Beat the summer heat

Try these tips and tricks to save money, stay cool during a pandemic

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published July 28, 2020

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METRO DETROIT — Seemingly endless weeks of hot, steamy weather along with a few intense storms have dramatically increased the use of air conditioning, and at times, cut power altogether this summer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated both issues, with families staying at home more and the closure of many public buildings typically sought after for shade.

Consumers Energy and DTE encourage customers to shift energy use away from peak times, typically 2-7 p.m. weekdays in the summer, when demand rises and electricity is more expensive to provide.

According to DTE, the number of 90-degree days in Detroit is already three times higher this summer compared to last summer at this point.

“Michigan residents should know they can take simple steps in their homes every day to reduce energy waste and lower their bills,” Consumers Energy Vice President of Customer Experience Lauren Youngdahl Snyder said in a prepared statement.

Youngdahl Snyder recommended clearing leaves and debris away from central air conditioning units and compressors and replacing dusty filters, which make air conditioners work harder. Replacing or tuning up old air conditioners also will increase energy efficiency.

She said to seal and insulate homes, which keeps cool air inside in the summer, as well as keeping hot air inside during the winter.

She also recommended setting thermostats at 78 degrees while at home and higher when away. Automatic setback or programmable thermostats can start air conditioners shortly before returning home.

Operate appliances — such as stoves, ovens, dishwashers and clothes dryers — during morning or evening hours when it’s cooler outside, as they add extra heat to the home and make the air conditioner work harder, Youngdahl Snyder said.

Roger Morgenstern, the senior public information director for Consumers Energy, said residential energy use has increased, while commercial use has decreased. Many employees are working from home and families are staying in.

“Our offices are closed at Consumers Energy,” he said. “Obviously, there are crews you see out there day and night taking proper COVID-19 safety measures, and the dispatchers. You can’t pack up an 800 megahertz radio and take it home with you.”

Using less energy also decreases the need for energy companies to build more power plants and reduces pollution, Morgenstern said.

Brynn Guster, a senior communication specialist at DTE Energy, recommended closing blinds and drapes during the day to keep out the heat from the sun. Window film and solar screens can also be used on west- and south-facing windows to block sunlight.

Guster also recommended ensuring that furniture is not covering registers, which blocks cold air from circulating into the home, and closing doors and windows to trap in cold air.

Other tips provided by DTE Energy include using microwaves or grilling outdoors, instead of using stoves or ovens, to avoid adding extra heat, or if cooking inside is necessary, turn on exhaust fans to move the hot air outside.

Taking quicker, cooler showers will also prevent bathrooms from filling up with hot, humid air; installing an attic fan can reduce the need for air conditioning; and using box, ceiling or hand-held fans can provide instant relief.

“(Fans) create a cooling effect on skin because they move air around and cool your body. It’s great for instant relief, and it’s not going to cause your energy to go through the roof,” Guster said.

In case of power outages, fans are energy experts’ No. 1 recommendation.

“It’s important to stay out of the sun and hydrate,” Morgenstern said.

Guster said to practice safety first by taking breaks and avoiding becoming overheated.

“We definitely have seen the summer temperatures with 90-degree days. It’s fun to feel in summer mode when you’re next to a pool, but not everybody can do that. It becomes draining. You feel your body become lethargic,” she said. “We’re all under some additional stress with COVID happening, and everyone at DTE takes it very seriously.”

Royal Oak Assistant Fire Chief Jim Cook recommended installing smart thermometers, which can be controlled remotely; purchasing dry ice in case of extended power outages, which can keep frozen and refrigerated foods cold; and cooking outdoors.

“You can also do some outdoor water stuff if you have kids. You can use the garden hose or sprinklers — you don’t need power for that,” Cook said. “When the pandemic started, you couldn’t find kiddie pools in southeastern Michigan. They were completely sold out because everybody was snatching them up.”

He said the Fire Department, to his knowledge, has so far only responded to one call of an overheated, elderly patient, who ultimately recovered, and its biggest issue has been responding to more than 100 calls for service for downed power lines due to recent storms.

For more information about DTE Energy or its energy incentives, call (800) 477-4747 or visit dteenergy.com.

For more information about Consumers Energy or its energy incentives, call (800) 477-5050 or visit consumersenergy.com.