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Beat the heat without raising your electric bill

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Martha and Jim Smith's air conditioning unit has been out for 24 hours...and it's still cooler inside their home than it is outside.

"We have box fans," explained Martha.

Their unit blew a fuse, trying to keep up with the triple digit heat.

"Capacitors are what helps start the unit, what helps it run efficiently. They are the number one reasons for the outdoor unit not to work correctly," said Martha.

Matthew added, "'Bout 20 years or so, when you don't have 'em serviced, 'bout five, seven years."

Routine maintenance can also save you some money, now that Austin Energy summer rates are in effect.

Martha said, "He just came in and said, guess what the bill went up to and I said, I don't want to know. I haven't done anything wrong and he said, I didn't say you did."

Jim added, "Get up around $240, $250, by the end of summer it's going to be $300."

Leslie Sopko, with Austin Energy, says almost half of an average customer's total electricity use happens during the summer months.

"The biggest one is your thermostat. Keeping your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, because every single degree you go lower can increase your electric bill by three to four percent," said Sopko.

In an effort to prevent future brownouts and blackouts, Austin Energy is offering customers an $85 rebate for enrolling in their new thermostat program.

Sopko said, "Basically, you're allowing us to raise your thermostat remotely a few degrees on our hottest summer days when there's a lot of demand on the electric grid."

If you're not ready to join the 2,000 customers already enrolled, there are some other options you can do around the house.

"I closed those west drapes because the heat was coming in," said Martha.

Another way to keep your bill down and unit running efficiently is make sure you're replacing filters every month.

Matthew added, "You always go up and at an can see the dirt coming off...and this also will help drop the electric bill."

Something else to keep in mind; the five-tier billing system rewards customers who use less energy.

There's some debate about which is better; raising the temperature to about 85 degrees when you leave the house or just keeping the thermostat on a certain degree, like 78 degrees all the time.

Chuck's A/C recommends raising the temp by five degrees from where it normally is when you leave for work.

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