If You Don't Want To Melt In The Dark , Utility Says To Keep Your Thermostat At 78

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The sun may be down, but the heat is still on and it’s taking a toll on the power grid.  It’s a problem that could last into the weekend.

At around 3:40 p.m. Friday, Con Edison announced that it hit an all-time, record-high 13,700 megawatt load.

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As of 10:25 p.m., Con Ed reported 28,140 customers were without power in New York City.  Of those outages, 13,304 were in Queens, with 5,323 in Richmond Hill.  PSE & G reported about 15,000 customer outages statewide.

LIPA was reporting 7,349 customers without power in Nassau County and 6,758 in Suffolk County.  Connecticut Light and Power is also reporting 2,863 customers are without power as of 10:25 p.m.

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Customers can report power or service problems online at www.coned.com or by calling 1.800.752.6633. If reporting an outage, have your account number ready if possible, and know whether or not your neighbors are also without power.

“We’re not out of the woods just yet,” Office of Emergency Management head Joe Bruno said earlier in the day.

They were lugging air conditioners, fanning themselves on the streets and carrying lots of iced drinks in Astoria, Queens on Friday — an area hit by a Con Ed mega blackout five years ago.

“I’m just fanning myself into a comfortable state. It’s better than sloshing around in the snow,” one resident said.

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Con Ed officials have been monitoring the soaring heat and the soaring usage from their command center. They have been relying on extra workers, lots of preparation and are asking customers to keep their thermostats at 78 degrees and turn off any appliances that are not absolutely necessary.

“We cross fingers, heads and toes, anything we can still tried to keep the power flowing reliably. We’re fairly confident we will, but we don’t want to assume anything,” Con Ed spokesperson Mike Clendenin said.

And here’s an amazing statistic: Con Ed said that for every degree below 78 that you set your thermostat, your bill goes up 6 percent.

So if you set your thermostat at 72 instead of 78, it means if your bill is normally $100 you’ll pay $136. Instead of $300, your bill will jump to $408.

Not many people are heeding the 78-degree fiat.

“I think I can deal with that increase in price for just a little bit, just to stay cooler,” Todd Ackerman said.

Saturday is also going to be a scorcher, so the message from the utility is conserve, conserve, conserve.

“This, we think, will be the most stressful day on the electric grid in recent history — maybe ever,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “What we need is people to turn their air conditioners to no cooler than 79 — it’s a little bit uncomfortable but not having electricity would be a lot more uncomfortable.”

“Obviously the heat is a factor our cables underground — there’s nowhere for the heat to go — they’re carrying extra electricity,” spokesman Chris Olert told 1010 WINS. “We are seeing that customers are conserving and we’re still urging them to conserve.”

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Ahead of the heat wave, Con Edison said they were ready for the increase in demand all the air conditioning would cause.

“We spent more than $1 billion preparing for the summer of 2011 and beyond,” spokesman Alan Drury told 1010 WINS. “We’re confident that while there probably will be scattered outages that we’ll be able to keep them confined and short in duration.”

Homeowners have been asked to conserve as much energy as possible and to take care to keep the heat from creeping in.

Simple practices, such as pulling blinds down, keeping doors closed and running air conditioners at a moderate temperature, will go a long way.

“People can save a lot of money and energy by taking some simple steps such as cleaning their air conditioning filters,” Drury said.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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