Bay Area residents brace for higher electric bills

- The weather has been sweltering, and the FOX 13 meteorologists say it's going to get even worse.

Extreme heat is proving to create record demands for electricity in the Bay Area. There were record breaking temperatures on Lakeland on Wednesday and Thursday, and record utility usage levels to match. 

Adding to the uncomfortable heat, the discomfort many will feel when opening their next utility bill. But Cindy Clemmons, spokeswoman for Lakeland Electric, said you can avoid sticker shock at the end of the month by jumping on a few issues early.

"Changing your behavior is key," Clemmons told FOX 13 News. "That is the number-one thing you have to do. Many people don't want to do that because it is hard."

Clemmons advised to check with the energy company for information about plans and steps to take to keep reduce energy consumption.

Lakeland Electric offers rebates up to $200 on new, energy-saving appliances like refrigerators, washing machines and water heaters. It also has plans that allow customers to get lower rates by spreading energy use throughout the day, or using electricity during off hours.

Both Lakeland Electric and TECO provide free energy audits, too. During an audit, an energy expert will inspect your home and suggest ways to cut your bill, sometimes up to 30-percent.

TECO has these additional tips:

- Set your thermostat to 78° or higher. Every degree below 78 will increase the AC portion of your bill by 6-7-percent.
- Check or replace air conditioning and ventilation filters every month.
- Turn off the air conditioning unit when away from home for four hours or more, or set it to 85° or higher.
- Have air conditioning and heating systems inspected and serviced once a year.
- Run ceiling fans in occupied rooms only.
- Turn off unnecessary lighting. Install compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs).
- Shade windows to block summer sun or install reflective material on east and west-facing windows.
- Make sure your attic is adequately insulated.
- Limit running pool pumps to eight hours per day.
- Turn off computers and monitors. Unplug electronics, gadgets and chargers.
- Lower water heater thermostat setting to 120° and turn off if gone from home for more than two days.

Experts say, even making small changes can make a big difference in your bill. You might as well start now. Cooler temperatures are still a way off.

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