Staying cool during heat wave costing more amid inflation

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(NewsNation) — With a heat wave across the country affecting millions of Americans and the temperature expected to reach above 100 in some areas, many are looking for ways to keep cool. But it could be costly as record-high inflation is driving up people’s electric bill.

Gas and food prices are already soaring, as inflation hit a 40-year high last month of 8.6%. The Federal Reserve has said it will introduce a large rate hike to combat it.

With the heat, there’s another thing to worry about — the price of air conditioning.

This week, more than 100 million Americans are under a heat advisory or heat watch in more than one dozen states such as Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois and Indiana. Many are cranking up their air conditioning to find relief, continuing to push up electrical demand — and send electric bills through the roof.

“Air conditioners start running almost 24/7 in homes, and that continues to push up electrical demand,” George Justice, VP of Electric Operations for Ameren Illinois, said.

Even before the nation saw historic inflation rates, one in six Americans couldn’t pay their electric bill. It’s a problem that will likely only get worse.

St. Clair Newbern IV, CEO of Live Energy Inc. said people can expect to pay between 15 and 100% more for electricity in the coming year. According to May’s Consumer Price Index, Americans are paying 12% more in electricity costs this year compared to last.

Newbern blames the COVID-19 pandemic for these changes.

“In 2020 when demand dropped off because everybody was at home, the number of drilling rigs dropped to under 300,” he said.

The Russia-Ukraine war also plays a part. Russia was the world’s largest exporter of oil to global markets, but much of the West sanctioned it after the country’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

“Therefore we’re having to help make up the balance,” Newbern said.

Asked if there could be any cost relief in the near future, Newbern said it’s not looking good.

“It’s like a structural recalibration of energy prices where they’ve gone up, and there’s not a good case for them coming down anytime soon,” Newbern said.

For those trying to cut down on their electric bill, experts suggest getting a controllable thermostat; making sure doors and windows are properly sealed; and getting LED light bulbs as well as energy-efficient appliances.

When it comes to how to cool down in the car, running the air conditioning on super hot days can reduce a new vehicle’s fuel efficiency by as much as 25%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That could run the average driver about $20 in gas money at today’s prices.

However, letting down the windows can also reduce fuel efficiency, by making them go slower and burning more gas, Business Insider found. However, Insider reported that it reduced efficiency less than the air conditioning did.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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