July 25, 2008

Heat Hikes Energy Costs

By Kimberly Hill, The Edmond Sun, Okla.

Jul. 24--EDMOND -- Oklahoma is heating up, and Sunday marked the height of Edmond's temperatures so far this summer at 102 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, this month's records and averages rise well above June's. July has seen 4.55 less inches of precipitation than June as well.

This summer altogether is hotter than last summer.

Along with rising temperatures come rising energy costs, water conservation concerns and heat-related accidents and medical problems.

Charles Burgett, utility director for Edmond Electric, said energy costs are high this summer for a number of reasons.

"In the summer months Edmond Electric customers use two to three times as much electricity as they do in the winter months," Burgett said.

He said this summer is especially expensive because temperatures have gotten so high.

"Last July was extremely mild compared to this July," he said.

The major summertime use of electricity is air conditioning, which can be reduced in numerous ways, he said.

Beth Eubanks, English education senior at the University of Central Oklahoma, said she keeps her air conditioner at 78 degrees when at home and turns it off when she leaves. She also keeps fans running throughout her house.

Eubanks' efforts brought her electricity bill down to $60 last month, which is less than what she usually paid last summer, she said.

Burgett said another idea is to replace standard light bulbs, which create heat from within and expel a small amount of heat, with compact fluorescent light bulbs.

"Our peak demand -- the highest electrical use on the system -- occurs between 5 and 7 p.m.," Burgett said. "Anything that you can do to reduce your electricity usage between those hours is a benefit for everyone. It helps hold down the peak demand on the electric system."

The steep increase in the price of gas is causing havoc not only for vehicles, but for air conditioners as well.

The power used for air conditioning mainly comes from power plants that run only during the summer, according to Edmond Electric's Web site. The power plants are fueled by natural gas, which is increasing at a faster pace than oil. The price of gas has increased more than 90 percent.

Energy costs are currently higher for yet another reason. The cost of equipment to supply electricity increases for the summer.

"We have to have enough transformer capacity and enough wire capacity installed to deliver the amount of electricity that's required in the summertime," Burgett said. "It is going to have an impact.

"Everything I see is going in the direction of increasing energy costs," Burgett said.

Keep an eye on heat-related illnesses

Oklahoma temperatures bring about concern for personal safety alongside environmental safety.

"When we get temperatures this high obviously there is quite a concern for heat-related injuries," said Kelly Lewis, fire prevention specialist at the Edmond Fire Department.

Lewis said there are three basic forms of "heat illnesses" to watch out for -- heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The Edmond Fire Department has not dealt with any heat-related incidents recently, which means people are taking good care of themselves, he said.

Eubanks said she easily becomes dehydrated and fatigued from heat, so she often takes naps and drinks water to sustain her energy. Her health isn't her only concern, though.

"I have to be careful because I have a pet," she said. "I always have to keep a fan on her and make sure she has water. I have to keep her cool."

The safety of children is crucial to remember. Eubanks said the heat has changed her habits at a private preschool, where she works as a teacher. For recess she takes her students outside one or two hours ahead of its scheduled time to avoid extreme heat.

Temperatures this week continue to remain in the upper 90s and lower 100s.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The Edmond Sun, Okla.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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