(Colorado News Connection) Coloradans struggling economically put their health at risk when they decide not to turn on cooling systems, frequently out of fear of not being able to pay their utility bill and taking a hit on their credit score, or having services cut off.
Luke Ilderton, deputy director of Energy Outreach Colorado, said as homes get hotter, heat stress can come on very quickly. Prolonged exposure can lead to heart attacks, and can cause the body to shut down. Ilderton encouraged all Coloradans to make health priority number one.
"If people are suffering, they should turn on their cooling systems and look for resources -- like Energy Outreach Colorado, the Energy Office's weatherization program -- to be able to afford their cooling bill, but not at the sacrifice of their own personal health," Ilderton advised.
Help is available for those who cannot afford to pay their utility bills or repair or replace broken cooling systems, and for those at risk of being disconnected. To be connected with the right program, call Energy Outreach Colorado's helpline toll-free at 866-432-8435.
Ilderton pointed out there are ways to make your summer utility bill more affordable, especially for households participating in Xcel Energy's time-of-use rates.
"Try to precool your house in the early morning hours when electricity rates are at its lowest," Ilderton suggested. "You will be paying more in the afternoon, and you certainly will pay more from 3-7 p.m."
Climate change is bringing even more summer days above 90 degrees, and the Biden administration is encouraging states to add cooling assistance to programs initially created to help the nation's most vulnerable residents stay warm in winter.
Ilderton added the Inflation Reduction Act recently passed by Congress could help more people find long-term price relief by switching to lower-cost heat pump technology, which can be used to heat and cool homes, and does not require the use of fossil fuels.
"There's a significant amount of rebates and incentives, specifically targeting low- to moderate-income households, that will help with this transition," Ilderton noted.