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High temps — and high electricity bills — are here. Here’s what Utahns can do

Two air conditioning units sit outside of a Lehi apartment complex, July 3, 2023.
Curtis Booker
Two air conditioning units sit outside of a Lehi apartment complex, July 3, 2023.

Utah's summer heat is here, and that has people cranking up the air conditioning. That can lead to an increase in utility costs.

Rocky Mountain Power said its customers typically use more energy during the summer months, primarily driven by cooling.

“You can count on the fact that your electricity use is going to be about 30% higher on average. And your bill, of course, will be correspondingly higher. So the things that you can do to moderate that, to increase the efficiency of that, is a good idea,” said Rocky Mountain Power spokesman David Eskelsen.

But there are some ways to save a buck or two during the summer months.

Eskelsen said leaving the AC thermostat on and up during the day is one way Utahns can beat the heat without breaking the bank. The idea is that when the air stays cooler, the unit doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the inside of a home.

“It's more efficient to cool down from 80 degrees than it is from, you know, 95.”

Eskelsen recommended setting the thermostat “as high as you're comfortable,” like 78 degrees when you're at home, or “even a little higher when you're away.”

He also pointed to smart thermostats that can have settings for when people aren’t at home.

“And if you have nobody at home, you know, there's no reason to keep it as cool as you might,” he said.

HVAC experts said it's also a good idea to make sure an AC unit is running efficiently by checking the filtration system regularly to make sure it's getting the proper airflow.

“People call up and say, ‘Oh, well, my unit's frozen.’ Well, it's frozen because it's not getting airflow,” said Dennis Ewing, chief value officer at Whipple Service Champions.

“Filtration, number one. But number two, are your vents open? Is every vent open or are we shutting the vents downstairs to try and make sure that the air comes upstairs? Are we putting the piano in front of our cold air return?” said Ewing.

An aging air conditioner can also be a factor.

“The replacement phase, normally we're thinking that 12-15 years on an a/c unit and we're thinking probably that 10-15 years on furnaces, depending on how much you use that and what area you’re in. You know, furnaces are going to work a lot harder in Park City than they're going to work down in the valley and [with] AC, same thing. They're probably going to work a lot harder in the valley than they are in Park City,” Ewing said.

Eskelsen said other options to keep energy costs down in the summer include trying to avoid using appliances like an oven or clothes dryer and keeping blinds closed.

Corrected: August 1, 2023 at 9:47 AM MDT
An earlier version of this story misspelled the surname of David Eskelsen, the spokesman of Rocky Mountain Power.
Curtis Booker is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in Central Utah.
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