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Temperatures could reach 100 today
More heat means higher cooling bills for many
Kevin Simpson, of Conditioned Air Systems, works out in the August heat to service an air conditioning Tuesday afternoon at a Gainesville residence.

As temperatures climb, Hall County residents may want to head for the hills. That’s what meteorologist Laura Belanger recommends.

Hall County is facing scorching dry weather in the high 90s and low 100s through next week. The high will dip slightly into the low 90s on Saturday and Sunday, Belanger said.

“Now if anybody wants to go to the mountains this weekend, the mountains should be in the mid 80s,” she added.

The average temperature for early August last year was 90 degrees.

Today is the peak of the heat wave, with temperatures from 98 to 100 degrees, Belanger added. The heat index, or “feels-like temperature,” is between 102 and 104 degrees.

According to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, there is a heat advisory in central Georgia until 8 p.m., with heat indices from 105 to 110 and lows above 75 degrees.

Since the low temperatures will dip below 75 degrees this week and the heat index will hover around 100 degrees, Hall County isn’t technically under a heat advisory. But residents should take similar precautions, Belanger said.

“It doesn’t mean conditions aren’t going to be bad, it means they could get worse,” she said.

For those who can’t escape the heat, there is the sanctuary of air conditioning. But relief comes at a cost, and it can be fairly steep.

In the hottest parts of the summer, cooling costs can equal more than half of residents’ electricity bills, said Konswello Monroe, spokesman for Georgia Power.

It’s been hot this year, but Georgia still hasn’t broken last year’s peak energy usage. In 2010, the peak usage was 17,153 megawatts in one day.

Monroe recommended residents keep their thermostats at 78 degrees to conserve as much energy as possible.

“For every degree below that setting, you use 3 to 4 percent more electricity. A lot of times people will want to be comfortable or very cool in the summer, and they’ll crank that air conditioning up,” she said.

She also said ceiling fans, not box or stand-up fans, are one of the best ways to circulate cool air throughout a room. Just make sure the blades are turning counterclockwise, so they will push cool air down into the room.

And no basking in the glow of an open refrigerator door, Monroe warns.

“Don’t buy a refrigerator larger than you actually need. And of course, open and close the refrigerator door quickly. You know, kind of know what you want when you open the door,” she said with a laugh.

Residents should also set their fridge thermostats between 35 and 38 degrees.

At Conditioned Air Systems in Gainesville, about 125 units have been sold to residents this year, service manager Andy Kalinauskas said.

Commercial building operators have bought about 500 more units, he added.

And those are low sales. In a down economy, most people opt to repair their older units.

“People just don’t have the extra thousand dollars laying around to replace it versus fix it,” Kalinauskas said.

But those older units suck up energy as they blow out cool air. Air conditioning units have a seasonal energy efficiency ratio, which is a measurement of the unit’s cooling power versus the energy it consumes. A low ratio means the unit cools less for the energy it uses.

The ratio on a new unit can be as high as 20, but on an old unit it can be as low as six, Kalinauskas said.

For all units, Kalinauskas recommends changing the filters three to four times a year, more for families with lots of children, pets or allergens.

For those without air conditioning, Belanger advises finding sanctuary by planning trips to air-conditioned stores, including grocery stores, during the hottest part of the day. And schedule them through next week, she added.

The searing temperatures are the result of a high pressure system that stretches throughout the South and into Texas. A few low pressure disturbances could mean patchy rain, but the overwhelming high pressure system means the heat will hang on into next week, Belanger said.
“Overall that high pressure is the more dominant feature, which means it’s going to keep that warm temperature over us through the rest of the week,” she said.