Can you take the heat? Summer savings tips

Summer is around the corner, so make sure your home—and wallets—can handle the heat.

Check your HVAC system. Have a professional check your HVAC system. Consider cleaning your air-conditioning unit’s filter once a month, but at the very least once every three months. It’s an easy way to improve the unit’s performance. If you don’t have central AC, get the most efficient room unit possible—Energy Star models use about 15 percent less energy. And make sure you have the best size. A bigger air conditioner doesn’t mean better cooling. See EnergyStar.gov for more details on the right size for your AC.

Locate and seal air leaks. Cracks and openings can let heat in and send your money out the window. Use caulk or weatherstripping for doors and windows. Replace storm windows with screens to let air in on cooler days.

Turn ceiling fans counterclockwise. This will help push cool air down. Turn the fan off, find the direction switch on the motor housing and set it to spin counterclockwise. You may have a remote that does the same.

Consider a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats adjust themselves to create the optimal home temperature and can cut heating and cooling costs by up to 20 percent. They pick up on your living patterns, and can shift cooler air to rooms you occupy the most. Ameren and ComEd offer $100 smart thermostat rebates.

Enroll in money-saving utility programs. ComEd’s Hourly Pricing and Ameren’s Power Smart Pricing programs allow you to pay the hourly market price for electricity, which most of the time is below the standard utility rate that most people pay. ComEd’s Central AC Cycling program offers you bill credits if you agree to have your AC cycle on and off at certain high-usage times. Similarly, Peak Time Savings (ComEd) or Peak Time Rewards (Ameren) credits you for being able to shift heavy electricity usage to times when power demand is lower.

Also: Many consumers can get a free home energy assessment to spot all the ways your home is using energy poorly. The auditor pinpoints exactly what upgrades need to be made so you get a fast payback of your investments.

For more information, visit CUB’s Clean Energy page, at CitizensUtilityBoard.org.