LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It can be a real shock when that utility bill arrives, especially after a cool spring. Now many customers are seeing their payments soar.
To avoid an even bigger bite in the budget as the heat waves continue, Entergy Arkansas, the state’s largest electric utility company, is offering tips for regaining control of the thermostat now that tons of shocked customers call asking for help.
“It definitely increases once the air conditioners start running,” said Heather Hendrickson, the program director for Entergy’s efficiency programs.
Her overriding advice is to make your home as energy-efficient as possible. There are investment-level things you can do, but also free or low-cost ideas.
For the big-ticket items, Hendrickson says to replace old appliances with more efficient systems, get “smart” thermostats that can be programmed for different times of the day and improve the insulation in the attic or crawlspace.
But there are also easy changes.
“A good little tip: turn on your fans,” she said. “Those fans can literally make you feel two to three degrees cooler.”
She says that can make a world of difference when you take the next step and turn up your thermostat. Don’t do anything extreme, but find a temperature that is comfortable while trying to hit a temperature sweet spot.
“The average, we say, is 78 degrees,” said Hendrickson pointing to guidelines from the US Dept. of Energy. “You save a lot of energy by turning that thermostat up. For every one degree higher, you can get about a two to three percent energy savings.”
It won’t settle arguments over the ideal temperature, but the Energy Dept.’s website spells out how the smaller the difference between indoor settings and outdoor temps, the lower the bill can be.
“People underestimate window coverings,” Hendrickson said. “Your blinds. Your curtains. Those make a huge impact, especially on the west and south side of the house that see the most sun.”
And remember that setting a higher temperature all day is way better than shutting it all down when you’re not home.
“You don’t want to turn it back on and have it be three hours of just pulling all the power and making the machine run 24/7,” Hendrickson said.
Entergy has a page with different tips for saving money. They offer level billing that averages out costs over a 12-month period, avoiding spikes in the heat of the summer and cold of winter. They also work with customers on payment plans if they are experiencing hardship.