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Utility Watchdog: Tips to Keep Electric Bills Down

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As Illinois residents get ready for more high temperatures this August, utility watchdogs are urging people to practice energy efficiency to keep their electric bills down, but also make sure they stay safe.

Extreme heat, on average, kills more Americans every year than any other kind of weather event.

Jim Chilsen, communications director for the Citizens Utility Board, said it is important people have access to air conditioning, but he recommended not running it too hard. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends keeping the thermostat at 78 degrees if people are at home in the summer.

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“You don’t want to plunge your thermostat to frigid temperatures, because that will drive up your electric bill,” Chilsen explained. “But you also don’t want to set it at a hot, unsafe temperature. Energy efficiency is about saving money and staying safe.”

When no one’s home, Chilsen pointed out bumping up the thermostat seven to 10 degrees can save roughly 10% on cooling costs. Other tips include cleaning or changing the air-conditioner filters regularly, and sealing gaps around windows and doors.

Chilsen also recommended closing the shades, grilling outdoors instead of cooking inside and waiting until nighttime or even waking up early to use the oven, run the dishwasher or do laundry.

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He added those very hot days, when electric companies see what they call ‘peak demand,’ can cause chaos with power bills for the rest of the year.

“The more energy that we need during these high-demand times, the more plants that we have to keep online, the more plants that we have to build,” Chilsen emphasized. “And so, it’s very important during these hot summer afternoons that we practice energy efficiency, because that will have an overall impact on electricity prices.”

He noted keeping appliances and chargers plugged in can subtly increase the amount of heat in a home, so he suggested unplug them when they’re not in use. He also advised checking with your utility to see if there are options to incentivize efficiency, for instance, the state’s two major utilities offer some customers $100 off the cost of a “smart” thermostat.

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