The average home spends hundreds of dollars a year on energy costs… largely on air conditioning! But you can lower your energy bills and help save the environment at the same time by following these recommendations. These tips are designed to help you choose effective ways to reduce your energy bills in these last days of summer. Some measures may be impossible to implement depending on climate, the age of your home and appliances and past improvements made to your home. Pick and choose the tips that apply to you to construct the perfect energy saving plan for you!

1. Turn up your thermostat – Set your thermostat to 78 degrees when you are home and 80+ degrees or off when you are away. Using ceiling or room fans allows you to set the thermostat higher because the air movement cools the room. Always take into account health considerations and drink plenty of fluids in warm weather. You’re likely to save 1 to 3 percent per degree for each degree the thermostat is set above 72 degrees.

2. Use appliances wisely – Nothing is more energy efficient for cooking than your microwave. It uses two-thirds less energy than your stove and, unlike the stove and conventional oven, it won’t heat up your kitchen. Avoid running your appliances during peak hours (from 4 pm to 6 pm) or anytime an electricity emergency is declared. Line dry clothes whenever you can to save energy and once again prevent the spread of appliance-related warmth. Turn off appliances, lights, power strips and equipment when not in use. Unplug and recycle the spare refrigerator if you have one but don’t really need it.

3. Replace air conditioner filters. – Dirty filters restrict airflow and can cause the system to run longer, increasing energy use. Replace filters monthly for maximum benefit.

4. Plug your home’s leaks. – Weather-strip, seal, and caulk leaky doors and windows and install foam gaskets behind outlet covers. Keep doors and windows closed as much as you can and cover your windows with blinds or shades to block the sun’s hot rays.

5. Install a whole house fan – A whole house fan is permanently installed in your attic and draws cool air into your home through the windows while forcing hot air out through attic vents. Use after sundown when the outside temperature drops below 80 degrees, and in the early morning to cool your house and help reduce your air conditioning use.

6. Invest in a new air-conditioning unit. – If your air conditioner is on the way out, consider an Energy Star brand air conditioner or thermostat for massive savings! Make sure you’ve got good insulation to go with it, too.

7. Seal your ducts. – Leaking ductwork accounts for 25 percent of cooling costs in an average home, so have your ducts tested and have any leaks or restrictions repaired by a qualified contractor. Note: duct cleaning is not the same as duct sealing.