Things are starting to heat up again, meaning that your air conditioning unit will soon be pushed to its limit. You might expect the electricity bill to be a bit steeper in the next few months, but Austin Energy customers should also prepare their wallets for new summer rates going into effect on June 1.
The new rates will be in effect from June through September to allow Austin Energy to recover the cost of sizing the electrical system and generation so that it can cover the peak demands for electricity during the summer months. It’s just another fact of life for anyone living in a region as warm as Texas, where nearly half of the total energy used year-round by the average Austin Energy customer is used in just the few months of summer.
"At 2,000 kWh of usage, a customer can expect an electric bill that is $44 higher than for the same usage last summer under the old rates," states the Austin Energy website. "By contrast, 85 percent of customers use 1,000 kWh or less during the eight non-summer months which resulted in a $4 per month or less increase due to the new rates."
Air conditioning is the central cause for why energy demand will be sky high for the summer (accounting for half of the average summer electric bill), and Austin Energy is kind enough to give a few pointers on how to trim an energy bill while staying cool in your house.
These tips boil down to keeping your home cool during the day and removing unnecessary energy drains around the house. Austin Energy recommends avoiding any stovetop cooking or baking during the hottest part of the day (between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and closing window blinds in rooms that receive direct sunlight during those hours. So if you need a late lunch or early dinner, maybe just try microwaving a Hot Pocket instead.
Austin Energy also recommends the use of fans and changing your air filters regularly to ease the strain on your A/C units, as well as cutting down electronics and appliances that draw a lot of “phantom loads” or “vampire power.” They’re not as dramatic as they sound, but your bank account will thank you if you find a way to exorcize them.
Essentially, these "phantom load" culprits are appliances that are always on standby mode even when you turn them off, like televisions, DVD players, game consoles, coffee makers, phone chargers and a host of other electronics that we now can’t live without. These devices are estimated to account for around 10 percent of home electricity use, so consider unplugging a few things around the house that you don’t need to use at the moment.
No one ever said that summer was the best part about living in Texas, but just remember we only have to deal with it for a few months. When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade — and sell it on the street to make some extra change for your summer electric bill.