At all-electric Terrace Townhouse and Pinecrest Heights housing developments in Annandale, some residents are raising thermostats on their air conditioners and suffering a bit more in the steaming heat of the last few days.
The reason is simple: These residents fear that staying comfortable now is going to prove too expensive when their next electric bills arrive in the mail.
Some are contemplating moving to housing they can better afford, while others are wondering how they will be able to afford both their mortgage and their monthly electric bill payments to the Virginia Electric and Power Co.
Many predicted electricity costs equal to or more than last winters $100 to $150 monthly bills, the result of the coldest winter in decades.
Ina Dijkstra of the Terrace Townhouse development, on Little River Turnpike, is typical of those whose lifestyle has been altered by steadily rising electricity costs. "Of course it's affected our budget," she said. "My husband and I seldom go out for dinner alone. We'll take the childrena dn go to Roy Rogers or something."
Sylvia Thornton said she has experienced a three-fold increase in her electric bill in the four years she has lived at Terrace Townhouse Thornton, who is expecting her second child "any minute," said, "I just turned off my air conditioning two hours ago thinking maybe I could give myself a break in terms of cost.
"I try to only turn it on at 6 or 7 p.m. and keep it going all night at 76 or 78 degrees. When we first moved in I could run it at 72 degrees all day and have a bill fo $40-50." Thornton said her bills averaged $125 a month last winter.
Others said they were more seriously affected. Donna Terrio, who moved with her family to Terrace Townhouses from northern New Hampshire in January, said, "I work so hard (at cutting costs) and I'm so disgusted. The last few days are the only times I've turned on the air conditioning for a few hours just to cool the house down and that's because I was absolutely saturated with sweat. Last month we didn't use the heat or the air conditioning and our bill was over $60."
High electric bills are forcing her to look for another town house, Terrio said. "My husband is making about $28,000 and we can't afford it here," she said. "I started babysitting during the day to earn some money. We never do the things we like. I've been to the theater once. Washington has been an unbelievable shock in terms of costs."
She added, "I've become so cynical that for any town house I look at I ask for substantiated electric bills. I don't take anything for granted."
Mary Lepage. Terrace Townhouses assistant property manager, said residents of the developmenttttt where untits costt about $46,500, have nnot complained to management about electric bills.
Residents of the Pinecrest Heights development across the street from errace Townhoouse said they haveeee beeen less affectted by rising utility cossts but they still have taken various eneerggy saving measurres. Pinecrest units cost $70,000.
B. J. Trahhos said last winter's cold cause her to add storm windows and extra insulation. TTrrahos noted. "Our bills haven't beeeeen very different from our neighbors' whoo haven't thing and that's galliing."
Anna Anderson, treasurer off the Pinecrest Heights Community Association, saidddd some residents haveeee complained of monnnnntly electric bills oveer $200. However, Anderson said, "I doon't think peeople hhere cut back on anything. They just live on credit."
Anderson said, "I don't think peopleeee hhere cut back on anything. They jussssssst livee on credit."
Andddddderson said that although she spent seveeral thousand dollars on insulation a year ago, her electtriciity bills have jumpedd as much as $32 per month."The problem isn't the use but the rates," she said.
One Pinecrest Heights resident summed up the disaffection of many. "Our bills are running about $25 per month higher than last year and we can't see why. I can see putting my money into a chair, but who wants to give it to Vepco?
Several residents conceded that spirling costs have resulted in a rather ironic variation on the old game of keeping up with the Joneses.
Karen Casciotti of Terrace Townhouse explained it this way: "Every month everyone goes to the mailbox and says, 'I wonder what the Vepeo bill is going to be?' We always compare electric bills. It's becoming a big thing here."