Heat wave: Four things that will rise with the temperatures

3. Energy consumption

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    Jesus Franco of El Paso, Texas, said that he had a small air-conditioning unit installed in his home last week, but even then, 'at night it gets so hot you can't sleep.'
    Juan Carlos Llorca/AP
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With all those air conditioners and fans in overdrive, it makes sense that energy bills will be higher than average.

Last week in New York, for example, energy usage topped 31,000 megawatts, according to the New York Independent System Operator, which controls the state power grid. The level brings it dangerously close 35,862 megawatts, the capacity that could lead to high-voltage system failure.

Average usage in 2010 was 18,665 megawatts. Record usage was 33,939 megawatts on Aug. 2, 2006.

Rising consumption may also lead to air-quality issues. “Not only are people going to have extremely high utility bills for July, it will also put increased strain on power plants, and we’re going to see more air pollution because of it,” says Angela Fritz, an atmospheric scientist with the Weather Underground, a weather tracking service in San Francisco.

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