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Intense heat doesn't have to mean intensely high electric bills


Michigan is in for a heat wave.  

Weather forecasters say most of southern lower Michigan will be under a heat advisory from Thursday through Saturday, with a heat index well over 100 for many cities.

The heat index combines temperature with humidity to describe how hot it will actually feel.

Brian Wheeler is a spokesman for Consumers Energy.  He says the electric grid is in good shape, and MISO (the grid operator for Michigan) estimates there will be adequate power reserves to meet 2019 summer peak demand.

But cranking the AC to get the most relief from the heat may not be the best course to take, Wheeler says, not if you're concerned about your electric bill.

He says most people can set the thermostat at 78 and still remain comfortable. And it saves a lot of money.

"For every degree that you move your thermostat one degree higher, you ultimately save 1% to 3% on your energy bill," says Wheeler.

There are other things people can do to limit their reliance on costly air conditioning, like turning off the AC when you're at work, and only using it when you're home. 

Other things that can help are closing the blinds or shutters during the day to block the sun, and using window fans instead of air conditioning when it cools off at night.

"A lot of these things are 'grandma's advice,'" says Wheeler. "Things that our parents or parents' parents used to do before there were central air systems."

Meanwhile, many cities will open up cooling centers starting on Friday for people who do not have air conditioning. 

Exposure to a heat index over 100 can be extremely dangerous, especially for infants and small children, the elderly, and people who are ill.

The heat can also be dangerous for outdoor pets, which need shade and access to plentiful, cool water if they cannot be brought indoors.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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