How to save money on energy this summer

With a few hot days under our belt already, Consumers Energy Summer Peak rates have begun. However, you can still save money this summer.

Consumers Energy has started its Summer Peak Rate. That means you will be spending more on energy between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays in the summer. 

Consumers ran a trial with 50,000 customers in 2019 for the rate program. That showed the average increase, without changing energy usage, was about $2 a month extra. However, the goal of the program is not to punish someone for running an air conditioner all day, but to understand the difference when it comes to energy usage during the summertime. 

“The energy use that our customers have can double on hot summer days,” said Brian Wheeler, a spokesperson for Consumers Energy, “as everybody turns on their air conditioning.”

An average of $2 or not, spending extra money is not everyone’s cup of tea. Wheeler said there are both low-tech and high-tech ways to save money on energy this summer. 

The high-tech way to save money is installing a smart thermostat, like a Nest. Wheeler said this move alone can save 10% to 15% on your energy bill. Adjusting any thermostat by even one degree can decrease energy use by 1% to 3%. Consumers Energy also has a program to earn rebates for these smart devices, as well as programs with other incentives for making changes during peak times. You can view those programs by visiting this website.

 Low-tech ways to save money on energy in the summer include: 

  1. Using appliances like laundry machines or dishwashers before 2 p.m. or after 7 p.m.
  2. Don’t turn on the hot oven during those peak hours. Instead, wait until after 7 p.m. or use an outdoor grill or slow cooker. 
  3.  Turn off lights. 
  4. Change light-bulbs to energy efficient models. Efficient light bulbs will likely not be warm to the touch. 
  5. Plug television, computers and other devices into an outlet strip, and turn them off when not in use. Smart strips can also be programmed to do this automatically. 
  6. Check for older filters on furnaces and change if needed. 
  7. Hot water uses a lot of energy, so decrease hot water use between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. 
  8. Try “pre-cooling,” or making your house cool with air conditioning earlier in the day, to make the higher-heat daytime less noticeable, even if the AC unit is off during peak hours. 
  9. Open windows during evening hours to cool the house down. Work with the temperature outside, not against it. 
  10. Use ceiling and floor fans to make the room cooler without air conditioning. 

“We want people to still be safe and comfortable,” said Wheeler. “We don’t want people to be hot in their homes. So, if you do have to run the air conditioning in the afternoon, that’s okay. Because we know the impact is still going to be $2 or less per month.”

However, if someone is still finding difficulty paying for energy this summer, there is help. Wheeler said calling Consumers Energy can get someone assistance to work through their bill. Also, dialing 2-1-1 will direct someone to a multitude of avenues for support. 

“It’s better you have the help for your energy bill,” said Angie Sterner, energy services director at Salvation Army. “So, you can help pay a bill you might not be able to have help with.”

Salvation Army is one of the organizations that help people pay for utilities. Sterner said they are seeing more people needing help with things like energy bills lately, and it’s often new people who have never needed the assistance before. 

RELATED: Consumers Energy starting program that raises rates, helps the environment

“Right now, with the economy the way it is, and so many people out of work, it’s one of the necessities if people are home,” said Sterner. “That’s one of the main things people need.”

Salvation Army offers a wide range of assistance, often based on income, and whether someone has that or not. Sterner said if someone is unsure if they qualify, to call anyway. Also, waiting until utilities are disconnected or they receive a shut off notice is not necessary. A past-due notice is all that is needed. 

“We have an abundance of funding at this time,” said Sterner. “So, it’s important you reach out now, and before your services are disconnected.”

To apply for assistance with Salvation Army, visit this website. You can also call 1-800-887-1107 and 2-1-1. 

RELATED VIDEO: Consumers Energy Summertime Peak Rate Program

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