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Reducing electricity bills

Electricity costs have risen to shocking heights. Here's how to keep your bills under control.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Warning! Your electricity bill may shock you. Rising fuel costs are pumping up the cost of your electricity. Here's a look at what's in store and how to combat those higher prices.

1. Electricity on the rise

First, keep in mind that Farmers Almanac is predicting that 2008 will be the warmest year of the past century. That means you're going to have to run your air conditioner longer, and you'll be paying more for it.

Electricity rates are climbing across the board after several years of relatively flat prices. The average cost per kilowatt hour has increased from 8.4 cents in 1997 to 10.64 cents last year. That's an increase of 24% in the past decade.

2. States see double digit price gains

These figures are from December 2006 to December 2007. Price increases have hit double digits in many states. Illinois saw an increase of 33%, and Hawaii saw rates climb just below 30%.

Maryland, Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia aren't far behind with double-digit gains. One expert said the deregulation of energy markets means consumers are more exposed to price fluctuations.

3. Know the facts

Rising gas prices are a big factor here. Power plants use fuel to make electricity, so when fuel costs rise, so does the cost of making electricity, according to Steve Nadel of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Plus, the cost of raw materials to build power plants are going up including the cost of steel and cement. Demand from India and China for these kinds of materials, including coal and oil, is also driving up prices.

4. Use your resources

To cut down on your air conditioning, keep your house closed tight in the daytime. This will keep unwanted heat and humidity out. Don't keep your windows open during the day. Close the blinds, curtains and shutters to block out those intense summer rays.

Landscaping is a natural way to shade your home and block the sun. A well-placed tree, bush, or vine can deliver effective shade. Think about planting trees that lose their leaves in the fall, like the deciduous tree. This way you'll get the shade of the leaves during the summer, and direct sunlight during the winter when all the leaves have fallen off.

Finally, take advantage of local utility offers to peg your energy costs to the time you use energy by doing your laundry mid-day. To top of page

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