Ameren suggests lower home temps as heating costs increase

With the current economy, some students are concerned about how rising energy costs will affect their heating bills this winter.
“I lived in an off-campus house the past two years, and it had zero insulation,” senior electrical engineering major Spencer Leeds said. “Heating bills were insanely expensive, and I feel like a lot of houses around campus are like that, because landlords just don’t care.”
Although students who live in dorms don’t have to worry about electric bills, those who live in off-campus houses and St. James apartments may feel a stretch in their wallets when it comes time to pay the bills each month, but steps can be taken to prevent those high costs.
Spokesman for Ameren Illinois Utilities Leigh Morris said while there are many factors in figuring heating bills, students can help keep their costs down.
“Whether you use electric or gas, how long you are there during the day and how cold the weather will be all make it impossible to guess the average price of a power bill,” he said. “But there are many things students can do to significantly cut their energy costs.”
Morris said the easiest thing for students to do is invest in a programmable thermostat, which lowers the temperature when students are not at home.
“You can buy one for $15 to $20 and save $200 or more per year by having this, if you use it,” he said. “If you rent, have your landlord look into it, and if they won’t do it, it is easy to install yourself. For every degree you turn down the thermostat you cut 3 percent on your bill – that’s why a programmable thermostat is so important.”
Keeping the thermostat set at 68 degrees instead of 72 will make a big difference, but you will still stay comfortable, Morris said.
Morris also said students should turn down the temperature in their house or apartment when they aren’t there or are sleeping.
Another easy way for students to save money is by using compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of regular bulbs to illuminate their home.
Anyone who is a customer of AmerenCilco can log onto its Web site, www.actonenergy.net, and purchase CFLs for as little as $1 each, Morris said.
“You can buy these on a student’s budget and can save a lot of money,” he said. “Each bulb will save you $5 per year – buy 10 of these and save $50 per year. That’s a considerable chunk of change, especially for a student.”
Morris said most students who feel cold automatically reach for the thermostat, but there is another option to make their home or apartment feel warmer.
“Adding humidity to the air will keep a house much warmer,” he said. “In the morning while you’re taking a shower, stopper the drain and leave tub full of hot water. It will evaporate and fill an apartment with steam and humidity.”
Cooking at home will also help students because they won’t be spending money to eat out and the actual cooking will help keep their homes warmer, Morris said.
“Every kilowatt of energy people don’t use is another kilowatt that we don’t have to produce,” he said. “Not only will students save money, but this does something good for the environment as well by causing fewer gases to be emitted into the atmosphere. Older generations grew up while energy was cheap, so they never practiced good conservation, but students have the perfect opportunity to develop good habits and help conserve energy.”