Being stuck at home during the pandemic pushes electricity bills higher

One of the effects of so many people having to stay home, during the pandemic, is higher electricity bills. The summer months already make it a challenge to keep the power bill under control, while a house full of people who have to work, study, or just hang-out, can keep the kilowatts coming.

Reliant says it's been tracking usage, since March, saying residential use has climbed, on average, about 10%. While it's not a huge figure, it can add a lot to bills that can run hundreds of dollars.

To help trim some costs, the air-conditioner is the first place to look. It's responsible for more than half your electricity bill. Using a programmable, or smart thermostat can maintain a reasonable temperature that can yield significant savings. "78 degrees is the recommendation," says Reliant's Scott Burns, "Every degree below that actually increases the air conditioning portion of your bill by 7%, so every degree does make a big difference."

Another money-saver is choosing early and later times for cooking and laundry. "The main reason for that is not just the fact that they use energy, in and of themselves," says Burns "They create heat inside the house and your air conditioner actually has to remove that heat that you're generating."

Viewers, who've seen their own bills rise, have offered some of their own energy-saving strategies. Among them: drawing the shutters or shades on the sunny side of the house, and simply turning off lights and appliances that aren't in use.

Electricity deregulation also gives Texans an opportunity to choose between energy providers and services. Competition for customers can mean savings. "We try to really tailor the plans to match the customer's lifestyle," says Reliant's Scott Burns.

Finally, for those who have trouble paying their electricity bill. the Texas Public Utility Commission has extended the state Covid-19 Electricity Relief Program until the end of August.