RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Inflation is driving up the cost of electricity as usage peaks due to summer heat.

The latest federal data shows electricity prices have increased by 13.7% — the largest 12-month spike since the period ending in April 2006.

As people pump up the A.C., there are several ways to cool down your bill, according to Dominion Energy’s Vice President of Customer Experience Utibe Bassey.

Bassey said, under Dominion’s EnergyShare program, eligible low-income customers can get year-round assistance with both heating and cooling costs.

Some customers can also get their homes “weatherized” under the program. Bassey said they partner with local agencies to upgrade homes to make them more energy efficient at no cost to the customer.

Susie Allen, a Dominion customer in Peterburg, said she had more than a dozen repairs done last month. Since then, she said her home has gotten noticeably cooler and her energy bill has dropped.

“My electric bill went from $200 a month down to $100,” Allen said. “It’s really a big help and that means you have a few dollars to buy other stuff with.” 

On top of that, Bassey said the Virginia Department of Social Services is accepting applications through August 15 for the federally-funded “Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.” She said eligible applicants can get up to $600 in cooling assistance.

Bassey said those who aren’t eligible for aid but are still struggling to make ends meet should inquire about a payment plan.

A separate budget billing program can help ease seasonal spikes by fixing monthly payments based on average usage over 12 months.

“Budget billing is a great idea for customers who want to have some consistency in their bill, who want to be able to plan. It helps you absorb the shock, the ebbs and flows, of the things that can make a bill go up in the summer when you’re cooling a lot,” Bassey said.

Bassey said there are also a number of things customers can do on their own to bring their bill down, including turning off lights, unplugging unused cell phone chargers, checking window seals and insulation, switching to energy efficient light bulbs, making sure vents aren’t blocked and closing curtains on hot days.

“These are simple tips but they really compound to have a big impact,” Bassey said.

For more energy saving tips, visit the Dominion Energy website.