How to Stay Cool and Save Money in the Summer Months

It's true that rising temperatures often translate into higher energy bills. But, you don't have to break the bank to stay cool this summer. There are plenty of easy things you can do to keep your energy costs down without sacrificing your comfort.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Choose the right size room air-conditioning unit
How much cooling capacity you'll need (measured in British thermal units, or BTUs, per minute) is determined by the square footage you're looking to cool. Bigger is not necessarily better.

If a unit is too big for the room it's trying to cool, it won't perform as efficiently (and cost more money to run) as one that's just the right size for the space. You'll also sacrifice comfort since an oversized unit will cool a room quickly, but leave behind some of the humidity. The result: Cool, but clammy air.

Here are links for more info on: Figuring out what size unit you need, installing and maintaining room air-conditioners to maximize your savings, and buying efficient models.

One quick tip: Don't place lamps or televisions near your unit. Why not? Your thermostat will sense heat from the appliances and run longer than it needs to.

Control your thermostat
Set it at 78 degrees when you're at home and raise it even higher when you're out or sleeping. The Department of Energy gives this basic guideline: The smaller the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.

Use fans
Fans create a wind chill effect, which makes you feel cooler. Ceiling fans are particularly effective. They circulate the air in the room to create a draft and can help you save money even if you use air-conditioning. You can raise your thermostat by about 4 degrees without reducing your comfort level if you use a ceiling fan, according to the DOE.

A few simple rules of thumb: Turn off fans when you leave the room because they're cooling you and not the room. If you own a ceiling fan, set it to run counter-clockwise in the summer so it will direct air downward and create a breeze. If you are shopping for one, buy an energy-efficient model.

Close your curtains during the hottest part of the day
There are many different kinds of window treatments you can use to reduce solar heat gain in the summer. Window awnings, for example, can reduce heat gain by up to 65% for south facing windows, and even more for those facing west.

If you live in a climate where it cools at night, turn off your AC and open the windows while you're sleeping to let the cool air in.

Use heat-generating appliances sparingly
Avoid using the oven on hot days -- use the microwave, cook on the stove, or grill outside. Close your lights during the day. Air-dry your laundry. Get more tips on avoiding heat build-up in your home.

Keep the cold air inside
Use caulk, spray foam, and/or weatherstripping to stop the air you're paying to cool from seeping out. Learn how to find leaks.

Feeling slightly more ambitious? You'll get a lot of bang for your buck if you add insulation to your home. Start with your attic.