Heat wave strains air conditioners and electric bills

Some people are struggling to pay their utility bills

ROANOKE, Va. – The days are getting hotter, which means your air conditioner is working overtime.

“The air conditioners aren’t designed for that hot of weather,” Mark Flanary, the general manager of Bower Heating and Air said.

He said they’re getting call after call for help with air conditioning units.

“This time of year when it starts getting consistently hot, that’s when they start showing themselves. That’s when units that have a little bit of age on them, that’s when they’re going to break down,” he said.

Keeping yourself and your house cool in dangerous heat is crucial to keeping heat distress and heat stroke at bay.

But AEP Spokesperson Theresa Hall said that unit running overtime leads to spikes in your electric bill.

“Let’s face it, air conditioners and other cooling systems are using more electricity to keep those homes cool,” Hall said.

But there are ways to maximize your usage, like making sure there are no cracks in doors and windows for air to escape, and like Flanary said, keeping your unit up to date.

“We’ll look through your home and find ways you can reduce your energy usage,” Hall said.

But that’s not always enough. Some people will still struggle to pay their bills.

AEP does have payment programs, but they also suggest the government-funded cooling assistance program, LIHEAP, that’s taking applications right now through Aug. 15.

Here in Roanoke, RAM House Director Melissa Woodson is seeing more and more people struggling to pay utilities because of the heat.

“We’re seeing a lot more fixed income people, we’re seeing a lot more senior citizens that we did not see before. They could make it before, they can’t now,” Woodson said.

RAM House offers help paying utilities.

So far this year, they’ve already provided $38,000 in assistance — more than $3,000 more than this time last year.

She said helping people keep their electricity on during a heat wave is crucial.

“Especially when you’re talking about senior citizens, people who are not well, it tends to be a very dangerous thing,” she said.

She sees a lot of people embarrassed to ask for help.

“People come here for the first time in their lives and they’re almost apologizing for being here, but we don’t mind helping them a bit,” she said.

RAM House assistance information can be found here.

AEP bill assistance and payment plan information can be found here.

About the Author

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.

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