Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Winter Meter Reminders from Wisconsin Public Service and Xcel Energy, by Madison Norris

An abundance of snow this winter and more in the forecast prompts reminders about snow removal, piling of snow and melting icicle information from Wisconsin Public Service and Xcel Energy.

Customers choosing to clear roofs from snow using shovels or rakes should be extremely cautious working near power lines. Xcel Energy suggests staying more than 10 feet away from power lines when removing snow from roofs.

Electric and natural gas meters covered with heavy snow should be cleared by hand or broom. Use of shovels, rakes and other tools can damage the equipment.

Radiant heat from the sun can melt snow even at below freezing temperatures. It is important to remove icicles that grow too long to prevent dripping water from refreezing on meters. Large icicles that break off could cause damage to the meter creating a safety hazard or loss of gas service.

Xcel Energy says a gas meter covered in snow or ice can also cause a natural gas leak.

“I had no idea that I even needed to check my meters for snow or ice buildup. It is scary to think that it can happen so easily and can quickly lead to really dangerous situations,” says La Crosse resident Brandon Forcier.

Customers who notice ice on the meter or are concerned that the meter's regulator vent may be blocked should call their local energy company for assistance. There is no charge to call Xcel Energy for these types of situations.

Xcel Energy reminds customers to always maintain a clean pathway to the gas and electric meters in case of an emergency or routine maintenance check. The city of La Crosse mandates owners must clear public sidewalks in front of their houses within 24 hours of snowfall. During these times, home or business owners can make it a habit to clear a safe pathway and check on meters as well.

“I can look out at my neighbors and very easily notice no one, including myself, has a clear path to the meters. I suppose no one really thinks about clearing a path in their yard,” admits Forcier.  

Renters should check with landlords to determine whose responsibility it is to clear and maintain meters and pathways.  The utility will send an average bill if a meter isn’t visible, and the full amount could come due at move out and provide an unpleasant surprise, after a winter as cold as this one.

Public or private snowplowing services should use caution when moving snow near utility services and meters. This is primarily important for meters near businesses. Plowing heavy snow onto meters could cause damage resulting in loss of service.

Snow piles should not be piled high enough to be in close proximity to overhead power lines.
In the event of an emergency Xcel Energy customers can call the provided 24-hour emergency contacts. For an electric emergency/power outage call 1-800-895-1999 and for a gas emergency/gas leak call 1-800-895-2999.

For additional cold weather tips regarding heat, carbon monoxide, vents and meters, visit http://www.wisconsinpublicservice.com/home/coldweathertips.