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Beat the heat—and high energy bills this summer!

By Samantha Vercellino

20150529_Beat_the_HeattAs the temperature rises, here’s a checklist to help you stay cool—and save money—through another scorching Illinois summer.

  • Make sure your AC is sized properly. Contrary to popular belief, a larger unit will not cool a room better. Unlike an oversized AC unit, a properly-sized one will be more efficient, and it will keep the space at a constant temperature and comfortable humidity level.
  • Clean filters. It’s easy to lose track of time in the summer but set an alarm on your smartphone every three months to remember to clean your unit’s filters. A dirty filter will slow air flow and decrease efficiency by as much as 30 percent.
  • Upgrade to a programmable thermostat. Save up to $180 a year by replacing your old thermostat with a programmable thermostat. You can program it to turn your central air conditioning on or off at different points in the day.
  • Open windows. Give your air conditioner a break in the cooler evenings by opening windows on opposite sides of the house to create a cross-breeze.
  • Close doors. If your air conditioner is running, make sure to close doors to rooms you don’t use often. The smaller the space to cool, the less work it takes for your system to cool it down.
  • Consider a ceiling fan. When it comes to escaping the summer heat, fans—which consume much less electricity—are a low-cost alternative to traditional cooling units. Or use them together: If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and  turn on your ceiling fan, you can lower air conditioning costs by up to 14 percent. (Just remember to run the fan counter-clockwise during the summer, from your position looking up at it, to create a gentle downdraft.)
  • Keep the sun out. While it’s okay for you to soak up the sun, the same is not true for the rooms in your home. Pull the shades or shut the blinds to prevent your air conditioner from having to work harder to cool your home.
  • Locate and seal air leaks. There’s nothing better than a hot summer day unless it’s just as hot inside your house. Check windows, doors and floors for hidden gaps and cracks. They can bring in as much steamy air as an open window, making your cooling system work harder than it should. Ensure cool air can’t escape by sealing leaks with a caulking gun or weather-stripping tool.
  • Turn the AC off when leaving. If you’re headed to the beach, or even a short trip to the store, switch your air conditioner off. You’ll save a lot more energy by keeping it turned off until you return home.
  • Never blast the AC. As hot as it is, don’t be tempted to crank your air conditioner to 50 degrees to cool the house more quickly. Your system will deliver cool air at the same rate, no matter how low you set it. There is an exception: Room air conditioners that have a “low, medium and high” setting instead of a thermostat.
  • Bonus Tip: Be a grill master. Since grills keep heat out of the kitchen, air conditioners don’t have to work extra to cool it off. Grilling is a great way to cut costs—and spend time outdoors. If grilling isn’t for you, opt for meals that you can make in the microwave like chicken fajitas and steamed vegetables.

Want more money-saving tips? Join CUBEnergySaver.com, CUB’s free online service that can help you slash your energy bills by potentially hundreds of dollars a year.