ComEd Provides Finishing Touches to Improvements in Northbrook

Wednesday June 20, 2012
Posted by Spark Energy Staff at 16:04
Tags: comed

Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) is wrapping up its $2 million electricity infrastructure improvement project in Northbrook, Ill., a project village officials said should help prevent the kind of power outages that overwhelmed Northbrook last summer.

Northbrook director of public works Kelly Hamill said that ComEd’s electricity infrastructure project has been designed to yield several improvements:

  • The installation of almost 10,000 feet of new overhead power lines — called Hendrix cables, which are designed to better withstand punishment from storms and, especially, from contact with falling tree limbs — should help prevent power outages by 75 percent
  • The relocation of the village’s mid-circuit recloser — an automatic switching device that helps minimize the number of customers affected by outages — to a more effective location near downtown
  • The replacement of underground cables in areas that are prone to outages
  • An increased tree trimming program to help prevent outages from falling limbs
  • A revised strategy for communicating with village officials during storms

Hamill said ComEd’s finishing touches involved switching power from the old lines to the new lines, transferring individual residential services to the new power lines and removing the old power lines.

The village’s mid-circuit recloser will be moved in late June or early July, Hamill said.


ComEd Improves Electric Lines in Northbrook to Decrease Outages,” Chicago Tribune, May 31, 2012.

4 Ways to Make Your AC Run More Efficiently This Summer

How to Increase AC Efficiency in the SummerIt’s May, which means summer is right around the corner. And that means folks across the country are going to start using their air conditioners a lot more.

If you’re like us, then you’re not looking forward to the prospect of your AC cranking away during brutal summer afternoons when you can actually see the heat rise off the pavement. After all, it’s expensive. And when your AC is working overtime, small unseen problems have a tendency to become big-time headaches.

Here are four things you can do before the heat arrives to ensure that your AC is in good shape and running efficiently this summer.

1. Change Your Air Filter

Probably the easiest way to improve the efficiency of your AC this summer is to replace your AC filter with a clean, new one. Keeping a relaxed airflow through your AC system — as opposed to a restricted airflow from dirty, clogged filters — will help keep your AC equipment from working harder than it needs to in order to cool your home. That means not only a more efficient AC, but also lower electricity bills.

Clean filters will also help keep dirt and other particles from collecting on critical parts of your AC, which will help prevent performance–related inefficiency and damage to your cooling system.

For the best results, you should replace your AC filter now and then every month heading into the summer. During the warmest months, when your AC works the hardest and pulls the most air, you may want to replace your AC filter more often than each month, depending on how often your AC system kicks on and what type of filters you use.

2. Have an HVAC Technician Inspect Your Equipment

You should have an HVAC technician inspect your AC equipment at least once a year. In parts of the country that depend heavily on air conditioning, the best time to get your AC inspected is now, before summer hits and repair wait times grow. The technician will make sure your equipment is in tip-top shape and running as efficiently as it can. If your equipment has issues, you’ll get a heads-up about what the problems are. And, if you get your system inspected now, you’ll have time to fix them before summer heat has a chance to turn small issues into bigger problems.

3. Check Your Air Ducts for Leaks

The ducts that carry air into and around your home are an important feature when determining the efficiency of your AC. Just think of your AC as your home’s heart and the air ducts like its arteries and veins and you’ll understand how critical they are.

If your ducts have holes on the way to your AC system, dirty air can find its way to your equipment, hurting its efficiency or even damaging it. If your ducts have leaks on the way to vents in your home’s living spaces, cool air can seep out before it gets to you. In either case, your AC system’s efficiency will suffer. Pro tip: Don’t close the vents in unused rooms to try and save a buck. Not only does this not work, but the increased pressure it places on your ducts can cause leaks.

You can have an HVAC technician check for leaks or you can do it yourself. To check yourself, inspect the ducts for tears or holes and then take a close look at each exposed duct joint. If you see dust or lint near a suspected problem spot or feel cool airflow while your AC is running, you know you have an air leak. You can seal these kinds of leaks easily with mastic sealant or metal tape. Avoid duct tape, as it doesn’t last very long. For bigger leaks, or larger duct problems, you might have to hire a professional.

4. Keep Your AC Equipment Clean

Dirt, grime and obstructions make your AC equipment work harder than it needs to, which can cause your electricity bill to climb alongside rising summer temperatures. To increase your AC unit’s efficiency, and avoid equipment damage from dirt-buildup on individual components, follow these cleaning tips:

-Once a year, sometime before summer, hire a duct cleaning service to thoroughly clean your ducts.

-Routinely check your outside AC unit to make sure that it’s clear of obstructions. Trim back shrubs, plants and other greenery that get too close.

-Once a month, use a shop vacuum to suck the dirt out of your ducts and clear dirt from around AC equipment.


National Geographic, “How to Increase Efficiency of a Central Air Conditioner.”

University of North Texas Adds 6 New Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Wednesday May 9, 2012
Posted at 08:12

UNT Car Charging StationsThe Mean Green just got a bit nicer to owners of electric vehicles.

The University of North Texas campus is getting six new EV charging stations, thanks to the school’s We Mean Green Fund (WMGF), Office of Sustainability and partner ECOtality. The charging stations, each equipped with a 60-inch charger and a handicap-accessible charger, will be installed at the Radio, Television, and Film Building; the Murchison Performing Arts Center; and Wooten Hall.

UNT joins the University of Texas at Arlington; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Colorado, Boulder; and Vanderbilt University as the only colleges in the nation with EV-charging capabilities.

Helen Bailey is UNT’s director of facility management and construction, and the University’s facilities representative for the WMGF subcommittee that green-lit the project. Bailey said she hopes the charging stations will encourage more people in the Denton, Texas area to invest in more hybrid and EV automobiles.


UNT to Add Six Electrical Vehicle Charging Stations,” North Texas Daily, March 29, 2012.

Win Two Club-Level Tickets to the Rockets Game

Monday April 23, 2012
Posted at 07:59

The Houston Rockets’ season is winding down. If you want to catch a game, you had better act fast.  Spark Energy is giving away two club-level seats for the April 26 game against the New Orleans Hornets. To enter our drawing, go to this page on Facebook and submit your information by 5:00 p.m. on April 23.  We’ll notify the winners on April 24. Good luck!

Emergency and Outage Contact Info for Baltimore Gas and Electric Customers

Tuesday April 17, 2012
Posted at 09:13

If you live in the Baltimore, Maryland area and Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) delivers gas or electricity to your home, here’s the information you need to contact the utility in case of an emergency or power outage:

For emergencies, call 800.685.0123, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If there’s a downed or damaged power line or if you smell natural gas, first make sure you’re safe by leaving the area immediately, then call BGE to report the emergency.

For power outages, call 877.778.2222, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If there’s a power outage, BGE relies on you to call it in. Make sure the phone number on your account is handy, as the utility will use it to verify your identity and location.

For streetlight outages, call 410.470.9446 or 800.685.0123. You can also fill out an outage report online.

If you need assistance, foreign-language interpreters are available for Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean and other non-English speaking customers.

Spark Energy Supports St. Baldricks

Friday March 16, 2012
Posted at 09:04

In an effort to Empower What Matters, Spark Energy has renewed its partnership and support of the Fox Chicago Schools Challenge and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. For those that may not be familiar with St. Baldrick’s, the Foundation is known for rallying volunteers to raise money by pledging to shave their heads in solidarity with children fighting cancer and has awarded millions in grants for childhood cancer research.

Spark Energy kicked off this year’s partnership with a $5,000 donation to St. Baldrick’s and a pledge to raise additional funds through a month-long giving campaign in the Chicago market. Through the campaign, we have had the privilege of meeting some of the amazing volunteers and supporters of the St. Baldrick’s organization, including Heather Kash.

Heather Kash is the Sr. Director of Corporate Relations for St. Baldrick’s and we are so inspired by her dedication to empowering what matters, we wanted you to meet her too.

A conversation with Heather Kash, Sr. Director of Corporate Relations, St. Baldrick's:

How long have you supported St. Baldrick's?
I first became involved as a St. Baldrick’s volunteer in 2002 where I ran the Downtown Chicago event. After that, my involvement grew over the years where I was managing two full-time jobs. So, in 2007 I had to make a choice between the two, and St. Baldrick’s was the better option for me!

What inspired you to support and/or work for the organization?
Like so many of our volunteers, I got involved because a coworker was shaving his head and he asked me to help with the event. Our second year, we had such tremendous support that when a Bloomingdale firefighter, Chris Wilson, called to say he was bringing 30 firemen to Chicago for my event, I was afraid of having too many shavees and worked with him to set up the 2nd Chicago area event – this one in the Western suburbs.

From there, we kept “spinning off” events and people kept coming to me for help. In 2011 in IL, we had more than 200 events, almost 9,000 shavees, and raised almost $4MM. To think that I was afraid of having 50 shavees!

Is there one story or one child that keeps you going?
There are so many kids that drive us to do what we do, but here are a few. There is a young man named Chris, who I first met when he was 10 and newly diagnosed. He never fully responded to treatment, but was always at our events, shaving heads, and flashing his 1,000 watt, “get me out of trouble” smile. We lost Chris last November, but he will always be the face of St Baldrick’s for me. Two of Chris’ friends (who he met during treatment), Josh & Alicia, are survivors. Josh is a sophomore in HS and now taller than me (even in my heels!), and lettered in golf last year! Alicia celebrated her 20th birthday with us last September at our halfway to St. Baldrick’s event, and her uncle is a good friend who had shaved for St Baldrick’s for many years before she was diagnosed.

Then there is Sara, another survivor, who was one of our Ambassador kids for the Foundation in 2010 – just a few years younger than my youngest daughter, her story hit home, particularly when I hear her mom tell stories of her and her sisters, which sound so much like the antics of my kids! Josh, Alicia and Sara will all be at our event this year, and will get to have a hand in shaving my head! Chris will be there in spirit, and deeply missed.

How can people get involved with St. Baldrick's?
Our primary fundraising vehicle will always be our signature headshaving events, but people raise money for us in many ways. We’ve had motorcycle runs, 5Ks, golf outings and other events. You can visit to get involved in a local event, organize your own event, or contact the Foundation with your idea!

What does it mean to St. Baldrick's to have Spark Energy's support for the second year in a row?
We are fortunate to have so many corporate partners, helping to tell our story, engage their employees and customers and support the mission to Conquer Kids’ Cancer. Like so many companies, Spark Energy’s support goes beyond a donation and it’s wonderful to see how the cause has become a part of your corporate culture, tradition and a part of the lives of your employees.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

It All Started with a Turtle: Revitalizing American Business

Monday February 20, 2012
Posted at 08:15

NOTE: In recognition of National Entrepreneurship Week, Spark Energy brings you the following submission from Michael Holthouse - American entrepreneur and founder of one of our key community partners, Prepared 4 Life. We are proud to support Lemonade Day 2012 in Houston and Chicago, and help "spark" dreams within thousands of participating youth.

Who knew that what started as an innocent question from a child asking for a pet turtle would turn into a life changing opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children across the country.

Four years ago when my daughter pulled me out of bed early one Sunday morning to do a lemonade stand, I had no idea what an amazing day was about to unfold. A few cups of lemonade, lots of answered questions and some real world experience, and my daughter had earned enough money to buy her now famous turtle. It was a simple lesson in entrepreneurship that had been passed on to me by my father. Instead of just giving her what she wanted, she learned how to earn it for herself. She did. She won, and I won – not the turtle, but a set of life lessons that have touched both of us. In many ways, she experienced what our great country is all about – daring to dream, making a plan, working the plan and having the guts to go out and be successful. Fulfilling the American Dream.

Girl in lemonade stand

That one day sitting along Memorial Drive with her inspired what is now known as Lemonade Day. It is a fun and experiential learning process that culminates in a single day where literally tens of thousands of lemonade stands all over a community demonstrate what business is all about. It’s where an entire community shows its support for youth through the simple act of buying a glass of lemonade. Children from every walk of life and geographic location learn what it takes to start a business – to fulfill their own dream. Caring adults and youth learn together using a free backpack filled with materials on how to start their very own business – a lemonade stand. Lemonade Day gives them their first taste as entrepreneurs. It changes the way they see the world forever.

There is the story about the little girl with learning challenges whose dream was to be able to buy something new for her fifth grade graduation. It would be the first new thing she ever had in her life. While afraid she would not succeed, she was encouraged by a school counselor to take a chance ... and she did. Today, she is not only the proud owner of a new pink dress that she bought with her own money, but a little girl whose academic progress has dramatically changed. She has now tasted success for the first time in her life, and she knows how it works. Her future story has changed forever – she is only one of thousands.

Her story is replicated in stand after stand, each of the youth with their own unique experience. In America everyone has the opportunity to become whatever they choose and are willing to work for. Lemonade Day is the spark that ignites a new passion.

Kids in lemonade stand

Lemonade Day is a chance for parents, mentors, teachers and the entire community to work with youth and help them see a different tomorrow. They help children learn how to approach their business and are given the tools they need to succeed. They also learn how to manage their financial success by spending a little, saving a little, and sharing a little of the money they earn.

Last year, in Houston alone, 54,000 kids registered, and collectively they sold over six million glasses of lemonade. From the proceeds of those stands, children donated a portion to the charities of their choice – that is after repaying their investors, saving some for their future and spending some on themselves. This year, in 40+ cities across America, more than 250,000 youth will participate and learn what business is all about. I can’t wait to see their contribution to society - not only on Lemonade Day, but in their future.

The lemonade stand is an American icon; it is quite often children’s first business. In this challenging time in America we hope to revitalize entrepreneurship using this time honored tradition. It is our goal is to help spread Lemonade Day to hundreds of communities and, on a single day in May of 2013, do one million lemonade stands! Can you imagine what that many new entrepreneurs will mean for our country? Will you help us make this dream come true?

Lemonade stands represent the best of our country’s proud past and bright future. They represent a vehicle to take children to places many only dream about going. Children today need to know they can do it – they need to know they have control – they need to know that they can be successful – they need to know that the hope for the future is in their hands – and stands.

On Lemonade Day, we salute entrepreneurs all across America who had a dream and pursued it. It is America and it represents the hope for our future.

And, to think, it all started with a turtle.

Spark Energy Empowers Schools

Friday January 6, 2012
Posted at 11:05

Banging on desks to keep time might not sound like an ideal way to teach music class, but for some time, that’s all that music teacher Cherrelle Blevins had to work with at Bronzeville Lighthouse Elementary Charter School in Chicago.

Of course, that’s before Spark Energy saw her request for musical instruments on, a nonprofit organization that connects teachers in need of supplies with generous donors that step in where school budgets fall short.

Spark Energy donated more than 300 musical instruments to Bronzeville’s music program.

Spark Energy supports Chicago schools

"It is all very new and exciting," Blevins said. "It is going to mean that my students have more opportunities to express themselves, to learn new instruments, new songs, and just to engage in learning."

The students were excited, too.

"These instruments mean a lot to me," said student Kayla Johnson. "They mean that I can have more experience in music."

"Music helps me feel happy and to be able to express myself," said student Tyler Tolbert.

But Bronzeville Elementary wasn’t the only school to benefit from Spark Energy’s commitment to children’s education.

Athletic teacher Garrett Ryan got a big surprise when Spark Energy showed up at Woodland Elementary School with a gift of hula hoops, footballs, dodgeballs, cones and other gym equipment.

Spark Energy donation to Chicago charter school

The gift was especially appreciated by Ryan, who is dealing with growing enrollments and shrinking budgets.

“It can be expensive,” said Ryan, who, like many teachers, has had to spend some of his own money to make sure his students are properly supplied, “This has made my weekend.”

Spark Energy also went beyond individual schools, donating 1,000 backpacks and other key school supplies to Stuff the Bus, a United Way program that helps make sure underprivileged children have the school supplies they need.


"Energy Company Gives Joliet School New Athletic Equipment" - Joliet Herald-News, September 25, 2011.

"Company Surprises PE Teacher with Equipment" - Joliet Public Schools press release, September 26, 2011.

"Donation is Music to the Ears of Chicago Teacher" - WLS, September 13, 2011.

Spark Energy Supports Chicago Schools

Monday November 7, 2011
Posted at 15:54

Spark Energy supports the communities where we do business.  We recently donated some needed musical instruments to a Chicago charter school.  We had so much fun that we decided to do it again.  So we visited Woodland Elementary School in Joliet, a Chicago suburb, to donate exercise equipment that had been requested on