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How to conserve energy and stay cool in Austin’s record-breaking heat

A sign on a bus reads "Come in, cool off!"
Karina Lujan
Capital Metro is offering free rides to cooling centers for as long as the excessive heat warning is in effect.

The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning in Austin until 8 p.m. Tuesday with temperatures ranging from 105 to 110 degrees. Triple-digit heat is expected to continue through the week.

The state’s electric grid operator is warning extreme high temperatures could strain the grid. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas asked Texas households and businesses to conserve energy Monday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., the hours when electricity demand is expected to be highest.

Austin Energy has several tips to conserve energy and stay cool during this heat wave:

Reduce AC usage

Cooling can account for 60% of a home’s energy consumption. To conserve energy, thermostats should be set at 78 degrees and raised by 5 to 7 degrees when you’re away. Austin Energy does not recommend turning off your AC, as it takes more energy to turn it on and off throughout the day than to set it at a higher temperature.

Austin Energy says every degree lowered on your thermostat increases electricity consumption by 6% to 8%. Fans can make areas feel 4 to 6 degrees cooler. Air conditioning units can be set to cool after 8 p.m.

Keep out the sun and hot air

Block out the heat by keeping blinds and drapes closed, especially on windows that receive south and west sunlight. Make sure windows and doors are closed tightly to keep cool air in. Limit your use of vent fans above stoves and in bathrooms as they pull in hot, outside air.

Turn off lights and electronics

Lights should be turned off and devices unplugged whenever possible. Many electronic devices continue to use power even when switched off. Unplug phone chargers and similar devices when charging is complete.

Use a microwave

Instead of using a conventional oven, consider using a microwave. Not only are microwaves more energy efficient, but they also emit less heat into your home.

Consume energy in the morning

Avoid using high-energy appliances between the peak hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Washers, dryers and dishwashers should be used in the morning or at night and remain unplugged when not in use. Only run full loads, and wash items with cold water. If possible, use a clothesline or drying rack instead of the dryer.

Other tips

Austin Energy also recommends fully charging cellphones, external batteries and laptops in case of an emergency and for people to stay informed on heat conditions in their area. The agency also says to stay hydrated and avoid going out if possible. You can track power outages on this Austin Energy outage map.

Cooling centers

Many Austin facilities will serve as cooling centers. Most Austin Public Libraries are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Travis County Community Centers are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, or the ARCH, is also serving as a cooling center and will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Currently, only service animals are permissible at these locations.

Capital Metro announced it will be offering free rides to cooling centers for as long as the excessive heat warning is in effect. “No one will be denied service to a cooling center," according to the transit agency.

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