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Here's how much your summer cooling costs could increase as mercury rises

Officials warning of hotter temps this summer
Officials warning of hotter temperatures this summer after record-breaking 2023 03:46

High temperatures will do more than beat down American bodies this summer: They'll hit their wallets hard, too. 

The financial burden on families of cooling their homes will jump nearly 8% across the United States, from an average cost of $661 from June through September to $719, according to projections from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) and the Center for Energy Poverty, and Climate (CEPC).  

"There are two components to a summer electric bill — one is the cost of fuel, and second is how much you use," CEPC director Mark Wolfe said during a press conference on Monday. 

The steamy temperatures are likely to have an even more acute impact on cooling costs in the Mid-Atlantic, East South Central and Pacific regions, where energy prices are forecast to increase by up to 12% this summer compared with a year ago. The rising cost of cooling your home is one of the myriad impacts of climate change on Americans, and illustrates some of the financial implications of global warming for individuals and families. 

Nearly 20% of low-income families lack air conditioning, which can pose a health risk in periods of high heat, according to the NEADA and CEPC report. In some cases, meanwhile, families may have AC but choose not to turn it on for fear of not being able to afford the electricity bill. 

"One way families cope with the high cost of cooling is they just don't use it," Wolfe said. 

Solutions for families that can't afford to properly cool their homes are also outdated, failing to account for the long periods of intense heat afflicting parts of the U.S. during the summer.

"In less extreme situations, a family can ride out a hot day by opening their windows, taking a cool shower and hoping it cools down at night. But when the heat persists for weeks, or the outside air is dangerous, opening a window will only make things worse," the report's authors wrote. 

Energy crews take proactive approach to keep power on during extreme weather 02:13

For example, cooling centers — air conditioned facilities that families can retreat to during extreme heat — often can't accommodate enough people. "You cant ask a family to go move into a cooling center. They also don't have capacity," Wolfe said.

Possible remedies offered by the groups include providing bill payment assistance for low-income families. For example, in Connecticut eligible families receive a 50% discount on utility bills. 

The report's authors also favor rules that would prohibit utility companies from shutting off power during heat waves for households that fall behind on their utility bills. Currently, only 17 states and Washington, D.C., have such summer shutoff protections. and many are limited to specific dates.

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