and therefore focus on customer needs rather than investor earnings.  Therefore, public power providers, such as HG&E, typically have lower rates, excellent power reliability and better customer service than investor owned utilities.  By having a municipal utility, any money generated remains in Holyoke and employment in Holyoke is boosted through both the utility itself and from business that moves into the city due, in part, to low electrical rates.  For more information, check out our public power advantage page.

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is electricity produced from sources that replenish themselves naturally.  This includes, but is not limited to, energy produced from hydro, wind, solar and geothermal technologies.  Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is not generated in the process of harnessing power from renewable resources.  Because resources such as water, wind and solar are readily available, will not run out, and are free, renewable energy stabilizes otherwise volatile electricity costs.  Furthermore, the development of renewable energy reduces dependence on foreign oil.

What are HG&E's current renewable energy initiatives?

Currently, hydroelectric power generated in the City of Holyoke at HG&E’s Hadley Falls Facility as well as various other facilities along the 4.5 mile, 3-tiered Holyoke Canal System accounts for nearly 65% of Holyoke’s annual electricity needs.

HG&E has partnered with private developers to construct three solar facilities within Holyoke, which have a combined capacity of 5.3 MW and generate enough electricity to power over 1,000 homes. 

HG&E has also been working closely with new, innovative clean energy technology vendors to site demonstration projects in Holyoke.  For more information, visit our clean energy growth page.

HG&E is constantly striving to identify new ways to increase its renewable energy generation capabilities either by increasing existing capacity or by siting new projects.

What is HG&E's power mix? How much energy comes from carbon-free sources?

Currently, approximately 66% of HG&E’s annual retail electricity sales are supplied by its renewable hydroelectric and solar sources of generation.  When paired with HG&E’s nuclear assets and carbon-free system power purchases, this results in an annual electrical supply that is over 92% carbon-free.  Learn more about our energy mix.

I want to install a renewable energy generator (i.e. solar panels, etc.) at my home or business. What do I need to know first?

Renewable energy that is installed at your home, referred to as distributed generation, is a way to help reduce your electricity bill with generation from a renewable energy system.  HG&E will credit all kilowatt-hours generated from the system at the calculated wholesale energy price.  Please note that the customer will still be charged for all of their consumption to their home or business. 

There are a lot of vendors out there looking to sell you their product.  If you have any questions about clean energy distributed generation technologies and the associated financials, please feel free to call HG&E at (413) 535-9333 or contact us electronically.

In order to ensure that your Distributed Generation will integrate smoothly on HG&E’s grid, you will have to fill out an interconnection application found in the Distributed Generation Policy packet in order to enable HG&E to perform a systems integration study.  Failure to follow this process will result in an inability to connect your Distributed Generation to HG&E’s electric system.

For more information, check out our renewable energy for customers page.

How do I reset a breaker?

  1. Identify the breaker that needs to be reset.  It usually appears red on the toggle handle, and is not always in the OFF position.
  2. If not already in the OFF position, move handle to the OFF position.
  3. Push handle past OFF position.
  4. Return handle to ON position.

How do I test ground fault interrupters?

Chances are, if you have a newer home or have remodeled an older home, some of your outlets are protected by ground fault interrupters (GFIs). GFIs are usually installed in bathrooms, kitchens and outside outlets—usually any location near sources of water.  These highly sensitive devices detect faults in the device plugged into the outlet and quickly shut power off to that outlet.  This minimizes the possibility of electric shock or damage to electrical equipment. GFIs are often provided as wall outlets or sometimes as circuit breakers in a breaker panel box.

It is good practice to test the GFI monthly. It is also a good idea to test the GFI after power outages. To test a GFI outlet or breaker, follow these simple instructions:

  1. Plug a lamp into the outlet and turn on.
  2. Push the TEST button - the lamp should go off.  If it does not, you should have your outlet checked by an electrician.
  3. Push the RESET button - the lamp should go back on.  If it does not, you should have your outlet checked by an electrician.

How do I change a fuse?

Before you begin, make sure your hands are dry, stand on a dry board or rubber pad, if possible, and have a flashlight with you.

  1. Disconnect lamps and appliances in use when the circuit went out.
  2. Open main switch (or open pull-out section of main panel in the service entrance) to cut off current while working at the branch circuit box.
  3. Identify the blown fuse. When a fuse blows, the transparent section becomes cloudy or blackened. Some older fuse boxes have small-diameter fuses that require an adapter in the receptacle. This adapter should not be removed, and you should purchase the correct-size fuse for this model.
  4. Replace the blown fuse with a new one of proper size. The smaller sizes screw in just like light bulbs. If the blown fuse is a cartridge type, located in the pull-out section, it can be removed and replaced with hand pressure. If the fuse is for an appliance greater than 120 volts, call an electrician. Some switches for such appliances as water heater, stoves, and clothes dryers will still be energized if they are fed from the panel, and improper fuse replacement could result in severe injury.
  5. Close the main switch or replace pull-out section to restore service.
  6. Throw away the blown fuse.

How can I live safely with electricity?

INDOORS OUTDOORS
Put safety caps on all electrical outlets, especially in households with children. These inexpensive items are available at hardware stores. Keep ladders, antennas, kites, and people away from power lines.
When bathing your child, unplug nearby electrical appliances—electricity and water are a deadly combination. Don't plant large trees beneath overhead lines. If a tree has power lines running through it, report it to HG&E. Do not attempt to trim the tree yourself.
Keep youngsters a safe distance from electric space heaters, and never leave small children unattended near electric appliances, lamps, fans or motors. Never use power tools or other outdoor equipment while it's raining or if the ground is wet.
Before operating a new appliance, read and follow manufacturer’s instructions. Don't hang signs on utility poles. HG&E’s line workers wear special rubber gloves to insulate them from electricity. Nails, staples and other fasteners can snag or puncture their gloves and endanger their lives.
Don't overload an outlet with too many plugs. Wires can overheat and cause a fire. Similarly, never overload a circuit—large appliances should have separate circuits.  Replace worn wires or extension cords, and never run them under rugs or over heaters. Consider all power lines energized and dangerous. Remember that metal and water can conduct electricity, so keep your distance and be careful what you touch. Even the ground around a downed wire can be electrically charged and deadly. If you see downed power lines, report them immediately to HG&E and let trained professionals take care of the situation.
Always unplug appliances not being used—even if the switch says "off," the power could still be flowing. If you happen to be in a car when power lines come down, stay there until help arrives. If the car is on fire and you need to get out, do not touch the ground and the car at the same time—the electrical current could pass through your body. Instead, jump as far from the vehicle as you can and then bunny hop or shuffle your feet until you are a safe distance from the car and wire. The key is to keep your feet as close together as possible

If someone receives an electric shock:

  • Don't touch any person or thing that is still in contact with the electricity. Call 911 immediately.
  • Shut off the circuit breakers before you touch the person.
  • If necessary, use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or CPR on the person. Cover the person with a blanket and wait until help arrives.

I am planning a project that requires digging. Do I really need to find out about underground utility locations?

Absolutely – It’s the law.  Before conducting any kind of work that involves digging, make sure that you call Dig Safe® at 811 in order to have all underground utilities (including electric, gas and telephone) marked.  This will not only prevent damage to the underground utilities, but will also ensure your safety as unintended contact could potentially result in severe injury or death.  Notification is required at least 48 hours in advance of digging operations.  In the event of an emergency, call Dig Safe® at 811 immediately.

How do I identify a wire on a pole, or from the pole to my house?

The lowest wire on a pole is your telephone line owned by Verizon.  There is typically a gray interface on your house that these wires are connected to.  The next lowest wire is your cable line owned by either Comcast (Holyoke) or Charter (Southampton).  There is typically a coaxial cable block on your house that these wires are connected to.  Fire alarm wires owned by the City’s Fire Alarm Division are on a few poles throughout the City.  These wires, if any, would be located above cable wires.  They can be found if they are connected to fire alarm boxes on our poles or free standing near poles.  Finally, electric lines are the highest wires on a pole and are connected to your home’s electric meter.

What do I do if I suspect that someone is stealing electricity?

If you suspect that someone if stealing electricity, report it confidentially by filling out our electronic form or by calling the Electric Distribution Office at (413) 536-9355, and HG&E will do the rest.  Reports may be filed anonymously. 

What are the clearance requirements around a meter or transformer if I want to plant bushes or install a fence?

A 3’ clearance from vegetation or structures is required in front of or on the side of a meter, and there must be a clear path to access said meter.  The doors of padmounted transformers must be free from bushes, fences, etc.  A 10’ clearance from these obstructions is required to safely maintain a transformer.

How do I protect my equipment from power surges?

A brief, sudden increase or decrease in voltage (spike) can at the very least cause a loss of data on computers, and on a few occasions, damage sensitive electronic equipment such as microwaves and televisions.  Prolonged increases (surges) or decreases (sags) in voltage can cause significant damage to the equipment if not properly protected.

Computers are very sensitive to variations in the power supply.  While these glitches are rare, they can damage your computer's hardware, crash programs or scramble data.  To guard against power surges, you can:

  1. Enroll in HG&E’s Surge Protection Program for just $4.25 per month.
  2. Copy and file data periodically (save your work at least every hour).
  3. Make sure your home or business is properly grounded to send stray voltages into the ground, not into the computer.
  4. Buy quality voltage surge protectors to help protect against spikes in voltage.  Ensure that the product is UL-tested and labeled as a surge-protection device.  Also, be sure to buy a unit with an indicator light that shows the surge protection is still working.  Surge protectors can fail after even one large voltage increase.
  5. During storms, unplug sensitive equipment, if possible.
  6. Install a filter to keep out noise and static interference caused by lightning, large electrical motors or other equipment.
  7. Install an uninterruptible power supply system (UPS) for the best way to protect computers or similar electronic devices against power failure, spikes, sags, surges, or data loss.
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