Woman programming thermostat.
Save money year-round by installing a programmable thermostat.

This time of year, consumers typically see their electric bills rise with the temperature due to increased use of air conditioning.

Many consumers work their systems harder than necessary, throwing hard-earned money down the drain. Save money during the hot summer by using energy more efficiently.

Use varies among households, but air conditioning systems can account for 40 to 50 percent of your monthly power bill during the hottest months, when demand is at its highest.

Ultimately, only you can control the amount of energy you use. A few simple, free steps can help you take charge of your energy consumption and save you money.

Cost-Free Energy-Saving Tips

To alleviate higher power bills:

  • Use ceiling fans to disperse cool air. They can make rooms feel a few degrees cooler than they actually are, allowing you to keep your thermostat at a higher temperature. You can save up to 4 percent of your household energy consumption for each degree you raise your thermostat. Be sure to turn off fans when you leave a room.
  • Keep your shades closed during the day. At night, open windows across from one another for cross-ventilation.
  • Delay heat-producing activities—such as dishwashing and laundry—until evening. These appliances heat up your home, creating extra work for your air conditioner.
  • Keep lamps and TVs away from the thermostat. The heat they produce will cause your air conditioner to run longer, driving up the cost of your power bill.
  • Do not obstruct air-conditioning vents. If they are covered, you won’t feel the cool air you are paying for.
  • Change your filter. That will cut your household energy consumption between 5 and 15 percent. Remember to change your filters at least once a month.
  • Close unnecessary openings in your home. Keeping doors, windows and fireplace dampers closed will prevent cool air from escaping and going to waste.
  • Use the “auto fan” setting on your thermostat. This will keep your home at a constant temperature and prevent your air conditioner from working harder than needed.
  • When you first turn on your air conditioner, do not set the thermostat lower than the desired temperature. That will not cool your home any quicker. It will make the air conditioner run longer to cool it to a lower temperature. This wastes energy.
  • Keep storm windows closed during the summer. They provide extra insulation for your windows, helping keep the hot air out and the cool air in.

Invest a Little for Added Savings

Low- to moderate-cost investments could save on overall energy consumption. While these measures require money initially, they eventually pay for themselves in savings:

  • Look for a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating of 14 or higher when buying a new air conditioner. You should begin to see the difference on your power bill immediately.
  • Install a programmable thermostat and save up to 10 percent a year. It can automatically adjust the temperature 10 to 15 percent for the hours your home is unoccupied. Programmable thermostats are available in a range of prices and options.
  • When buying ceiling fans, look for an Energy Star model. They move air up to 20 percent more efficiently than conventional models.
  • Be sure your home is properly insulated. It will keep your home cooler and reduce cooling costs up to 30 percent. Start in the attic, where temperatures can reach 155 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Seal leaks to save 10 percent or more on energy bills. Caulk and weather strip all seams, cracks and openings to the outside.
  • Consider high-performance Energy Star windows if you are building a new home or replacing windows in an older home. They can reduce average cooling costs 15 to 35 percent.

Make your power bill one less thing to sweat about.