Give AC a rest when you're away for even a few hours. Set programmable thermostats to kick in half an hour before you return home unless you have heat-sensitive indoor pets. Cranking the thermostat to penguin-worthy temperatures won't cool the house faster, since AC works at full throttle until a set temperature is reached. With every degree you lower it, cooling costs increase by about 7 percent.
Position a fan to blow air out a window. Close nearby windows to keep the hot air from flowing back in and open those on the other side of the house (ideally in cool, shaded areas). In a multilevel home, place the fan in a top-floor window and open windows on lower floors, where air is cooler.
If you have central AC, schedule annual servicing. Visits can be costly, but repairs and tune-ups that increase efficiency soon pay for themselves. You stand to earn significant savings by replacing a system sold in the 1990s, which can guzzle up to 40 percent more energy than today's most efficient systems.
Take advantage of summer weather and cook outdoors, as prolonged baking or stovetop cooking makes AC work overtime. Too muggy outside? Use a microwave or toaster oven, which use less energy and generate less heat. When you need to use a burner, keep pots covered to cook food faster and minimize humid heat in the kitchen.
Single- and even some double-pane clear glass windows can force heating and cooling systems to work overtime. Energy Star-qualified windows with insulating glazes, gas fills, and better framing materials deliver the best results. For an extra boost, use blackout blinds or heavy drapes to minimize solar heat gain to cover windows that catch direct sun.
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