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13 Simple Ways to Cut Your Home Cooling Costs

Is the heat getting to you? Everyone knows that air conditioning can get expensive. But not everyone knows about these simple, budget-minded ways to keep your cool. Click or swipe through for beat-the-heat suggestions to help you stay sane through the dog days of summer.

Seek Shade

The advent of air conditioning has led many homeowners to disregard the low-tech coping strategies that worked decently well for people even in the recent past. Surround your home with shade-creating elements, such as landscaping, awnings, or trelliswork, to reduce the amount of solar heat gain within spaces indoors.

Throw Some Shade

Creating shade with the help of smart landscaping design is one thing, but don’t forget about shading your living space from the indoors, too. Draw the blinds to keep the sun from heating the room and consider hanging heavier curtains to block the rays. Tinted window film, which you can find at any home repair store, is another option that will block heat-causing rays from warming your home.

Dinner Alfresco

Operating the oven or stovetop inevitably generates heat in the kitchen, the heart of any home. Of course, the answer is not to forego dinner. Instead, opt for lighter meals that can be prepared with little or no cooking time. And if possible, do your more serious cooking over the grill outdoors on your deck, patio, or lawn.

The Stack Effect

Pursue what's known as the stack effect. To achieve it, open the windows on both the upper and lower floors, and as warm air exits the upper level, cooler air will come in at ground level (where you might consider sleeping). During the day—though it may seem counterintuitive—close the windows to maintain cooler indoor temperatures.

Bring On Evaporation

Evaporative coolers are making a comeback of sorts, particularly in dry climates, where these simple machines can lower the air temperature by five degrees or more (by blowing air through wetted pads). No, evaporative coolers are no substitute for air conditioning on a sweltering day, but they are cheaper to operate when the heat is not extreme.

Size Matters

Some days, air conditioning is a must—that's unavoidable. What you can avoid, however, is paying more than is strictly necessary to run your AC. Efficiency begins with a unit that's properly sized for the space. An oversized unit may cool the room quickly, but if it switches off before lowering the humidity, you're still going to feel clammy and uncomfortable.

Ductwork Detective Work

Leaks in ductwork can reduce the efficiency of your central air conditioning system by as much as 40 percent. Calling in a HVAC professional may not seem like a good way to save money, but if your electric bills seem exorbitant, it's worth looking into. In the long run, you're likely to save more in operating costs than you would have to pay the pro.

Plug the Leaks

It's not only ductwork that needs sealing. The average house is like a sieve, leaking air all over the place—and in the summer that means cooled air is blowing right outside and driving up your bills. An energy audit can help you identify leaks and cracks around windows, doors, and other holes in the home so you can close the gaps with caulk or foam sealant. Or you can plug air leaks as you encounter them, from the basement on up to the attic.

Swap the Bulbs

If you haven’t already made the switch to LED light bulbs, here’s another reason to do it: they keep rooms cool. Incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lights emit more heat than LEDs. Also, don’t forget to shut the lights off when not in use. Every little bit counts when it comes to keeping cool!

Set It, Stat

It pays to install a programmable thermostat in your home. There are many affordable options on the market, and even opting for a more expensive model will pay you back in the long run in the form of energy savings. Set the thermostat to a cool default temperature when it knows you're home and program it to automatically switch to a warmer temperature when you know the house will be empty, like during work and school hours.

Fan Around

When the house feels stuffy on a warm day ignore your instinct to switch on the air conditioner and give fans a try first. Using ceiling fans and electric fans costs less than blasting the air conditioning. To make the most of this energy-efficient technology, strategically place fans around the house to help blow cool air around.

Keep It Clean

Remember to clean or replace your HVAC filter monthly during summer months. When filters are dirty, the cooling system has to work hard to push air through the ducts, which increases energy costs and increases the risk of malfunction. Taking care of this simple maintenance task could save you loads of money in repair costs and help ensure that your cooling system keeps working when you need it.

Turn It Off!

Sure, it feels nice to step inside a cool house on a sweltering day, but it’s a luxury not a necessity to leave the AC running while you’re not home. Shut off the AC while you’re out running errands; it won’t take that long for the house to cool down once you return and and crank it back on.

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