Glacial Energy Blog

Heating Mistakes

HeaterWinter weather forces people to break out the extra blankets and crank up the heat. However, there are five common mistakes that people make when it comes to keeping their home warm during the winter, and it’s costing them extra money every month.

Thermostats

Once the cold grips the area, one of the first things people do is raise the temperature on the thermostat. Often times, they will raise it to a level higher than they actually want the temperature to be set, thinking it will warm the house faster. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The temperature of the room will rise at a fairly steady rate, regardless of the temperature’s setting. The only thing a thermostat does is tell the heat when the temperature has reached the set level and to turn off. To help warm your house up so that it is ready for you when arrive home from work, invest in a programmable thermostat.

Air Leaks

Windows and door frames that have gaps in them can lead to a 30% loss of energy use in your home. These seemingly small holes suck the warm air right out and denser cold air rushes in to take its place. This causes heaters to run longer than needed, still leaving your home uncomfortably cool. Ensure that there are no gaps around doors and windows, and if there are any, use caulk to fix breaks or weather-stripping to seal the space between a window sash or door and its frame.

Vents

Closing vents to unused rooms may seem like the best option for saving yourself some money, but this can actually cause your heating system to be unbalanced, leading to extra maintenance and repairs. It’s actually best to keep all of the rooms’ temperature levels even. Closing off a room or two won’t actually save any money, because the furnace will be working overtime trying to warm them still.

Exhaust Fan

Running the exhaust fan in the bathroom is good, when you’re taking a shower. This pulls the moisture out of the room, preventing the growth of mold and mildew. But, don’t run it longer than necessary, as this fan can also pull the warm air out of your house.

Air Filter

People commonly neglect to change or clean their air filters, but this affects your furnace’s efficiency. A clogged filter reduces the air flow of the whole system, and it makes the furnace work harder to compensate. Filters typically should be cleaned or replaced every 4-6 weeks to keep the air flow efficient.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

What is Fuel Cell?

Fuel CellCoal and oil have been at the forefront of energy production for decades. Natural gas has become increasingly popular lately as well, and nuclear power is still in use, but very cautiously. In addition to these finite fossil fuels,  there are many other energy sources to be tapped into. On the renewable end of the spectrum, wind, solar, and hydroelectric power are well known and quite popular. But as of last month, the United States Department of Energy was given the green light to continue research on hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, and to make them commercially available as soon as possible.

The United States is looking to be a leader in clean energy, and the Department of Energy has partnered with private industries and universities to ensure that the transportation sector has a clean, viable energy future. By moving ahead with these technologies, we as a nation can drastically reduce our dependence on oil to power our vehicles. Thanks to this partnership, scientists have reduced the costs and improved the efficiency of hydrogen and fuel cell systems, bringing us one step closer to their mainstream implementation. In fact, this research has reduced the costs by 50% since 2006. In addition, fuel cell durability has doubled, and the amount of platinum required to construct these cells has dropped 80% since 2005.

Combined with the grants provided last month, this cost reduction and efficiency growth is expected to continue. Infrastructure for refineries and supply lines will increase along with the efficiency of the technologies and the United States will march on to a more reliable, cleaner source of energy. The Department of Energy looks to use this money to invest in several companies in order to advance the progress of hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

The Center for Transportation and the Environment in Atlanta, GA was granted $3 million from the DoE, and they will be developing a hybrid fuel cell and electric delivery vehicle featuring a 150 mile range. They will refit 15 UPS trucks and test them with distribution centers in California. FedEx was granted $3 million to develop 20 hydrogen fuel cell trucks with a 150 mile range to test in Tennessee and California. Air Products and Chemicals, Inc of Allentown, PA was granted $900,000 to develop cost effective trailer transports for hydrogen delivery and storage. Finally, Sprint was granted $250,000 to develop fuel cell powered backup systems for their telecommunications equipment. This project is aiming to demonstrate the adaptability of these systems.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Paying Less at the Pump

Gas Prices2Every December, the Energy Information Administration releases the following year’s Annual Energy Outlook, and December 2013 had some very appealing information for consumers! The report shows predictions that the production of oil and gas in the United States will increase in the coming decades. The report also details that the energy usage, especially fossil fuel energy, will decrease in that time. All in all, this means you can expect the cost of gas and oil to come down in the coming years.

The report’s authors stated that with the technological and efficiency improvements, “energy use per capita declines by 8% from 2012 through 2040.� The miles driven by cars has remained about the same for the past five years, and with the improvements made to gasoline engines, their ranges have increased, meaning people will be filling up less often. The way this impacts consumers is easy to see. Gas prices are extremely dependent on the wholesale rate of crude oil, and with the decreased demand, crude oil prices will drop. Charles Chesbrough, senior economist for IHS Automotive, said “We expect we’re going to see crude oil prices fall for a while.�

The United States is becoming more independent of foreign energy sources, particularly oil. This will help shelter the country more from the sudden increases in crude oil import costs due to violence in the Middle East, where a good majority of oil is imported from. Other factors like severe weather, seasonal demands, and production problems will still affect the rise and fall of oil production, and thus impact the gas price at the pump, but it is less likely we will be subject to major increases from wars. Ultimately, this will keep prices at the pump closer to $3 per gallon, which is miles better than the $5 per gallon some analysts had predicted.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Energy Star: Behind the Logo

Energy SavingEnergy Star has been around for over two decades, and the program has led to some major improvements to common electronics and appliances that we use on a daily basis. These improvements made the appliances more energy efficient, cutting energy costs and reducing our impact on the environment. The program was conceived by the Energy Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992 and was originally meant to cut back on the energy use of computers at the time. The program now covers over 50 categories of products. No matter how many categories are covered, the goal will always be to conserve energy.

Energy Star helps consumers by putting their label on appliances and electronics, from computers to washing machines to ceiling fans that meet their standards. The label will include information on how much energy the appliance consumes, something most products won’t highlight, and it represents a product that requires less energy than most of its counterparts.

According to the Department of Energy, Energy Star has helped American consumers save enough energy to power 10 million homes and avoid 12 million cars’ worth of greenhouse emissions. On top of all that, they saved $6 billion in energy costs. And that was for last year alone.

On the surface, Energy Star products are more costly up front, because great care is taken by manufacturers to find ways of improving the product’s efficiency. This higher cost of development is passed on to the consumer. However, there are numerous incentive programs that grant tax breaks and rebates to the consumer in order to encourage purchasing more efficient appliances. Not to mention, the savings associated with using energy efficient products can repay the cost of the product itself. This makes energy efficient products more desirable, and thus manufactures will want to produce them.

All major appliances are required to have a label that indicates how much energy the appliance consumes and the annual operating cost of the appliance. If the product’s energy requirements are a certain percentage (which can vary by category) below the average consumption of a similar product, they are give the Energy Star certification. These days, entire homes or office buildings can be Energy Star certified if they are at least 15% more efficient than those meeting the 2004 International Residential Code.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Strong Demand for Natural Gas

Natural GasLast month, the price of natural gas rose about half a percent to $4.310 per million British Thermal Units (mmBTU). This gave market analysts reason to believe that the demand for natural gas will continue to increase into this new year. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), about half of the households in the United States utilize natural gas as a heat source, and houses in the Midwest are especially subject to some low temperatures during the winter, making them prime consumers of natural gas.

Market traders have been referencing weekly storage reports for natural gas, and the price of natural gas is up by nearly $1.50/mmBTU from January of 2012. The actual demand for natural gas varies week to week, just like any traded stock. The last report published (as of this writing) on December 19 showed that total demand was down 8.6% from the previous week, where the country faced abnormally low temperatures all over. However, the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) report forecasts that overall demand for natural gas will increase significantly by 2040. The report predicts there will be a 58% increase from 2012’s levels. This report is higher than last year’s outlook prediction due to the increase in shale gas production over the past year.

The highest concentration of this increase will be focused in the industrial sector. It’s estimated the increase will be about 2.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf); 59% higher than the projected increase last year. The increase will largely be due to increased manufacturing of chemicals and other materials. Electricity production is expected to require a 2 Tcf increase of natural gas between now and 2040. Last year’s outlook expected only a tenth that amount.

The 2014 AEO also expects that the United States will become a net exporter of natural gas by 2017 and exports will rise to about 5.8 Tcf by 2040, which will account for 54% of the total natural gas produced in the country. Additionally, the United States’ imports from Canada are expected to drop from 2 Tcf in 2012 to 0.7 Tcf by 2040.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Preparing for Lights Out, Pt. 2

No PowerClick here for our first post in this series, Preparing for Lights Out, Pt. 1.

During the Outage

Keep refrigerator and freezer doors shut as much as possible. You do not need to refrigerate your emergency water, so keeping it out of the fridge will allow perishable food to last longer. An unopened fridge will remain cool for up to 4 hours, so as you approach that mark, consume some unspoiled perishable foods. Freezers will stay cold for 24 to 48 hours, with the longer time if they are full. If the power outage looks to last for more than a day, start packing freezer foods into the Styrofoam containers along with the ice packs.

As a pending outage nears, save all data on active computer programs and shut all electronic devices off. Unplug all of these devices as well to prevent an electrical surge from destroying them or starting a fire. After an outage occurs, unplug ovens, microwaves, and other appliances. Shut off all house lights save for one easily seen bulb. That will alert you when the power has returned.

If it can be avoided, do not travel by car during a power outage. Without streetlights and traffic lights, busy roads can easily become congested. If you use a generator or independent cooking apparatus like a grill or camp stove, DO NOT use them in an enclosed space. The carbon monoxide from these can be lethal. Make sure they are used outside in open air, away from doors and windows. Make sure there is at least one carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, just in case the levels get too high.

After the Outage

Avoid any downed power lines in your area and report them to the authorities. Live wires present an extreme hazard to people and pets. Go through the food in your refrigerator and freezer to find any that may have spoiled. If the food has been exposed to more than 40 degrees for a period of two hours, get rid of it. If any food has an unusual color, smell, or texture, get rid of it as well. Do not try to ingest food that may have spoiled. Any food in your freezer that has ice crystals on it is safe to refreeze.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Preparing for Lights Out, Pt. 1

No PowerPower outages are becoming less frequent in some parts of the country thanks to advances in grid technology. However, they do still happen from time to time, and it’s always good to be prepared for one. There are several ways to prepare for an outage, and there are several things you can do during and after an outage occurs.

First of all, even before any outage is even likely, you should take steps to conserve energy. This can include shutting lights and computers off when they are not in use, washing only full loads in the dish or clothes washers, and changing any incandescent lights over to more efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs).

Before the Outage

Set up an emergency kit for your home. To help preserve food in the event of a prolonged outage, purchase a few Styrofoam coolers and ice packs so you can keep food refrigerated. It is also very important to stock up on water as well. You should have one gallon of water per person per day, and should have at least a three day supply in the event an evacuation is required. Stock up on non-perishable foods as well, once again maintaining a minimum three day supply. For both water and food, it is recommended you have a two week supply at home, in case you do not need to evacuate, but the power remains off for a particularly long time. With an impending outage, like a hurricane approaching, fill a bathtub with water and leave a bucket nearby. This way, after using the restroom, you can use a bucket of water from the tub to refill the toilet bowl.

Keep flashlights and plenty of batteries on hand as well. Investing in LED flashlights will get the most out of your batteries, and investing in Faraday flashlights will eliminate the need for batteries in your flashlight altogether. Faraday flashlights have a coil inside them surrounding a magnet. By shaking the light, you will recharge its internal battery, meaning you will always have light. This same principle applies to hand crank radios, which are also important. Having a radio, particularly a NOAA weather radio, will provide you with up-to-date information regarding the situation.

Regardless of disasters, always be sure to have a first aid kit on hand. You never know when it will be needed. Be sure to pack any medications and medical equipment (syringes, glucose meters, oxygen, battery backup power) along with your emergency supplies. For medications, bring enough with you to last a week. Multipurpose tools and sanitation items are another must have. In the event of evacuation, bring along any personal documents involving medication lists, insurance, home deeds, birth certificates, social security cards, and other personal IDs. Each evacuee should keep a list of emergency contact numbers as well.

Of course, bring cell phones and chargers as well as cash. Even though the power is out, you may find someone with a generator or others willing to let you charge your phone. You may also consider getting a solar charger for your phone. If you have home phone service, keep a corded phone around in case the power goes out. Unless telephone lines are knocked down, a corded phone should still work.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Green Giving

Christmas LightsChristmas time brings families together with bright lights, fancy feasts, and cheerful songs. Gifts will be exchanged between family and friends, many of them electronics, and home cooked meals will be had. Along with the bright lights, cheer, food, and gifts comes something else: higher energy bills. We’ll look at a few ways to help keep the electric Grinch from ruining your festivities.

1.    Holiday Lights — Switching over your old incandescent holiday light strings to LEDs will save about 80% of the energy required to power the old lights. LED strings are much brighter and last about 10 times longer than the incandescent strings, too.

2.    Timers and Sensors — Setting your lights on a timer or photocell will help save you energy. You can use a timer to set when lights will turn on and off, and a photocell will automatically turn lights on when it gets dark and turn them off when it gets bright again.

3.    Switch non-holiday lights — Switching your incandescent bulbs over to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED bulbs will cut back on your everyday energy expenses, even after the holiday season. Each bulb you replace can save at least $40 to $50 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

4.    Lights Out — If you have company staying with you this season, remind them to keep lights off in unoccupied rooms to help conserve energy.

5.    Oven Baking — If you plan to use your oven to cook a big dinner for guests (or any other time, really), refrain from opening the door to check on the baking. Every time you open the door, it lets heat out and the oven needs to regenerate that heat. Glass and ceramic pans heat up faster than metal ones, and therefore cuts down on your cooking time.

6.    Crock-pots and Microwaves — Always use the smallest appliance possible for the task at hand. Crock-pots consume about 100 watts of energy per hour, whereas microwaves consume about 1100 watts and ovens use 2400 watts per hour.

7.    Electronics — If you plan on getting electronic gifts for your loved ones, look into more efficient options. For example, laptops use less energy than desktops, and Energy Star rated electronics and appliances are at least 40% more efficient than their unrated counterparts. In addition, unplug any electronics that are not in use, because as long as they are plugged in, they are still consuming some electricity.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Testing Your Home for Air Leaks

Blower Door TestLeaks are never a good thing. Whether you have a leaky faucet dripping into your sink, a leaky pipe getting your floor wet, or a leaky window making your air-conditioned home less comfortable, leaks are always issues that need to be addressed. When it comes to air leaks, you need to have your home inspected by a trained technician who will perform an energy audit. Energy audits show you where your home is not performing as efficiently as it could. By addressing these problem areas, you will in turn save yourself some money in the years to come.

Air leaks come in many different forms, from small cracks in a corner wall to a gap between the front door and the floor below it. The best way to test your home for leaks is with a blower door test. This test involves setting up what looks like a makeshift door where your front door is located (don’t worry, your front door will not need to be removed). This special door has a fan built into it which will suck air out of your home, causing it to depressurize. By closing up all other exterior openings — that is, closing windows, doors leading outside, chimney dampers, vents, and all other openings — you will allow your home to be as airtight as it can be. When the door blower is activated, any spots where air is leaking will become detectable.

It is possible to find air leaks without the use of the aforementioned test, but they can be more time consuming and not as effective. First, you’ll want to do a visual inspection of your home. Check all corners of your home, literally. The external corners of your house can have sizeable gaps, and any place where two materials meet have a tendency to form leaks. This includes homes with chimneys. Chimneys are separate from the rest of your home in that they will not be the same material as your walls, more than likely. Be sure to check all outdoor spigots, as they may not be properly sealed against the siding.

These same principals apply to materials and objects inside your home as well. Electrical outlets and switch plates should be securely fastened and all screws tightened to make sure they are well sealed. Any location where something enters or exits your home is a potential leak point. These include electrical wires and any pipes that connect to gas lines, water wells, or septic tanks. Any object that can be opened has a potential for air leaks. Windows and door frames, attic hatches, fireplace dampers, or vents can cause air leaks if they are not properly aligned and shut. For many of these, weather-stripping your home can help seal it better.

After you have ascertained where the largest gaps are, it’s time to look for smaller ones. On particularly windy days, close up all possible openings in your home, but turn on any fan vents that blow air out of your home. These can be dryer vents, bathroom vents, or stove vents, or if you lack those, a large window fan aimed outside and sealing the open space around it can work as well. This will depressurize your home, and in doing so, allow you to find leaks more easily. Next, take an incense stick and light it. Slowly wave the lit incense along all corners of your home and anywhere there could be gaps. If the smoke wavers, blows in, or is sucked out, you have found a leak. Address these leaks through weather-stripping or contact a professional technician to give your home an accurate energy audit. By sealing up your home, you will save a bundle on your energy needs as air conditioners and heaters will not have to work as hard to maintain a set temperature.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Bundling Up Your Home

Woman Drinking CoffeeWinter is right around the corner, and there’s no better time than right now to start preparing your home for the cold months ahead. There are several things you can do to prepare yourself, including common steps like weather-stripping your home, adding insulation, or wrapping pipes, and lesser known steps like cleaning your gutters and turning on your ceiling fan. That’s right, even ceiling fans have a winter application.

  1. Cleaning Gutters — During the autumn months, the trees shed their leaves, scattering them across your yard and clogging up your gutters. If you don’t clean out these leaves, you face the risk of ice dams, which is when snow melts and rain blocks your gutters further, potentially spilling out over the edges. This can lead to water getting into your home and really messing things up. Be sure to patch up any leaky gutters and ensure that the draining water gets as far away from the house as possible.
  2. Air Leaks — Weather-stripping your home by covering obvious gaps with caulk or rubber seals will go a long way toward making your home more energy efficient and comfortable. Plugging these gaps will not only help you in the winter, but they will also be helpful for summer by keeping your home cooler and reducing the amount of time your air conditioning needs to run.
  3. Insulation — Every home should have about 12 inches of insulation in the attic, according to Danny Lipford of the television show “Today’s Homeowner.â€� This insulation cuts way down on radiant heat loss and gain during the winter and summer months, respectively. Avoid using insulation with paper backings, as these tend to develop moisture problems with your insulation, making them ineffective.
  4. Furnace — Before it even starts to get cold, fire up your furnace and let it run for a bit. If you notice a smell right after it starts, just open some windows to let it dissipate. This is normal when starting it up after an extended period, but if the smell continues for several days, get it checked. Be sure to check filters monthly and replace them as needed. A clogged filter will reduce airflow and negatively impact the performance of your furnace.
  5. Ductwork — Homes with central air and heating are notorious for air leaks before the conditioned air even reaches the designated room. Ducts should be inspected every year to ensure they are properly aligned and have not developed any cracks or breaks. Up to 60% of heat loss can be expected from poorly insulated and misaligned ducts. Be sure also to close vents in any unused rooms, as this will prevent any wasted heat from entering them.
  6. Windows — Some windows or storm doors have a screen for summer and a glass pane for winter. Installing these extra glass panes can save you from losing heat, especially if your windows are particularly old. If you are having issues with your windows being drafty, it may be time to consider replacing them. As replacing windows is a costly endeavor, it is best to replace a couple at a time, starting with the ones prone to drafts. For the rest of the windows, a DIY window insulator kit may do the trick, if only for the current winter. The kit allows you to seal up each window at a cost of about $4 per window. The sealant can be removed in the spring time and is very effective, if a bit unsightly.
  7. Chimneys — Most people believe that your chimney should be swept once per year. While it isn’t true that it needs to be done that often, it still should be inspected every year. As creosote builds up in your chimney or wood stove exhausts, it can damage the lining of the chimney and also present a fire hazard. Any time you find at least a quarter inch of creosote buildup, you should get the chimney swept. If you do plan to sweep your chimney, the earlier you do it, the better. Springtime is ideal as not many calls will be going out for sweeps.
  8. Ceiling Fans — Most people don’t even think about starting up their ceiling fans during the winter, but by turning it on low and in reverse, you will actively circulate the warm air and prevent it from lingering up near your ceiling.
  9. Pipes — Insulating water pipes will keep warm water warm from heater to spigot, and it will prevent all your pipes from bursting during a particularly cold winter. If you don’t have your pipes insulated and temperatures are getting to the freezing level, shut off your water lines and drain the lines inside your home. This will prevent a catastrophic line burst.
  10. Alarms — Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and ensure they are working properly. For smoke alarms, test them with a small amount of smoke from a burning match or incense stick. Smoke detectors should also be replaced every 10 years to ensure they will work properly.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

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