The Cost of Staying Cool

George Fields runs a weed eater with speed in close to 100 degree weather.   He is used to working in the hot sun, but he likes cooling off with air conditioning. What he doesn't like is paying the higher utility bills, so he's shopping around.   "Yesterday I received a notice from one of the providers that were offering seven cents less compared to TXU, so I gave them a call and I'm considering taking them out. The bills are extremely high. They are much higher than they were last year."

A development that's sending more clients to Community Action for energy assistance.   Nesha Powers was in line. "My bill went from $150 all the way to $250 in a months time." And that's one of the lower bills brought in according to Community Action Director Karen Swenson. "We have people come in everyday with 4,5,$600 bill. It is so terribly hot. People are struggling."

The hardship can't be ignored. Energy Assistance Director Beverly Norris-Jones is letting her clients know about a recent declaration. "The PUC declared that from this period to September 30 that there's a moratorium on the cutoffs from the elderly and disabled and low income. They to call the utility company and request the service and some customers they may have to pay a portion of it, but they can defer that balance through September 30 and they won't cut them off."

Nesha can't risk having her power turned off to the two bedroom mobile home where she and her six year old daughter live. She'll get her bill paid, plus some energy tips. They're all worthwhile following, but with rising fuel costs customers will notice a stabilized bill, not necessarily a lower bill.

Energy saving tips

Set thermostat at 78 degrees or higher when the house is occupied, and at 85 degrees when vacant (save 1 - 2 percent per degree raised on cooling costs).

Regularly clean/replace the air conditioner's air filter (save up to 5 percent on annual energy costs). Keep the door and vents closed in unused rooms (save up to 3 percent on cooling costs).

On hot, sunny days, keep the curtains closed on windows facing south and west (save 2 - 4 percent on cooling costs).

Caulk and weather-strip around windows and doors (save 1 - 4 percent on cooling costs). Wash/dry full loads of clothes and use cold water as much as possible (save 2 - 4 percent on energy costs).

Set the water heater's temperature to 120 degrees (save up to 10 percent on water heating costs; check by placing a thermometer under a tap).

Use a microwave oven instead of a regular oven (save up to 50 percent on cooking costs).

Install compact fluorescent lights in high-use fixtures (save about 66 percent on lighting cost per fixture).

Take advantage of the new federal tax credits when making energy efficiency improvements to your home:

Advice from Edison Electric Institute