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It's Hot Today. Here's How To Stay Cool And Use Less Energy

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Today, Monday, could be one of the hottest days of the year, and with that comes high demand for electricity. Using less power in the heat could lower your bills – as well as carbon emissions.

Electricity bills carry a fee based on the peak demand within the year. Consultant Emily Manns of Nashua-based Standard Power says it’s possible that fee will be set today, at the peak hours: between 4 and 7 p.m.

Businesses and factories may pay a penalty for using more power during that time, but it has an effect on residential customers, too:

“We all pay more, the higher the peak demand on the peak day is,” Manns says.

A heat wave that peaks on a Monday is especially hard on the grid, she says, because businesses have to use more power switching systems back on after the weekend.

But she says using less energy always saves money regardless of when the region reaches peak demand. It’s also good for the planet – because fossil fuels, mostly natural gas, supply the excess power that New England uses on very hot days.

This story is part of By Degrees, NHPR's climate change reporting project. Click here to see more and share your ideas and questions for future stories.

Small-scale solar power can help “shave” down the peak demand on days like this, but these systems sometimes produce less energy in extreme heat.

Credit Sara Plourde, NHPR

Manns says the region could even call up its coal and oil reserves on a day like Monday. Those fuels are most likely to be used in the winter, when natural gas is being used for heating, but also sometimes work to generate energy on the hottest days.

Fossil fuels all create the carbon emissions that drive climate change, leading to more hot days and even more demand for electricity, which drives emissions further. Advocates say this is why energy efficiency improvements should be an essential part of climate change response. Sealing up cold winter drafts also works to keep heat out in the summer.

In general, closing windows and curtains helps to lower indoor heat. Turning off unnecessary lights and not using the oven, dishwasher or laundry machines during peak times will also help to keep indoor heat and electricity costs down.

Eversource has some pandemic-specific tips to save energy while spending more time at home. Customers of the state’s largest utility can also see a breakdown of where they use the most energy – for laundry, cooking, cooling and more – by logging into their online accounts.

Liberty Utilities says customers can see huge savings by installing LED lightbulbs, washing clothes in cold water, and maintaining air conditioners with insulation and clean filters.

Unitil notes that customers use 3-5% more energy for every degree their thermostat is set below 78 degrees in the summer.

Residents can check the energy efficiency of their home through the federal government’s Energy Star program by answering a few questions here. Rebates are often available for making efficiency upgrades.

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Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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