FERNDALE, Mich. -

DTE power lines DTE Energy crews have been working in Royal Oak, Detroit and part of Macomb County as millions of dollars are going into a system upgrade which will reduce the length of power outages.

Hundreds of thousands of customers may already be seeing the benefits.

About two years ago, a power outage left Jay Schloff and his family in the dark for days at their Ferndale home.

"Yeah, you're really caught off guard," he said.

It was hot, humid and patience was thin.

"It was inconvenient, in a word," Schloff said.

DTE spent hundreds of millions of dollars on maintenance in Schloff's Ferndale neighborhood. Now, the energy company is making improvements to its entire electrical system. The focus is on areas with high outage frequency.

"We're installing new devices to make the operation system better," said Vincent G. Dow, of DTE. "It improves the reliability of the system, but it also provide us a better way to restore customers even faster than we have in the past."

Out in the field or remotely, DTE is now able to control which way the electricity flows through the system, thereby isolating problems when they occur.

"For the majority of our customers who don't experience any outages, they probably won't notice any difference. For those customers that do have an outage, where they would have experienced maybe a longer outage, this will shorten up the time and they'll experience getting their power on faster."

Millions of dollars are going into the upgrade which is expected to take up to 5 years to complete.

The Schloffs haven't had a power outage since the summer of 2011. It's an experience they hope to keep behind them.

"I hope they get it in place because I would rather that not happen again," said Schloff.

Most of the improvements will be on overhead power lines, poles and underground wires.

Tree trimming also will have to happen because in severe weather tree damage accounts for a large amount of power outages.