Good advice

MPSC tips on staying cool while keeping utility bills in check

Beachgoers beat the heat at McCarty’s Cove. (Journal file photo)

LANSING — As summer temperatures climb to some of the highest readings so far this year, the Michigan Public Service Commission is offering practical tips to help manage utility bills while staying cool.

For example, keep homes or apartments cool and comfortable by using fans to supplement air conditioning, grill outdoors instead of using the stove or oven, and seal ventilation ducts since air loss accounts for about 30% of a cooling system’s energy consumption.

You’ll find many of these low-cost or no-cost tips to reduce energy waste without breaking a sweat at the MPSC’s Be Summerwise website, https://bit.ly/2XV9Uor , which features important information on smart energy use and helpful utility and weatherization programs.

Be smart:

≤ Ceiling fans allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees without affecting comfort. Turn off fans when not in the room.

≤ Install and set a programmable thermostat to efficiently manage your cooling system. It could help you to save up to 10% annually on cooling and heating costs.

≤ Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower overall cooling bills will be.

≤ Keep curtains or blinds closed to keep the sun from warming the home’s interior.

≤ Shut air vents in parts of the house that aren’t used or close off unoccupied rooms to keep the cool air where it’s needed. This can save 5 to 10% on cooling costs.

≤ Use the dishwasher later in the day so you don’t add heat or humidity to your home.

≤ Keep the cooling system well-tuned with periodic maintenance.

≤ Seal cracks around windows and doors to keep cool air from escaping.

≤ Unplug cell phones, televisions, video games and other devices when not in use. Even when not turned on, these devices use energy just by being plugged in.

≤ If concerned about the cost of running air conditioning, go to an area cooling center, the local mall, the senior center or a movie theater to get out of the heat.

Be safe:

≤ Severe weather such as thunderstorms can knock out power or cause flooding. Assemble a power outage readiness kit that includes flashlights, batteries, water, candles, important phone numbers and a battery-operated radio.

≤ Stay at least 20 feet from downed power lines and assume a fallen line is live.

≤ If power is interrupted and you need to run a portable generator, never use it indoors, in the basement, in a garage, or near windows or doors where dangerous carbon monoxide can enter a home.

Be aware:

≤ Buy an energy star-qualified air conditioning unit — on average, they’re up to 15% more efficient than standard models.

≤ Running large appliances in the evening or at night during off-peak hours can save money.

≤ Check with your utility provider about voluntarily participating in demand response and time-of-use programs, which can help save money by shifting a customer’s energy usage away from peak times.

≤ Sign up for a utility budget plan to even out the cost of staying cool in the summer.

≤ Contact your local utility about programs that allow income-eligible customers to make payments if they receive a shutoff notice and can’t pay the bill in full.

≤ Eligible active duty military personnel and low-income customers may qualify for shut-off protection through various programs.

Be prepared:

≤ If your power goes out, have the toll-free number for your utility provider handy.

≤ The MPSC’s Customer Assistance hotline at 800-292-9555 can help with issues related to utilities.

≤ The Aging and Adult Services Agency, which is part of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, can provide contact information for local Area Agencies on Aging to learn more about local resources such as cooling centers.

≤ Call 211 for information and referrals for agencies that can help with utility payments.

For information about the MPSC, visit www.michigan.gov/mpsc .