With temperatures already in the mid-90s, energy experts say there are myriad ways residents can keep energy costs down and still stay cool.
Some of the easiest things to do are: install a programmable thermostat and keep the air conditioning set at 78 degrees; close shades and curtains to block the sun in hot weather; and caulk around windows and door frames.
Bob Casteel, owner of Casteel Heating and Cooling in Marietta, said the single best thing homeowners can do is have their units serviced once a year and change the filters every one to three months. Cleaning out the dirt, grime, pollen and dust will help prevent costly repairs.
“Think of it like this: The average HVAC system in Georgia runs 2,500 to 2,800 hours a year. That’s like putting 100,000 miles on your car this year without changing the oil,” Casteel said. “Units must be serviced once a year when they run that many hours.”
Local utilities say customers often ask how to lower power bills.
“Customers are looking for ways to reduce their energy bill in any way they can due to cost pressures,” said Barry Echols, a spokesman for Marietta Power. “Interests in energy efficiency and energy conservation are at an all-time high.”
Last year, a Marietta Power customer who used 850 kilowatt hours per month, which is the utility’s average usage among its residential customers, had an average monthly electric bill of $83.05. This year, that same usage would cost $87.06, a 4.83 percent increase.
Marietta Power has about 45,000 electric customers in and around the city of Marietta.
Echols said the rate hikes trickled down from wholesale power-cost increases from its suppliers, who are themselves facing higher operating costs. The Marietta City Council, which oversees Marietta Power through the Board of Lights and Water, has approved multiple rate increases in recent years.
Members of Cobb Electric Membership Corporation are also trying to keep their cooling costs down, spokesman Kevan Espy said. The Marietta-based cooperative serves more than 170,000 customers in Cobb and surrounding counties and south Georgia.
“They want to know what to set their thermostats on during the summer; how often they should have their A/C units serviced; and how much energy a (particular) appliance uses,” Espy said. “Overall, I believe our members have become more educated and aware of how to conserve energy in their homes and businesses.”
At Cobb EMC, a member who uses 850 kilowatt hours would pay $94.05 on the company’s standard rate structure, Espy said. The amount would be the same whether it was summer or winter usage.
As the sustainability movement surges forward, both Echols and Espy said more Cobb residents would continue to seek other sources of energy.
“Our customers are becoming more interested in alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind,” Echols said. “In the past, where we may have received one call per year, we now receive about one call per month.”
Marietta Power offers rebates for EnergyStar-certified central heating and air-conditioning equipment and appliances, including refrigerators.
Cobb EMC also offers incentives to help members use less electricity.
“We offer green programs such as qualified solar photovoltaic systems, solar water heaters and green power,” Espy said. “We have a portion of members who are passionate and committed about green initiatives. (But right now) the majority indicated they are not willing to pay more for energy in order to ensure it comes from renewable resources.”
Michael J. Pallerino has reported on business news for magazines and newspapers in the Atlanta area for more than 20 years.
ENERGY REDUCING TIPS:
* Use a programmable thermostat and keep A/C set at 78
* Leave lights and ceiling fans off when you’re not in a room
* Plug air leaks around windows, doors, wall outlets and fireplaces
* Install a water heater-insulated blanket
* Install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature lower or higher to save energy when you’re not home
* Change incandescent light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs
* Install a power strip that will cut power to phantom loads such as VCRs, computers, TVs and stereos
* Reduce the water temperature to 120 F to help cut water-heating costs
* Wash and dry only full loads of laundry and use the cold-water settings when possible
* Use EnergyStar appliances
* Regularly clean or replace your air filters
* Schedule a tuneup for your heating and air conditioning system
* Adjust shades, blinds and draperies to block sun in hot weather
* Use caulk or expanding spray foam to insulate where plumbing, wiring and ducting penetrates through walls
* Add insulation in places such as your attic
* Caulk around windows and door frames (non-moving parts)
* Add weather stripping and door sweeps to doors or replace weather stripping as it wears out
— Source: Marietta Power, Cobb EMC