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Tips to stay cool without running up your electric bill

Stay cool without running up your electric bill!

Summer is fast approaching, and we’ve already endured some balmy days.  Since heating and cooling costs account for 50 percent of a home’s energy bills, according to the Department of Energy, it’s wise to find ways to stay cool and safe without breaking the bank.

Check out our hot-weather tips:

Be safe. Raising your thermostat by only two degrees and using a ceiling fan can lower air conditioning costs by up to 14 percent over the summer. But be smart about it—don’t raise the temperature to an unsafe level. Many utilities recommend setting your thermostat at 74-78 degrees when you’re at home.

Use fans. Fans alone aren’t adequate in a heat wave, but they can be used with an air conditioner—so you don’t have to blast the AC. Run a ceiling fan counter-clockwise, from your position looking up at it, to create a downdraft, and make sure to turn off your fan when you leave the room. (Fans cool people, not rooms.)

Avoid hot tasks. Delay heat-producing tasks, such as dishwashing, baking, or laundry, until the cooler night or early morning hours.  Consider grilling out to keep the kitchen from overheating and your AC from over-working. If grilling isn’t for you, make meals in the microwave.

Shut it off. Turn off and unplug extra appliances that produce more heat and make your home hotter (TV, computers, laptops, lights), and make sure to unplug your phone charger).

Give your AC a break. Prevent hot air from seeping in by sealing the gaps around windows and doors. Shut blinds or shades during the daytime hours to prevent the sun from cooking your home and your air conditioner from working harder to cool it.

Clean filters. Clean your air conditioning unit’s filter at least once every three months. It’s an easy way to improve the unit’s performance and to save energy. For more tips on maintaining your air conditioner, check out this Energy Department page.

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.

Open windows. If it gets cool in the evening hours, consider opening a window to let the breeze in. Seal up the house again in the morning.

Drink plenty of water. Sip about four to eight glasses of fluids a day, but avoid too much alcohol or caffeine, which promotes dehydration.

Take the edge off. During intense heat, make sure to find an air-conditioned space (see the next tip), and take simple actions to get through your hottest moments. For temporary relief, use a spray bottle filled with cool water to apply a refreshing mist on your face. Soak your feet in cool water. Place ice cubes, wrapped in a wet fabric, on your “pulse points,” where the blood vessels are close to the skin: wrists, neck, the insides of your elbows, the tops of your feet and the inside of the ankles.

Be a good neighbor. Make sure you and your neighbors have a safe and cool place to stay during hot weather. Illinois has free cooling centers. If those aren’t open, movie theaters, shopping malls, public libraries and the homes of friends and family can be cool places of refuge.

For more tips, order a free copy of CUB’s Guide to Home Savings.