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Beating the heat this summer

Fri, Jul 13th, 2012
Posted in Rushford All

This spring and summer have shown many record-breaking temperatures in Minnesota, and we recently had a long string of days with highs in the 90s, with high humidity. What does this mean for power companies and utility bills?

Tri-County Electric covers rural areas of Fillmore, Houston and Winona Counties. Brad Pecinovsky is a member of the marketing team at the Rushford office.

“This summer has been hotter than usual so far,” said Pecinovsky. “With the prolonged heat and humidity that goes along with it, air conditioning gets used a lot more.”

Tri-County has not seen any major problems yet this summer due to the high heat, but they make several recommendations to people to keep their costs down and to conserve energy and still keep cool.

Using your air conditioning effectively is key, according to Pecinovsky. “Have your system serviced every couple of years,” he suggested. “Make sure it is running at peak efficiency, change out air filters, set the thermostat higher.”

Pecinovsky said even setting the thermostat a few degrees higher will make a big difference. “You save about three percent per degree that you can adjust your thermostat. That’s in a 24-hour period.”

Ceiling fans and other fans can be helpful, but only if you are in the room while using them. If they are running in an unoccupied room, energy is being wasted.

Some people use window air conditioner units, and keeping those clean is also important to their efficiency. Pecinovsky noted that it also helps if you have the ability to shut off parts of the house and cool only one or two rooms. Fans can be used to move cooler air to another room. It also makes a difference if you purchase an Energy Star rated air conditioner.

As for other hints, houses can be kept cooler by closing blinds and shades during the day, avoiding cooking inside by using microwaves or grilling outside, and running appliances such as dishwashers later in the evening.

Another thing that not many people think of is the lighting in the house. “An incandescent bulb puts out a lot of heat,” said Pecinovsky. He recommends using LED or compact fluorescent bulbs instead, which will also save energy costs.

The kinds of problems power companies can run into during the summer months are when transformers are overloaded from so many air conditioners running. Preston recently experienced a brief power outage during a long stretch of hot and humid weather.

Joe Hoffman, City Administrator and Utility General Manager, said the heat was indirectly to blame for the 25-minute outage. “There was a failure at Generator number five, which tripped a main breaker at the power plant,” he explained. He added that the generators were running because of the high power demand and the heat that day.

The peak hours of energy usage are between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., and it is recommended to conserve energy during that time, Monday through Friday. If everyone conserves energy at that time, it keeps costs down for everyone all year long.

Hoffman also had similar recommendations for conserving energy and staying cool, including visiting the swimming pool or seeing a movie at the Jem Theater.

The week of July 2-6 was the highest power usage the area has had in years. Things have cooled down since then, but there is still a lot of summer left, and it is certainly looking to be a warm one.

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