Oklahoma’s summertime heat is upon us and like many of you, I dread the summer electric bill when it arrives in the mail. AARP Oklahoma, which works all year on utility issues, has a wealth of information available on reducing energy consumption. Here are four simple tips that could help reduce your electric bill this summer:

• Think about installing a programmable thermostat one that you set to adjust temperatures automatically. According to Consumer Reports, a programmable thermostat can cut 20 percent from cooling bills.

• Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs. They use 75 percent less energy and last about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb. Also, don’t forget to turn lights off in unoccupied rooms.

• Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when you have a full load. Use the cold setting when possible. Also, always clean the clothes dryer’s lint filter after every load.

• You can also lower your energy bills by preventing air conditioning from escaping through cracks and gaps around doors and windows.

AARP has compiled a free tool kit called “Operation Energy Save” that you can download free by visiting www.aarp.org/ok.

In addition, most utility companies, including OG&E, PSO and rural electric cooperatives throughout the state offer low income weatherization programs that provide energy efficiency upgrades and audits.

Your local Community Action Agency also administers Oklahoma’s Weatherization Assistance Program that may be able to assist those who qualify with things like cooling system adjustments and the installation of caulking and weather-stripping.

We also found that most utility companies offer plans that allow you to set up an average monthly payment plan that will help you avoid a large bill during the hot weather. And, a spokesman for Oklahoma’s rural electric cooperatives said many local co-ops have assistance programs including a plan that allow customers to round up their utility bills to help elderly residents.

OG&E Customers can contact customer service at 1-800-272-9741 and PSO customers can find out more by calling: 1-888-216-3523. To find out how to contact your local rural electric co-op call: 405-478-1455

Finally, I would also like to remind you to check on elderly family members and friends during hot weather. According to the Centers for Disease Control, extreme heat kills more Americans each year than hurricanes, lighting, tornadoes and floods combined.

What’s more, older people are among the most susceptible to heat-related illness and deaths. AARP notes that certain medications interfere with the body’s ability to handle health and some older people have mobility limitations that may prevent them from getting relief during high heat.

I would encourage you to download the “AARP How to Guide to Help Someone Stay Cool During Extreme Heat” at www.aarp.org/ok.

Marjorie Lyons is a retired nurse who lives in Broken Arrow. She has served as AARP Oklahoma State President since 2009.