13 Simple Ways to Cut Your Home Cooling Costs

Staying comfortable through the summer often comes at a price (after all, air conditioning ain't cheap). If your energy bills have your blood pressure rising faster than the mercury in the thermometer, don't miss these tips on maximizing comfort with the AC turned off and minimizing expense with it turned on. Keep your cool without losing your live savings—yes, it's possible!

  1. Keep Your Cool

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    Keep Your Cool

    Is the heat getting to you? Everyone knows that air conditioning can get expensive. But not everyone knows about these simple, budget-minded ways to keep your cool. Read on for beat-the-heat suggestions to help you stay sane through the dog days of summer.

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  2. Seek Shade

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    Shade Strategies

    The advent of air conditioning has led many homeowners to disregard the low-tech coping strategies that worked decently well for people even in the recent past. Surround your home with shade-creating elements, such as landscaping, awnings, or trelliswork, to reduce the amount of solar heat gain within spaces indoors. 

    Related: 11 Ways Landscaping Can Save You Money

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  3. Throw Some Shade

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    Throw Some Shade

    Creating shade with the help of smart landscaping design is one thing, but don’t forget about shading your living space from the indoors, too. Draw the blinds to keep the sun from heating the room and consider hanging heavier curtains to block the rays. Tinted window film, which you can find at any home repair store, is another option that will block heat-causing rays from warming your home.

    Related: 20 Summer Life Hacks Everyone Needs

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  4. Dinner Alfresco

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    Outdoor Cooking

    Operating the oven or stovetop inevitably generates heat in the kitchen, the heart of any home. Of course, the answer is not to forego dinner. Instead, opt for lighter meals that can be prepared with little or no cooking time. And if possible, do your more serious cooking over the grill outdoors on your deck, patio, or lawn. 

    Related: 12 Clever Hacks to Help You Beat the Summer Heat

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  5. The Stack Effect

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    Stack Effect

    Pursue what's known as the stack effect. To achieve it, open the windows on both the upper and lower floors, and as warm air exits the upper level, cooler air will come in at ground level (where you might consider sleeping). During the day—though it may seem counterintuitive—close the windows to maintain cooler indoor temperatures.

    Related: 11 Air Conditioning Mistakes That Spike Your Bills

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  6. Bring On Evaporation

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    Evaporative Cooler

    Evaporative coolers are making a comeback of sorts, particularly in dry climates, where these simple machines can lower the air temperature by five degrees or more (by blowing air through wetted pads). No, evaporative coolers are no substitute for air conditioning on a sweltering day, but they are cheaper to operate when the heat is not extreme.

    Related: Buyer’s Guide: Portable Air Conditioners

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  7. Size Matters

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    AC Size

    Some days, air conditioning is a must—that's unavoidable. What you can avoid, however, is paying more than is strictly necessary to run your AC. Efficiency begins with a unit that's properly sized for the space. An oversized unit may cool the room quickly, but if it switches off before lowering the humidity, you're still going to feel clammy and uncomfortable.

    Related: 7 Tricks for Keeping Cool Without AC

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  8. Ductwork Detective Work

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    Leaky Duct

    Leaks in ductwork can reduce the efficiency of your central air conditioning system by as much as 40 percent. Calling in a HVAC professional may not seem like a good way to save money, but if your electric bills seem exorbitant, it's worth looking into. In the long run, you're likely to save more in operating costs than you would have to pay the pro.

    Related: Time's Up: 9 Things to Repair in Your Home Before It's Too Late

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  9. Plug the Leaks

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    Air Leaks

    It's not only ductwork that needs sealing. The average house is like a sieve, leaking air all over the place—and in the summer that means cooled air is blowing right outside and driving up your bills. An energy audit can help you identify leaks and cracks around windows, doors, and other holes in the home so you can close the gaps with caulk or foam sealant. Or you can plug air leaks as you encounter them, from the basement on up to the attic.

    Related: 14 Secrets of People with Low Energy Bills

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  10. Swap the Bulbs

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    Swap the Bulbs

    If you haven’t already made the switch to LED light bulbs, here’s another reason to do it: they keep rooms cool. Incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lights emit more heat than LEDs. Also, don’t forget to shut the lights off when not in use. Every little bit counts when it comes to keeping cool!

    Related: 8 Common Lighting Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

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  11. Set It, Stat

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    Set It, Stat

    It pays to install a programmable thermostat in your home. There are many affordable options on the market, and even opting for a more expensive model will pay you back in the long run in the form of energy savings. Set the thermostat to a cool default temperature when it knows you're home and program it to automatically switch to a warmer temperature when you know the house will be empty, like during work and school hours.

    Related: Save on Summer Bills with 7 Budget-Smart Buys

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  12. Fan Around

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    Fan Around

    When the house feels stuffy on a warm day ignore your instinct to switch on the air conditioner and give fans a try first. Using ceiling fans and electric fans costs less than blasting the air conditioning. To make the most of this energy-efficient technology, strategically place fans around the house to help blow cool air around.

    Related: Buyer’s Guide: Tower Fans

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  13. Keep It Clean

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    Keep It Clean

    Remember to clean or replace your HVAC filter monthly during summer months. When filters are dirty, the cooling system has to work hard to push air through the ducts, which increases energy costs and increases the risk of malfunction. Taking care of this simple maintenance task could save you loads of money in repair costs and help ensure that your cooling system keeps working when you need it.

    Related: Get Your Fix: 20 Easy DIY Repairs for Every Part of Your Home

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  14. Turn It Off!

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    Turn It Off!

    Sure, it feels nice to step inside a cool house on a sweltering day, but it’s a luxury not a necessity to leave the AC running while you’re not home. Shut off the AC while you’re out running errands; it won’t take that long for the house to cool down once you return and and crank it back on.

    Related: How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last?

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  15. See the House of the Week

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    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!