Lower your cooling costs when temperatures rise by following these no sweat-ways to trim expenses all around the house.
- Turn off the AC: Fans are cheaper to run than air conditioners. Let the fresh air in for at least a few hours each day by opening windows on opposite sides of the house and running a fan to keep the air circulating. A ceiling fan and an open window likely can keep you cool while you sleep at night.
- Counter the heat: Even with the AC on, a ceiling fan running counterclockwise will allow you to raise the thermostat up to four degrees with no change in comfort. Remember, fans cool people, not air, so be sure to turn them off when you leave a room.
- Set temperature limits: Set your thermostat during the day to 78 degrees when you're home and 85—or off—when you're away. Dialing it up by only 2 degrees from your normal setting can lower your air-conditioning bill by up to 14 percent during the course of the season.
- Remove debris: Whether you have window units or central air, keep outdoor AC components in the shade as much as possible to optimize efficiency. Clear vents of weeds and branches.
- Close curtains: Having your shades drawn during the day will cool rooms from the sun.
- Time your appliances: Run major appliances (like your dishwasher and washing machine) in the early morning or late evening—when energy is least in demand and therefore cheapest—on low heat, and air- or line-dry when possible. Bonus: Hanging whites in the sun helps brighten them!
- Keep a stocked fridge: It will retain cold better than an empty one, and check that the door gasket provides a right seal. To test, take a dollar bill and close the door on half of it. If you can pull it out easily, it's time to replace the gasket.
- Make an appointment with a professional: If you have central air, get the system serviced annually to clean ducts and fix any leaks.
- Seal it up: To keep the heat out, weather-strip doors, caulk windows and insert foam behind outlet covers. Buy attic insulation that has a high R-value (a measure of how well it insulates your house from changes in temperature).
- Dry the air: With a dehumidifier, you can raise the thermostat three degrees without feeling a difference.
- Check for dirt: For greater AC efficiency, clean the filter monthly.
- Harness the power of nature: Plant trees and bushes on the south side of your house to enjoy shade in the summer.
- Upgrade your bulbs: If you're thinking of installing compact flourescent lightbulbs in your home (they use 70 to 90 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, afterall), hit the bathroom vanity first. It's one of the most-used fixtures in many homes. Humidity can shorten the life of CFL bulbs, however, so it's even more important to use the room's ventilating fan during and after showers and baths.