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The Heat is On! AmerenUE Offers Tips for Keeping Cool this Summer

ST. LOUIS, June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- As temperatures and humidity levels are forecasted to be high all week, AmerenUE's energy experts are offering a number of tips for cost-effectively keeping cool this week and all summer long.

The biggest cause of higher energy prices in the summer is electricity used to power air conditioning. Today, 72 percent of American homes have air conditioners, with about 8 million new air conditioners sold in the United States annually.

For customers who expect to have problems paying bills as temperatures rise, AmerenUE's Budget Billing will "average out" a customer's monthly bills to minimize the effect of higher prices or higher seasonal usage. Information about Budget Billing is also available at www.ameren.com.

UE's Web site also features a recently updated version of the Energy Savings Toolkit--UE customers' online resource for detailed information about making the most of household cooling systems. The tool is tied to each customer's own usage and information tailored for individual types of home. It also allows customers to calculate how much savings they can expect from replacing older, less efficient air conditioners with ENERGY STAR®-qualified models and much more. Customers without access to a computer can visit a cool public library and log on for free. All that is required is the customer's AmerenUE account number and name as it appears on the bill to sign up.

Meanwhile, to help control utility bills, UE urges its customers to keep these energy facts in mind this season:

  • To cool your house efficiently, your air conditioner needs to be cool itself. Keep it in the shade. If your air conditioner is already in the sun, you can use a trellis with a vine on it to provide summer shade -- just don't place the trellis so near the unit that it blocks the air flow.
  • Don't use vents to close off rooms. Doing so can decrease efficiency.
  • When your home is warm, setting the thermostat really low won't help it cool down any faster. When the air conditioning is on, it runs at the same "speed" regardless of the temperature setting.
  • Set the thermostat as high as possible. The recommended energy efficient summer temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Use ceiling fans or portable fans more and your air conditioner less. Ceiling fans help you feel cooler and more comfortable without lowering the thermostat by circulating air over your body. The air movement will typically allow you to raise the room temperature 3-4 degrees Fahrenheit and stay just as comfortable. Ceiling fans are most effective if used in rooms where household members tend to congregate.
  • Where your thermostat is located sometimes determines how well it operates. It should never be placed on an exterior wall, where it would be affected by the hot or cold outdoor temperatures. Appliances that give off heat -- like lamps -- should be kept away from the thermostat to ensure that the instrument senses the temperature accurately.
  • To clean your thermostat, gently blow out any dust or lint. Because it is a delicate instrument, it should be cleaned gently. If your thermostat is 10 years old or older, you might replace it with a newer model that is more accurate and efficient.
  • Consider placing a timer on your room air conditioner or using a programmable thermostat on your central air conditioner. However, make sure your timer is a "heavy duty" timer rather than a smaller timer designed for use with household lighting. Hardware stores sell timers and programmable thermostats that will automatically start your air conditioner before you get home.
  • You can save energy by taking care of air conditioner coils. They won't work efficiently unless they are clean, so check them out every spring. If they are dusty, dirty or clogged with old leaves, you can vacuum them with your household vacuum cleaner. If the attachment on the vacuum cleaner won't fit between the coils, reverse the air flow and blow the dirt away instead.
  • Don't forget to check your filter at the beginning of the cooling season. A clogged filter will use up to five percent more energy than a clean one. Remove the filter and try to look through it at a bright light. If you cannot see light easily, clean or replace the filter.
  • Permanent filters can be cleaned according to the manufacturer's instructions; disposable filters should be replaced every month or two while the unit is in use.
  • Keep the heat out by drawing shades and curtains on hot days.
  • If you have exhaust fans in your bathroom, laundry and kitchen, use them to help reduce the humidity burden on your air conditioner. These fans should not be used continuously, but periodically, as required.
  • Help protect the ozone layer by repairing leaks in home and auto air conditioning systems.

When purchasing central air conditioners or window units, buyers should look for the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) number---the higher the SEER, the better. For residential central air conditioning units manufactured after Jan. 23, 2006, the minimum SEER allowed is 13. A unit with a SEER of 13 is 30 percent more efficient than a unit with a SEER of 10--the previous minimum standard. Energy Star® qualified units have SEER ratings of 13 or higher. But it's important to select the unit that matches your needs. Measure the area you want to cool, count the windows and doors and ask your dealer for suggestions.

Finally, there is no substitute for insulation in helping you save energy. Use of weather-stripping and caulking prevents outside air infiltration. In addition, simple things like making certain exterior doors have a tight fit, insulating between rafters, walls and floors and in basements can make a difference. Consider replacing old windows. Storm or dual-glazed windows can reduce heat gain by as much as 50 percent. They often pay for themselves within five years.

For homes without air conditioning:

  • During the heat of the day, avoid activities that would add heat and humidity to your home.
  • For maximum efficiency and comfort, position the fan to blow air out of the house during daylight hours and pull cooler air into the house after dark. For a window fan to work properly there should always be another window open in the area the fan is meant to ventilate.

With 1.2 million customers, AmerenUE is Missouri's largest electric company and third largest provider of natural gas. Ameren, through its operating companies, serves 2.4 million electric and nearly 1 million natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile area of Illinois and Missouri.


Web site: http://www.ameren.com/