How can I read the electric meter?

The electric meter on your home measures the amount of electricity you use. You can keep track of your usage by learning to read your meter. Most electric meters have five dials, which are read from right to left. The pointers on each dial move in alternate directions, and the number recorded is the last one passed by the pointer.

Sometimes our meter readers may not be able to read your meter because it is inside a locked building or the meter is blocked by snow, ice, bushes or other objects. In these rare cases, we must do an estimated reading. An estimated reading is based on last year's bill during the same month and your previous month's usage. We prefer not to estimate your bills, so please make sure your meter is accessible to our meter readers. If access to your meter is a continuing problem, we will contact you.

How can I safely operate my portable generator?

Generator Safety Portable electric generators are meant to be used as powered outlets with extension cords used to feed the appliances you chose to have run during an outage. If improperly installed to feed electricity into your house system, this power can feed back onto the power lines and electrocute our line workers who are working hard to restore your power. Cord and plug methods to tie a generator directly into your house wiring system without using a transfer switch are illegal, and potentially very dangerous, or deadly. ALWAYS: If you are installing a stationary or stand-by emergency generator, have the work done by a qualified electrician, and inspected by the City Wiring Inspector. If your generator is wired into your house system, a manual or automatic transfer switch must be installed as required by the National Electric Code. The switch prevents the generator from back-feeding electricity onto the power lines which could be deadly to unsuspecting workers, your neighbors, as well as you and your home. Read and adhere to the manufacturer's instructions for safe operation. Don't cut corners when it comes to safety. Carefully read and observe all instructions in your portable electric generator's owner manual, and always follow state, local, and national fire and electric codes. Be sure to operate your generator outdoors, NEVER operate generators indoors, in your basement or connected garage, to avoid the buildup of deadly carbon monoxide fumes. Be sure to place the generator where exhaust fumes will not enter the house. Only operate it outdoors in a well-ventilated and dry area. Before shutting down your generator shut off or unplug the appliances being used. Keep children and pets away from portable electric generators at all times. They do get very hot, and emit poisonous fumes. And NEVER: Connect the generator to your home's main electrical panel. Again, you could be putting your life and that of your family, neighbors, and our workers in jeopardy. Plug a portable electric generator into a regular household outlet. Plugging a generator into a regular household outlet can energize "dead" power lines and injure neighbors or utility workers. Overload the generator. Do not operate more appliances and equipment than the output rating of the generator. Overloading your generator can seriously damage your valuable appliances and electronics, so you must prioritize your needs. A portable electric generator should also be used only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment.

Can my service be terminated for non-payment?

Your electric bill payment is due upon receipt. After 30 days, your account becomes overdue and you may receive a yellow overdue/termination notice and a pink disconnect notice indicating that your service will be shut off on or after a specific date unless you have paid your bill by then or made arrangements with us to pay.

If your service is terminated for non-payment, full payment of the outstanding balance will be required. Also, before CEL restores your service, an additional security deposit and a reconnect fee may be required. Therefore, it is important that you make arrangements with CEL Customer Service whenever your bill is overdue.

You may qualify for certain exemptions from electric service termination. For details, contact our Customer Service at 413-594-2400.

What should I do if I have life support equipment?

If your or someone in your household relies on electrically operated life support equipment, please contact CEL Customer Service at 594-2400. We will place you on our emergency list for priority service restoration. If you have any questions about the life support list or if your information changes, please let us know.

Please remember that no utility can guarantee that you'll have electricity available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Therefore, we strongly urge customers who need life support equipment to have a backup plan. Obtain an alternative source of electric power for your life support equipment. This might be a battery-operated backup system, an uninterruptible power supply, or a generator. We recommend a minimum of 24 hours of backup. In addition, you should keep all emergency telephone numbers in a convenient location. Include your physician, fire department, police department, and ambulance.

What should I do during a power outage?

If the power in your house goes out, make sure the problem is not due to a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker in your home. One quick way to do this is to see if your neighbors have power. If not, call CEL as soon as possible. During office hours, call 413-598-8311, or after hours, call 413-594-7581.

Here are some outage and storm tips:

  1. While you are waiting for CEL crews to arrive, turn off all appliances that turn on automatically when power is restored, including refrigerators, televisions, water pumps and furnaces. Leave one light on so you will know when the power is back on. Once power has been restored, gradually reconnect appliances and reset clocks and timers.
  2. Unplug all unnecessary appliances and electric equipment such as stereos, TVs and computers.
  3. Avoid opening your refrigerator or freezer (your food should stay fresh for at least 24 hours if the door is seldom opened).
  4. To help prepare your family for power outages caused by storms, make sure you have the following available:
    -Flashlight and batteries
    - Battery-powered radio
    - Candles and matches
    - Extra food and water
    - First aid supplies and medicine
    - Fire extinguisher
  5. Do not plug a backup generator into an outlet in your home without first disconnecting from our system. If you don't, the power from your generator will flow backwards into our distribution system and may seriously injure or kill our linemen.
  6. Do not burn charcoal for heat—it gives off dangerous fumes. In addition, a fireplace may pull more warm air from a house than it gives out.
  7. Stay tuned to a local radio station for important information about outages.

How do I change a fuse?

Before you begin, make sure your hands are dry, stand on a dry board or rubber pad, if possible, and have a flashlight with you:

  1. Disconnect lamps and appliances in use when the circuit went out.
  2. Open main switch (or open pull-out section of main panel in the service entrance) to cut off current while working at the branch circuit box.
  3. Identify the blown fuse. When a fuse blows, the transparent section becomes cloudy or blackened. Some older fuse boxes have small-diameter fuses that require an adapter in the receptacle. This adapter should not be removed, and you should purchase the correct-size fuse for this model.
  4. Replace the blown fuse with a new one of proper size. The smaller sizes screw in just like light bulbs. If the blown fuse is a cartridge type, located in the pull-out section, it can be removed and replaced with hand pressure. If the fuse is for an appliance greater than 120 volts, call an electrician. Some switches for such appliances as water heater, stoves, and clothes dryers will still be energized if they are fed from the panel, and improper fuse replacement could result in severe injury.
  5. Close the main switch or replace pull-out section to restore service.
  6. Throw away the blown fuse.

How do I reset a breaker?

  1. Identify the breaker that needs to be reset. It usually appears red on the toggle handle, and is not always in the OFF position.
  2. Move handle to OFF position.
  3. Push handle past OFF position.
  4. Return handle to ON position.

How do I test Ground Fault Interrupters? (GFIs)

Chances are, if you have a newer home or have remodeled an older home, some of your outlets are protected by ground fault interrupters (GFIs). GFIs are usually installed in bathrooms, kitchens and outside outlets—usually any location near sources of water. These highly sensitive devices detect faults in the device plugged into the outlet and quickly shut power off to that outlet. This minimizes the possibility of electric shock or damage to electrical equipment. GFIs are often provided as wall outlets or sometimes as circuit breakers in a breaker panel box.

It is good practice to test the GFI monthly. It is also a good idea to test the GFI after power outages. To test a GFI outlet or breaker, follow these simple instructions:

  1. Plug a lamp into the outlet and turn it on.
  2. Push the TEST button—the lamp should go off. If it does not, you should have your outlet checked by an electrician.
  3. Push the RESET button—the lamp should go back on. If it does not, you should have your outlet checked by an electrician.

How do I protect my equipment during power surges?

A brief, sudden increase or decrease in voltage (spike) can at the very least cause a loss of data on computers, and on a few occasions, damage sensitive electronic equipment such as microwaves, VCRs and televisions. Prolonged increases (surges) or decreases (sags) in voltage can cause significant damage to the equipment if not properly protected.

Computers are very sensitive to variations in the power supply. While these glitches are rare, they can damage your computer's hardware, crash programs or scramble data. To guard against power glitches, you should:

  1. Copy and file data periodically (save your work at least every hour).
  2. Make sure your home or business is properly grounded to send stray voltages into the ground, not into the computer.
  3. Buy quality voltage surge protectors to help protect against spikes in voltage. Ensure that the product is UL-tested and labeled as a surge-protection device. Also, be sure to buy a unit with an indicator light that shows the surge protection is still working. Surge protectors can fail after even one large voltage increase.
  4. During storms, unplug sensitive equipment, if possible.
  5. Install a filter to keep out noise and static interference caused by lightning, large electrical motors or other equipment.
  6. Install an uninterruptible power supply system (UPS) for the best way to protect computers or similar electronic devices against power failure, spikes, sags, surges, or data loss.

I am looking for a unique but practical gift. Any ideas?

Yes! Consider giving a CEL gift certificate. You can purchase certificates in any denomination, and they can be used toward paying for any CEL product or service. Call us at 598-8311 or stop by our office for more information.

What are "unbundled" charges on my bill?

The kilowatt-hour charge on your bill reflects three distinct services: energy (generation), transmission and the distribution of electric power. Along with a small monthly charge, which is not related to your usage, these factors are listed on your bill. Here’s what they mean:

Energy is the electric current produced at power plants. Power plants use different fuels such as oil, gas, water or nuclear fission to turn turbines that produce electricity. To secure a mix of low cost, reliable power, CEL contracts with many providers for the electricity used in your home or business.

The cost to move bulk electricity from power plants to local substations makes up the transmission portion of the kilowatt-hour rate. Electricity on transmission lines can travel at 345,000 volts, although homes use electricity at 120/240 volts. In New England, power plants and utilities share common transmission lines, and the lines’ owners charge utilities for moving the purchased electricity from the power plant to local destinations.

The local delivery of electricity is called distribution. High-voltage current leaves the transmission lines at a substation where transformers reduce it to a medium voltage. Electricity then travels through distribution lines on poles or underground to neighborhoods. Here it passes through another transformer that reduces it to 120/240 volts. The final step is for the electricity to pass through a meter to measure use in the kilowatt-hour units that later appear on the electric bill.

Why would my electric bill change from month to month?

The most likely reason for a change in your bill may be due to a change in how you used energy. Typically, a home is equipped with many energy-using appliances that are not always used the same amount each month. You may have had guests, which could have contributed to higher water usage (causing your electric water heater to run more), more lights being used (or being used longer), more laundry, cooking, etc.

The time of year is another possible reason for changing bills. During the summer months, some appliances — such as dehumidifiers, air conditioners, fans and swimming pool pumps — run more. In the winter, most heating systems use electricity to circulate the heat. We also tend to spend more time indoors, running appliances and lighting for longer hours.

Finally, a bill may be higher or lower because there was a difference in the number of days between readings. Generally, your meter is read every 30 days, but there are times when your meter reading may be for less than 30 days or more than 30 days. It will state on your electric bill the number of days the bill covers.

If your think your bill has changed drastically and none of these factors seem to apply, contact our Customer Service. We may be able to offer an explanation, make arrangements to have a check reading done to make sure your meter was read properly, or schedule a meter test.

How can I live safely with electricity?

Inside the home:

1. Put safety caps on all electrical outlets, especially in households with children. These inexpensive items are available at hardware stores.

2. When bathing your child, unplug nearby electrical appliances—electricity and water are a deadly combination.

3. Keep youngsters a safe distance from electric space heaters, and never leave small children unattended near electric appliances, lamps, fans or motors.

4. Before operating a new appliance, read and follow manufacturers instructions.

5. Don't overload an outlet with too many plugs. Wires can overheat and cause a fire. Similarly, never overload a circuit—large appliances should have separate circuits.
Replace worn wires or extension cords, and never run them under rugs or over heaters.

6. Always unplug appliances not being used—even if the switch says "off," the power could still be flowing.

7. If someone receives an electric shock:
- Don't touch any person or thing that is still in contact with the electricity. Call 911 immediately.
- Shut off the circuit breakers before you touch the person.
- If necessary, use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or CPR on the person. Cover the person with a blanket and wait until help arrives.


1. Keep ladders, antennas, kites, and people away from power lines.

2. Landscape with care. Call Dig Safe at 888/DIG-SAFE (344-7233) to have underground utilities marked before digging to prevent damage to electric, telephone, or gas underground facilities. Notification is required at least 48 hours before you start digging operations. In an emergency, call Dig Safe immediately.

3. Don't plant large trees beneath overhead lines. If a tree has power lines running through it, call CEL. Do not attempt to trim the tree yourself.

4. Never use power tools or other outdoor equipment while it's raining or if the ground is wet.

5. Don't hang signs on utility poles. Our lineworkers wear special rubber gloves to insulate them from electricity. Nails, staples and other fasteners can snag or puncture their gloves and endanger their lives.

6. Avoid substations and transformers. High-voltage equipment can be very dangerous. Teach your children to respect the "Danger" signs.

7. Consider all power lines energized and dangerous. Remember that metal and water can conduct electricity, so keep your distance and be careful what you touch. Even the ground around a downed wire can be electrically charged and deadly. If you see downed power lines call CEL to report them and let trained professionals take care of the situation.

8. If you happen to be in a car when power lines come down, stay there until help arrives. If the car is on fire and you need to get out, do not touch the ground and the car at the same time—the electrical current could pass through your body. Instead, jump as far from the vehicle as you can and then bunny hop or shuffle your feet until you are a safe distance from the car and wire. The key is to keep your feet as close together as possible.