The Impact of Aging Energy Infrastructure

The Impact of Aging Energy Infrastructure

Most energy customers don’t think about the electricity and natural gas that powers their appliances and heats and lights their home – unless there’s a problem.

And, given the age and condition of our energy infrastructure, the problems compound every year.

Through the 1980s, significant power outages averaged fewer than five per year, but that number has done more than steadily climb – it’s begun to skyrocket. There were 76 significant outages in 2007 and more than 300 in 2011.

Erosion of infrastructure has significant consequences

Some pipelines date back to the 1880s, with most natural gas pipelines being installed prior to 1980. Pipeline breaks and refinery outages cause supply disruptions, which, in turn, lead to higher prices. Reported spills have increased from 573 in 2012 to 715 in 2015.

These soaring numbers have begun to erode customers’ trust and faith in their energy utilities – and they’re looking to find their own solutions.

The problem isn’t enough energy – in fact, with the growth of renewables, more energy is being produced than the grid can often handle, which creates its own set of problems. The issue is the age of the system. More than 50 percent of our energy infrastructure was built prior to the 1970s, and another 20 percent was built in the 1970s and 1980s.

Blackouts have cost the country’s economy billions, but addressing outdated infrastructure will cost billions more – as it stands, the infrastructure, which is a privately owned piecemeal patchwork, may be worth $876 billion. Other estimates put it at between $1.5 and $2 trillion, with a complete replacement costing $5 trillion.

So much of the system has aged beyond reasonable use that the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the infrastructure a D+, estimating that tens of billions of dollars will need to be invested into the infrastructure to improve it. Department of Energy estimates show that more than $12 billion must be spent to maintain natural gas pipelines, stabilize the grid and provide the capacity to handle the influx of renewable energy.

Growth in renewables further stresses grid

The demand for energy has slowed significantly as homeowners seek out energy efficiency, often for its cost savings, but more and more frequently for its environmental benefits. Over the past decade, electrical usage has been flat, and total energy use has declined by 2 percent.

The lion’s share of innovation – and customer growth – will be in renewable energy. However, the aging grid isn’t set up to handle the integration of renewable energy, since energy can’t be stored on the grid, but in the form of coal, natural gas and nuclear materials. One way to improve the integration is to upgrade the transmission network, so energy from places such as Texas, where there has been heavy investment in wind energy, can be transmitted to places without inexpensive and environmentally friendly energy.

Upgrading transmission lines isn’t easy or inexpensive, especially as many utilities face maintenance and upgrade costs while having rate increases capped by regulators. An answer may lie in distributed generation and microgrids.

A microgrid’s ability to operate independently of the main grid can reduce outages, acting essentially as back-up, and being flexible enough to cover anything from a single home or business to jails, hospitals, college campuses and entire neighborhoods. Microgrids also allow connections to distributed energy generators, such as solar panels and wind turbines – and tying into a local energy source will reduce transmission losses. In addition, during a cloudy day, the connection through the microgrid to the main grid allows continued function without a loss of power.

It’s estimated the global distributed energy generation market, driven by lowering costs, will reach more than $570 billion within ten years, and North America is an attractive market. Some utilities have already begun investing billions in renewables as coal plants either age out or the profitability of constructing new ones plummets.

Home wiring systems may need upgrades

This will mean more affordable and reliable energy for rate payers – as long as their service lines and interior electrical systems are in good working order. Like the grid, many home wiring systems have reached the end of their usable lifespans. HomeServe USA can provide affordable home warranty programs to protect rate payers from the expense of unexpected home repairs. For information on a partnership, contact us.

Heating System Tune-Ups: Better late than never, but right now is even better!

Heating System Tune-Ups: Better late than never, but right now is even better!

It might not feel like it right now, but colder weather is right around the corner. That makes it the perfect time to make sure your customers’ heating systems are prepared to handle the inevitable – plummeting winter temperatures. Waiting until the first cold day of the season is not the right time to find out if a heater is functioning properly.

Did you know that, on average, a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems together run over 2,000 hours each and every year and that replacement of either a heating or cooling unit can cost thousands? That’s why we are working to promote National Tune Up Day, a yearly reminder that scheduling an annual tune-up takes just a few minutes but can save a whole lot of money and hassle in the long run.

During a tune-up, a competent technician typically goes through the following important check-list of system tasks:

  • Check safety systems and controls
  • Check/adjust thermostats
  • Check/adjust burners
  • Check/clean pilot
  • Check/clean gauge and flush low water cut-off
  • Check filters and belts
  • Check flue pipe and chimney draft
  • Check oil motors and pumps
  • Check/clean blower assembly
  • Check condensate line if applicable

While many Americans don’t expect to have to deal with a home emergency, over half of the respondents in a 2018 HomeServe survey reported having a home repair emergency just in the past year – and HVAC repairs topped the list. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To learn more, click here.

HomeServe Helps WWII Veteran Stay in Home

HomeServe Helps WWII Veteran Stay in Home

Paul T. was living his retirement years surrounded by his family, sharing his Waukegan, Illinois, home with the children he had raised there and his grandchild. His family looked after the 96-year-old, especially because he was an asthmatic and developed health issues that required the use of oxygen.

All was well … until the day Paul’s son, Paul Jr., found six inches of grey water in the family’s unfinished basement.

A Backup in the Basement

Paul’s sewer service line was invaded by roots, choking the line and causing a backup.  Paul Jr. and his son had addressed a prior sewage back up with the help of a rented plumber’s auger, but nothing they did addressed the current issue. Not only was their basement full of grey water, but the water had ruined the water heater and the family was without hot water.

Fearful for their father’s health and worried about the possibility of toxic mold, the family sent the World War II veteran to live with a nearby family member as they tried to address the issue – and how they would pay for it. Repairs were expected to cost approximately $3,000 – more than the tight-knit family could afford.

With their patriarch in exile, six inches of grey water in their basement and no hot water, the family didn’t know what to do.

HomeServe Comes to the Rescue

Then HomeServe stepped in; alerted to the family’s troubles, the national home warranty company sent Rockland Plumbing on an emergency, after-hours call to pump the grey water out of the basement.

“When you have a veteran in a situation like that, your heart goes out to them,” John Kitzie, HomeServe CEO said. “This is someone who served our country, so it is our great honor to be serving him now.”

Paul T. isn’t only a World War II veteran, but also a Korean War veteran, having served in the military for 20 years, before switching professions and becoming a restauranteur.

“My dad is my hero,” Paul Jr. said. “We are grateful. Thank you.”

In addition to pumping out the basement, Rockland returned a few days later at HomeServe’s request to clean out the sewer line that was the source of the problem – the line had been infiltrated with roots. So Rockland Plumbing used an auger and cutting tool to cut back the roots.

However, since root intrusion is a persistent problem, the company also installed a clean out, digging approximately six feet by hand, around the natural gas service line and an abandoned water service line, down to the sewer line so they could install it. The clean out will provide a convenient access point for quick and easy sewer service line cleaning – one the home where the family has lived for three decades previously didn’t have.

Jake Oiler, son of Rockland owner Rocky Oiler, was on hand to do some digging and noted the family-owned business especially is sensitive to veterans and their needs.

“We always want to do whatever we can for veterans,” he said.

Once the basement was free of water, HomeServe also arranged the installation of a new water heater, returning hot water to the family’s home – all of it at no cost to Paul and his family.

Helping Veterans is What We Do

This isn’t the first time HomeServe has come to a veteran’s aid – or even the first time the company has helped a veteran whose troubles began with water in the basement.

Another WWII veteran, 87-year-old Edward A. of Lynn, Massachusetts, was faced with record-breaking cold temperatures and no heat after a January Nor’easter flooded his basement with four feet of water. The water flooded Edward’s boiler, leaving him without heat at the worst possible time.

However, HomeServe wasn’t about to leave Edward out in the cold. The company replaced the boiler at no charge to Edward, leaving him happy and, most importantly, warm.

“I’ve always known that there are some good people in business out there,” Edward said. “It took me quite a while to really grasp that this company was this good.”

To learn about how you can partner with HomeServe and bring peace of mind to your residents and customers, contact us.

 

HomeServe Network Contractor Helps Ensure Customer Safety through HomeServe Cares

HomeServe Network Contractor Helps Ensure Customer Safety through HomeServe Cares

When Robin Tusa of Tusa’s Plumbing was at Tijuana B.’s Fort Worth, Texas, home, she noticed something odd: When they plugged in her equipment, they turned off their television.

Tusa, a HomeServe USA network contractor, was at the home to unclog a sewer line when she noticed the issue.

“I had come out to this residence to take care of a main line stoppage,” she said. “I took care of the stoppage for them and we found roots in the line, so I came back to jet. When I went to unplug the outlet, that’s when I saw they had turned the TV off to allow me to have electricity to run the machine.”

Tijuana explained she had been having issues with outlets popping and catching fire.

“Some of our outlets, when we plugged them in, it would trip the breaker,” Tijuana said. “The one in my room caught fire.”

Tusa knew just what to do: She called HomeServe and advocated for her client, asking if there was anything that could be done to help Tijuana. She knew the issue could be a potential safety hazard.

“I reached out to some of my contacts and ended up getting [help] through the [HomeServe] Cares program,” Tusa said.

There was no way to know whether it was a minor problem requiring a quick fix or a serious one that could run into thousands of dollars to re-wire the home until the problem was examined by a qualified electrician, but Tusa had faith that HomeServe would deliver.

And HomeServe did, sending out Chris Riggins of CER Electrical Services to examine the outlets and electrical panel – at no cost to Tijuana.

“I recommend HomeServe to all my neighbors and my family, because I know they’re on a tight budget,” Tijuana said. “This is a way to help them save.”

Happily, the problem quickly remedied, the faulty circuit repaired and the safety hazard no longer threatened Tijuana and her family.

“A lot of the other home warranty customers don’t take care of their customers the way HomeServe does,” Tusa said. “A lot of the other companies, you get bonuses if you deny everything and you look for reasons not to get it covered. At HomeServe, they take care of their customers.”

HomeServe Hosts Third Annual Contractor Conference with Special Guests from the PBS Series This Old House

HomeServe Hosts Third Annual Contractor Conference with Special Guests from the PBS Series This Old House

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.- Last week, HomeServe USA, a leading provider of home repair solutions to 3.6 million customers across the U.S. and Canada, hosted 46 of the company’s top contractor partners at its Third Annual Contractor Conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hosted at The Chattanoogan in downtown Chattanooga, the day-and-a-half long conference serves as an educational and networking opportunity for a select group of top contractors within the company’s 1,400-member North American contractor network.

In addition to hearing from keynote speakers and participating in focus groups, attendees toured HomeServe’s new state-of-the-art Customer Center of Excellence in Chattanooga to see firsthand how the company uses technology to improve its customer service and provide better efficiency to all of its contractors.

In July, HomeServe signed on as a proud sponsor of the venerable fan favorite PBS TV show This Old House. To celebrate that partnership, representatives from This Old House, including CEO Eric Thorkilsen and plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, joined the company’s top contractors at the conference. Trethewey, a fourth-generation contractor and featured speaker at the conference, talked about the need to close the trade skills gap, especially as it relates to the type of work HomeServe and its contractors do every day. He noted that more than 5.6 million jobs are currently unfillable due to the shortage of qualified skilled workers. Tretheway also highlighted This Old House’s two-year-old effort called Generation Next, a campaign working to close the skills gap by encouraging young people to master the vocational trades that built this country.

With the skills gap top of mind, HomeServe announced its new veteran’s employment initiative, which aims to promote careers in skilled trades to U.S. military veterans. As part of the initiative, the company will commit $100,000 annually to help connect HomeServe’s network of contractors from around the country with qualified U.S. military veterans. In addition, HomeServe will target active duty military personnel whose service is concluding with a new transition-to-trade marketing effort. Communications and marketing components of the initiative include a dedicated Facebook site, a partnership with military recruiter Viqtory and targeted digital outreach. HomeServe’s efforts complement This Old House’s Generation Next initiative – of which HomeServe is also a new sponsor – to encourage more young people to enter the trades.

“HomeServe’s business thrives on skilled contractors who can fulfill our customers’ needs by repairing and installing the equipment they rely on every day in their homes. In talking with our contractors, we identified an area that makes us all vulnerable: a significant shortage of skilled contractors and tradespeople entering the workforce,” said HomeServe USA CEO John Kitzie. “One of the ways we believe we can help address the issue is by tapping into the talent and experience of our nation’s veterans. Our initiative aims to match qualified veterans with terrific job opportunities, which in turn will help our contractors find reliable candidates to fill seemingly countless positions across the U.S.”

HomeServe presented several awards at the conference to recognize the top contractors in the company’s network. The top winners were:

Diamond Award: The newly created award was given to D Lanzo Plumbing of Hackensack, New Jersey, and United Plumbing of Goshen, Kentucky. The recipients truly embody HomeServe’s values of service excellence and customer satisfaction, and they are proven industry leaders that consistently uphold and deliver high quality performance.

Best Use of Technology Award: GT Plumbing & Heating of Flushing, New York

Newcomer Award: Honoring the contractor partner that joined the HomeServe network in the last year and has proven to be a top performer, this award was given to Longs Corporation of Fairfax, Virginia.

National Winner for Customer Service: R.B. Travis Plumbing of Livermore, California

National Winner for Service Delivery: BP Electric of Lexington, Ohio

Customer Service Awards were presented to the top contractor in each region that most consistently provides timely and professional service to customers. The winners were:

Northeast – Powerflo of Staten Island, New York

Mid-Atlantic – Total Plumbing of Warminster, Pennsylvania

Southeast – In Control Plumbing of Winter Park, Florida

Mid-Ohio – McAtee of Columbus, Ohio

Central – Absolute Comfort of Minot, North Dakota

West Coast – R.B. Travis of Livermore, California

Service Delivery Awards went to a contractor in each region that consistently demonstrates exceptional service delivery though solid business practices. The winners were:

Northeast – Joseph L Balkan of Richmond Hill, New York

Mid-Atlantic – Thomas Parisse & Sons of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Southeast – K&S Plumbing of Pelham, Alabama

Mid-Ohio – BP Electric of Lexington, Ohio

Central – Action Mechanical of Rapid City, South Dakota

West Coast – Frassica Plumbing of Corona, California

“When it comes to contractors, HomeServe is proud to work with the best of the best across the country because we know they share our commitment to high-quality customer service,” said Sylvester Criscone, Vice President, Contractor Management and Administration at HomeServe. “Each one of these contractors, and the men and women who work for them, stand out because of their ability to adapt to market changes, use new technology to run their operations, and remain committed to achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction.”

The contractors were evaluated against a number of criteria for the Top Contractor Awards, including performance reports, score cards and customer feedback.

About HomeServe

HomeServe USA Corp. (HomeServe) is a leading provider of home repair solutions serving over 3.6 million customers across the US and Canada under the HomeServe, Home Emergency Insurance Solutions, Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA) and Service Line Warranties of Canada (SLWC) names. Since 2003, HomeServe has been protecting homeowners against the expense and inconvenience of water, sewer, electrical, HVAC and other home repair emergencies by providing affordable repair coverage, installations and quality local service. As an A+ rated Better Business Bureau Accredited Business, HomeServe is dedicated to being a customer-focused company supplying best-in-class repair plans and other services to consumers directly and through over 600 leading municipal, utility and association partners.

HomeServe is a proud sponsor of This Old House on PBS, working together to provide homeowners expert advice on maintaining, enhancing and protecting their homes. For more information about HomeServe, a Connecticut Top Workplace winner and recipient of seventeen 2018 Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service, or to learn more about HomeServe’s affordable repair plans, please go to www.homeserveusa.com. To connect with HomeServe on Facebook and Twitter, please visit www.facebook.com/homeserveusa and www.twitter.com/homeserveusa.

Contacts

HomeServe USA
Myles Meehan, 203-356-4259
Myles.Meehan@homeserveusa.com

or

Hill+Knowlton Strategies for HomeServe USA
Merrie Leininger, 775-846-0664
homeserve@hkstrategies.com