Pay for college using money you didn’t spend on electricity

Have you ever rolled your eyes at the parents who say tidying a home with multiple small children is easy, just get them to help?

I have. My 1-year-old is much better at making messes than cleaning them, but he has mastered a few small tasks. One of them, his favorite, is turning off the lights. Each time we leave a room, even when I forget, he reminds me. “Mama!” he’ll say, and point to each off-white switch. He also really likes to close the refrigerator door and push the buttons on our energy-efficient washer and dryer.

So, maybe, like cleaning the house, this is the secret to saving money: Put the kiddos to work.

If a 1-year-old can close doors and flip switches today, surely, in a few years, he could:

  • Set the thermostat a few degrees lower
  • Use the microwave instead of the oven for cooking
  • Use machines like washers, dryers, and dishwashers after 8 p.m.


  • Open the blinds or curtains on sunny winter days to let the sun in

And in the meantime, if he needs a few tips and refreshers, he can play this JUST-FOR-KIDS CFL Charlie game.

Let your little ones play this CFL Charlie game. In addition to amusing them, they'll also learn how to reduce energy waste at home, saving money for mom and dad!

The challenge is to change out the light bulbs and turn off the lights and electronics in the fastest time. With any hope, those skills will transfer from cyberspace into reality and that money can transfer from your utility bill to a college-savings fund!

Happy saving!

For more energy tips, visit!

How to stay safe from downed power lines? STAY IN your car

Instincts tell us to flee danger. Unfortunately, in vehicle accidents that bring down power lines, these natural inclinations can lead to tragic results.

Northern Plains Electric wants everyone to know: If your car hits a power pole, or otherwise brings a power line down, stay in your vehicle and wait until we, or the local electric utility arrives on the scene and ensures that lines have been de-energized. If you come upon or witness an accident involving toppled power poles and lines, don’t leave your vehicle to approach the scene.

Indiana teenagers Lee Whittaker and Ashley Taylor saw a power line safety demonstration at their high school and never dreamed their new knowledge would be put to the test. Five days later, they and two classmates were in a car that crashed into a utility pole, bringing live power lines to the ground.

Fortunately, they heeded the safety advice they’d received, and survived because they knew the right actions to take. And they helped others who approached the scene by warning them to stay away.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, tens of thousands of accidents each year occur where power poles are struck by cars or large equipment. Each one of these accidents has the potential to bring down power lines. Surviving the accident itself might not be enough to stay alive without awareness of the right moves to make.

In the vast majority of those incidents, the safest place to remain is inside the car. Only in the rare instance of fire should people exit a vehicle. Then, they must know how to do so safely, jumping free and clear, landing with feet together, and hopping away. It’s difficult to get out without creating a path for current to flow, which is why one should get out only if forced to.

“When people are involved in a car accident, electricity is usually the last thing on anyone’s mind,” Safe Electricity Executive Director Molly Hall notes. “We’re often more concerned about whether anyone was injured, or how badly the vehicle is damaged. We forget that by exiting the vehicle, we’re risking bodily exposure to thousands of volts of electricity from downed power lines.”

Lee and Ashley are grateful to White County Rural Electric Membership Corporation, the Safe Electricity partner electric cooperative that sponsored a Live Line Demo program at their school. The students are encouraging everyone to learn from their experience.

To learn more, watch the video on Visitors can also check out a live power line demonstration, just like the one the Indiana teens saw at their school.

EDITORIAL NOTE: This article was provided by Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council and, in observance of National Electrical Safety Month.

Spring into energy $avings: Five steps = $300 in savings

Spring is a perfect time of year to make your home more energy-efficient.  Here are five quick tips that will save both energy and money. To learn about additional ways to cut your energy bill this spring, visit, or contact an energy expert at Dakota Valley Electric at 800-342-4671.

1. Seal the cracks and gaps around your home.  Spring may be the right time to put away those storm windows, but it is also a good time to add weather-stripping and caulking around leaky window panes. shows how easy it is to use a caulking gun to seal up leaks around your house around doors, vents, ductwork and windows. A typical member at Dakota Valley Electric can save more than $200 annually.

2. Change filters regularly. Furnace and air conditioner filters need to be changed monthly and this can really help lower monthly energy bills.  Dirty filters can restrict air flow and reduce the overall efficiency of your cooling system and make it work even harder on hot summer days.

Spend a little time to save a lot of coin: replacing air filters keeps heating and cooling systems efficient.

3. Clean the refrigerator inside and out.  Now is a good time to not only throw out the leftover fruit cake from the holidays, but also to check the temperature settings on your refrigerator.  Ideally, a refrigerator’s temperature should be between 37 and 40 degrees for maximum operating efficiency.

When it’s time to replace that old refrigerator, be sure to buy an ENERGY STAR® rated appliance. Energy-efficient appliances can save Dakota Valley members as much as $100 a year based on calculations from the website.

4. Think sun block. demonstrates that by pulling the shades on your windows this spring and summer, you could save about $35 a year.  Your local hardware or do-it-yourself stores has lots of inexpensive window coverings. Best of all, by blocking the sun, your house will stay cool and comfortable year-round.

5. Enjoy the spring breezes.  Use a clothesline throughout the warmer months to let the sun and breeze dry clothes naturally.  This will reduce both energy and water bills, and add a genuine clean scent to your family’s laundry.

You can learn more about ways to lower your monthly energy bill by visiting or by calling the energy experts at Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative.

Anyone headed to Bismarck to learn how to cut energy costs?

If not. You should. Here’s the info!

Energy Matter$: Living Green in the 21st Century, a new program to explore energy efficiency and green living with area residents, will be held in Bismarck on May 22.

Energy Matter$ will be held from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday May 22 at Great River Energy’s Ft. Union Conference Room located at 1531 East Century Avenue, Bismarck. Dana Pritschet, North Dakota Department of Agriculture Local Foods Specialist, and Carl Pederson, North Dakota State University Extension Energy Specialist will provide programs on easy ways to save energy every day. Pedersen’s program covers simple, practical ways to make a home more energy efficient. He will also highlight “Home Energy 101”, a comprehensive online course that guides users in making energy saving adjustments in their existing homes and thrifty energy efficiency concepts to employ while building a home. Pritschet will offer easy and inexpensive ways to grow fresh foods and to take advantage of the benefits of locally grown produce.

The program is open to the public and there is no cost to attend; participants need to bring a lunch. To register call the Burleigh County Extension Office at 701-221-6865 or email megan.d.myrdal@ndsu.eduby May 18.

This program is sponsored jointly by ND Alliance for Renewable Energy, NDSU Extension Service and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.