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Jan 23 , 2012

Moscow Pullman Daily News editorial says it all

Post by Brandi Smith

Below is an excerpt from a Moscow Pullman Daily News editorial published on Saturday, Jan. 21. We want to share it with you because we take great pride in serving our customers as quickly as possible. Whether it’s in the midst of a storm or just a normal day, you can always count on the people who work at Avista to respond quickly and efficiently no matter what the weather does. 

With snow, ice, power outages, remember to say ‘thanks’

Written by Lee Rozen/M-P Daily News

Odd that a snow and ice storm, downed trees and power failures can get us feeling thankful.

Living here on the Palouse gives us a lot to be thankful for.

But we think the quick response and fast recovery from the chaos of Thursday night and Friday morning deserves extra thanks.

In some places with privately owned power companies, the response might still be getting organized. But Thursday night, we were glad for every dollar we pay Avista in our monthly power bill. As the deluge of ice and snow brought down trees and branches on power lines and caused transformers to explode, Avista moved quickly and efficiently to repair the damage or route around it. And then do it again. And again. (continued/login required.)

A login to the Moscow Pullman Daily News website is required
to view the whole story here.

Published: 1/23/2012  11:34 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 19 , 2012

Crew photo

Post by Dan Kolbet
We just released six contractor (Asplundh) tree-trimming crews to help Puget Sound Energy clean up after their major winter storm issues on the West side of Washington.
It's a mutal aid agreement. If/when Avista needs assistance, PSE would send help our way too. Stay safe and best of luck to all the crews working in these terrible weather conditions.
The image to the right shows an electric line crew at work yesterday, not a tree-trimming crew.
UPDATE at 3:45: We just released another six electric line crews (International Line Builders) to help in the Olympia area. The previous crews we sent West were tree-trimming crews, but these are full line crews that can do repairs. Best of luck to them.
Published: 1/19/2012  1:24 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 18 , 2012
Youtube Video
An Avista electric crew spent a few hours today replacing a utility pole at our Beacon Substation in East Spokane. The original pole caught fire this morning, the exact cause was undetermined. The crew dug through roughly a foot of frost and frozen dirt around the pole before it could be removed. The new pole was placed in the same location as the original. The power lines were temporarily affixed to a nearby pole before being installed permanently on the new pole.

At 11 a.m., temperatures where hovering around 25 degrees with blowing snow at the job site. According to crew members the cold isn’t an issue, they are used to that. The trouble with snow is when they set down a piece of equipment to prep it for installation - the snow buries it in just minutes.

Preparing for an outage
Avista crews are prepared to work in any weather condition to restore your power as quickly and safely as possible. As the snow piles up around our service territory, we expect outages. You can count on Avista to get the lights back on right away, but it’s always best to be prepared at home. Check out these winter weather tips to keep in mind.
Published: 1/18/2012  2:22 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 06 , 2011
Drawdown to winter level begins on Tuesday after Labor Day
Avista is beginning its annual fall drawdown of Lake Coeur d’Alene Sept. 6. The lake will be gradually lowered approximately a foot from full pool by the end of September, and an additional 1½ feet per month thereafter until reaching its winter level. Property owners and boaters should take measures to secure docks and boats for the winter season during this period.

As part of Avista’s FERC license to operate its Spokane River Hydroelectric Project, which includes Post Falls Dam, Avista is required to maintain the level of Coeur d’Alene Lake at summer full-pool elevation of 2,128 feet from as early as practical in the spring until the Tuesday after Labor Day. (Read More).
Published: 9/6/2011  12:52 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 19 , 2011
Post Falls spill gates
The Post Falls Dam spill gates during high water runoff.
Photo courtesy of Avista employee Patty Hanson.
Water levels allow spill gates at Post Falls Dam to be closed
Avista is advising Spokane River users that river recreation is now permitted in the area between the Spokane Street Bridge and the boat restraining systems located just upstream of the Post Falls Dam. River flows have dropped sufficiently to allow all of the spill gates at the hydroelectric facility to be closed. 
The City of Post Falls boat launch at Q’emiln Park was opened to the public Monday, July 18. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and the July 4 holiday. The median date for closing the gates is June 22. This year, cool spring temperatures and a lingering, heavy snowpack caused longer than normal high water flows, which delayed the opening of the boat launch.
Avista expects summer operation at the dam to continue through Labor Day, as long as weather conditions allow. River users are cautioned that weather conditions can cause rapid changes in water levels. Please exercise caution when using the waterways.
For current information on anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’ Alene Lake, Lake Spokane, and the Spokane River, to call Avista’s 24-hour telephone information line. In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington, call (509) 495-8043. The recorded information is provided to advise shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use. You can also check weather and water flow information here.  
Published: 7/19/2011  2:06 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 18 , 2011
Post by Dan Kolbet 

Yesterday I was driving home after running some errands with my family when the kids asked if they could play in the sprinklers. It was about 87 degrees outside and I’d just battled Wal-Mart and Costco, so even I was ready for sprinklers! So I said OK and they quickly got into their swimsuits when we got home.

Since my wife and I were still unloading our groceries in the kitchen and the kids really wanted to go outside NOW, we just opened up the back curtains and watched them though the window as we put everything away. As I pulled back the curtains, a blast of heat hit me directly. My little curtains covering our back windows were doing one heck of a good job of blocking out the heat. I have seen all the messages about closing your windows during the day to block the sun and opening the windows at night when it’s cool, but it was never as clear to me as it was yesterday.

About an hour later it was time to watch the U.S. Women’s World Cup game on TV. I made this required viewing for my 6 and 7-year-old girls. I headed down to the basement to turn the game on. My girls come down the stairs in jeans and long-sleeve shirts. “It’s cold down here, dad,” they told me. And indeed it was. While the rest of the house was fighting to stay livable, the basement felt like a snow day. Hot air rises, so the basement was nice and chilly while the bedrooms upstairs were not so great. We watched the game under blankets. (Congrats to Japan by the way, even though I was obviously cheering for the U.S.)

Later that evening my wife opened up the doors and windows because it had cooled off quite a bit outside. We spent part of the evening reading and talking on the front porch, where a slight breeze made it rather comfortable. A nice way to end the day.

So to sum up my findings from yesterday:
-Sprinklers are always cool
-Use your curtains wisely
-Don’t be afraid of the basement
-Get outside when it cools off
In the Northwest we get maybe two months of hot weather – lately it’s more like one day here and there. Because of our wonderfully inconsistent weather pattern, some of these easy ways to beat the heat may just escape us.  Don’t let the heat beat you – you can always just hide in your basement like me.
Published: 7/18/2011  4:31 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 10 , 2011
Lake Spokane
High water flows prompt action
Post by Anna Scarlett 
Avista will be drawing down the elevation of Lake Spokane (also known as Long Lake) over the next several days, in order to perform maintenance work required as a result of the current and projected high flows on the Spokane River.

As of May 9, the level of Lake Spokane was about 1,535 feet, which is about 1 foot below its normal summer elevation. We expect to decrease the level of the reservoir to bring it to an elevation approximately 3 feet below normal summer level by Thursday, and will return the reservoir to approximately 1 foot below its summer elevation beginning next week.

Due to high seasonal snowpack and warmer temperatures, the National Weather Service is predicting rapidly increasing river flows and high water on the Spokane River over the next several weeks. Avista operators at our Spokane River hydroelectric facilities, which include Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, and our downstream dams, Nine Mile and Long Lake, work together to coordinate spilling so that we operate efficiently and manage reservoir levels. However, we want to remind you that weather conditions can cause river and reservoir levels to change rapidly, so please use caution on the water and comply with all posted notices and closures.

Avista wants you to stay safe during your spring and summer activities on area reservoirs and waterways. Please remember, especially during spring run-off, the waters near a dam can contain hidden dangers. Swirling water, submerged objects, strong currents and open spill gates can pose serious hazards to boaters and other recreationists, and sudden discharges of water from spillways and turbines can rapidly increase water levels and river flows. You can always check river and lake levels on our website at, or by calling 509-495-8043 or 208-769-1357.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and appreciate your understanding as we perform necessary maintenance and operations of our hydroelectric facilities on the Spokane River.

If you have any questions about this drawdown, please send us an e-mail.
Published: 5/10/2011  12:27 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Feb 25 , 2011
Snow vid
Don’t forget to clear a path to your meters too
Post by Dan Kolbet

I got a lot of grief last November when I posted a video about clearing a path to your meter using my snow blower. Why did I use it when I only had a tiny little strip to clear? What a wimp, right? To selfishly vindicate myself I created the video shown above yesterday morning before work. Here’s the work that I didn’t show.

Can you snowblow your driveway in less than a minute?

Got a video or pics of your meters (cleared of snow)? E-mail them my way.

And don’t forget to clear a path to your meters (even if it is February and it really shouldn't be snowing anyway.)
Published: 2/25/2011  10:19 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 12 , 2011
Snowy tree branch
Has this winter been colder than past winters? Sort of, but even little changes really add up
Post byDan Kolbet
Twitter: @Dan_at_Avista

Click to enlarge
The average high and low winter temperatures
in Spokane for the past three winters. Click to enlarge.
I’ve heard online and from friends and co-workers over the last several weeks that this winter (2010-2011) seems particularly cold. Thinking back on it, I recall the previous winter didn’t seem too cold at all. Yet that was in comparison to my memory of the 2008-2009 winter. So I guess it’s all relative.

This week I wanted to find out if the weather was really colder and if it was impacting customer bills, so I set off on a quest for information.

I decided to look up average temperatures with the National Weather Service and see if this winter was colder than the previous one. Then I created the chart on the left (click it for larger detail). I recorded the average high and low temperature in Spokane in September, October, November, December and January over the past three winters.

If you really love charts, then by all means, do your own analysis of the data, but for you normal people – here’s what I found: It depends.

For example, so far in January 2011 we’re averaging a low temperature of 14.6 degrees, compared to last year of 40 degrees - a pretty big difference. Of course the month isn’t even half over, so this is going to change. But December 2010’s average low was warmer than 2009 (24.5 to 19.1), but November was colder (27.0 to 30.4).

Since my fancy chart isn’t telling me much, I contacted Avista’s energy efficiency expert Tom Lienhard to find out what sort of impact temperature changes really have on a home. Turns out, it’s quite a bit.

There are really three ways you can lose heat in your home, but the biggest one is through conductive heat loss which happens through the walls, floors, ceiling, doors and windows of your home. The lower the R-value of each fenestration (wall, window or door), the more heat that leaves the home.

The colder the temperature outside, the harder your home works to maintain the desired temperature inside. Depending on the weather, a home could use 300% more energy to accomplish that consistent temperature inside.

Here’s an example of how it works:

Let’s say we have a building that has 1,600 square feet of floor space, but it has 4,480 square feet of surface area to lose heat (40x40 foot building with 8 foot high walls and flat floor and ceiling.)  The R-value all over this example home is R-20. We’re measuring heat loss in BTUs.

If the outside temperature is 7 degrees, the loss in BTUs would be: 15,372 per hour or 368,928 for a day. That’s 4.6 therms a day from an 80% efficient furnace.

On a warmer day, say 45 degrees, the loss in BTUs would be just 5,600 BTUs per hour or 134,400 BTUs for a day. That’s 1.68 therms a day from an 80% efficient furnace.

So in our little test home, a 7 degree day uses almost 3 times or 300% of the energy of a 45 degree day to stay warm. If you don’t have much insulation in your home and your average R-value is closer to 10, then you would use almost twice as much energy as listed above. 

So, in conclusion, Tom will officially do my math from now on. And when the temperatures dip down low, your home is probably working overtime to keep you toasty.

If you’re interested to getting scientific at your house too, sign up for a Home Energy Audit in Spokane County today and learn where your energy is going. Any Avista customer can also use the Avista Online Home Energy Analyzer for free.
Published: 1/12/2011  3:58 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 10 , 2011

Snowy and cold

Manage your comfort and your energy by applying energy efficiency tips and taking advantage of a number of services Avista has to offer

Post by Dan Kolbet

We’re probably going to get down to single digits in the Spokane/CdA area tonight, here are some tips to make it through the chill. We suggest checking your home’s air flow as one way to help stay comfortable while managing your energy bill.

Lineman working in the snow and cold.
Make sure door sweeps are in good condition will help prevent cold air from seeping in under doors. As a temporary measure, roll a towel and place at the base of exterior doors. Other no-cost suggestions include:

-Set your heating thermostat at 68 degrees when you are home and reduce it a few degrees at night and when you are away.

-If you have a ceiling fan, select the setting (forward or reverse) that will disperse the warm air collecting near the ceiling. The winter setting should be such that if you stand under the fan you feel no direct breeze.

-Turn off kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans when you are done.  In one hour, these fans can pull a house full of warm air right out of the home.

-Don’t block heating registers, move furniture to allow heat to flow freely, and make sure all return air openings are unobstructed.

-Consider rearranging furniture so you are not spending time sitting in front of a window.

-Close drapes and blinds to help keep the heat inside and the cold outside.

-Add a sweater and an extra blanket to stay warm rather than adjusting the thermostat. 

-Replace your furnace air filter if you have not done so within the past month.

-Restrict the use of your wood fireplace in extremely cold weather. Fireplaces can rob your home of heat provided by your heating system and reduce your comfort.

Avista offers billing options, such as Comfort Level Billing that can help you manage your energy bill each month. Energy efficiency programs like the home energy analyzer tool and home energy audits, energy efficiency incentives and rebates are also available to help customers manage their electricity and natural gas consumption. Click here to learn more about these programs.
Published: 1/10/2011  4:23 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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