This summer's heat waves have generated record and near-record electricity consumption in California, Colorado, North Carolina and other areas, prompting energy officials to dust off and update energy conservation techniques designed to reduce the strain on the grid.

Not only can conservation help keep the lights on, the effort will also show up as a smaller utility bill.

California's Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant was operating at half-capacity after one of its two nuclear reactors was pulled offline recently after diagnostics found a leak in an oil cooler pump. However, officials said the power drain and increased demand shouldn't cause brownouts, rolling blackouts or other interruptions in power. The announcement came even after the state consumed record levels of electricity for three days in a row.

California's Pacific Gas & Electric Co. offered some new and old tips residents can use in any home anywhere:

  • Call your local utility company for an energy audit to determine where you need to tighten up, repair or replace for maximum energy savings.
  • Button up your home. Install drapes, curtains or other window covers. Keep draperies and windows closed during the day to prevent cool air from escaping and warm air from seeping through the glass. Weather-strip and seal around all doors and windows to keep the heat out and the cool air inside.
  • Ventilate your home at night by opening windows and doors to clear out the heat and allow cooler air to circulate.
  • Plant shade trees on the south, east and west sides of your home, and use trellises, awnings, window films and outside shade screens to help keep your home cool.
  • Turn off lights when not in use. Use fluorescent bulbs and lighting whenever possible. Install Energy Star fixtures.
  • Use dimmers, timers and motion sensors on incandescent lights.
  • Set your computer to the energy-save mode to power it down when not in use or turn it off when it's not in use.
  • Replace as many appliances as possible -- large and small, as well as central units -- with Energy Star models.
  • Limit the use of appliances during peak power demand hours of the day -- use washing machines, vacuum cleaners and other heavy appliances during evening hours. Avoid cooking during peak heat hours of the day. Cooking adds heat inside the home.
  • Unplug and recycle a second refrigerator and replace any refrigerator older than 10 years with an Energy Star model.
  • Open the door on your dishwasher during the dry cycle and air dry the dishes.
  • Keep all appliances well maintained, cleaned with fresh filters and in top operating condition. Fix plumbing leaks.
  • Wash only full loads in the clothes and dishwashers. Use cold water to wash clothes whenever possible. Today's detergents and clothes washing machines demand hot water only for the greasiest of soils and stains.
  • Wrap your water heater in a water heater blanket. Replace it if it's older than 10 years.
  • Adjust the central air thermostat to 80 degrees or more.
  • Instead of using central air, use an Energy Star room air conditioner or air cooler in a single room.
  • Use room, ceiling fans and air coolers to help circulate air within a room, and blow air over your body to cool off.
  • Examine duct joints and connections, including connections at the heater or air conditioner. Use mastic, foil and fiberglass tape, rather than conventional duct tape.
  • Stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day as much as possible; eat well-balanced, light meals; drink plenty of water regularly; and when you are outside, keep cool by protecting your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
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