Cut down your air conditioning costs

Sweltering temperatures can make your air-conditioning unit work harder and increase your monthly cooling bills. If you’re looking for ways to maximize the efficiency of your home’s cooling system and save a little money, consider these steps you can take when the mercury rises:

Make the Most of Your Air Conditioner

If you rely on your air conditioner as the primary method for cooling your home, these tips may help reduce the strain on your unit and help cut energy costs:

Set your thermostat at a higher temperature. Try setting your thermostat to 78 degrees while you’re at home, suggests the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The closer your indoor temperature is to the temperature outside, the lower your costs may be.

Cool only the rooms that most need it. suggests shutting vents and air registers to rooms you rarely use. This concentrates cooler air in the rooms you’re actually in and helps reduce your overall cooling costs.

Change your filter monthly. The Family Handyman says that dirty air filters may make your unit work harder — and they’re the most common source of air-conditioning unit breakdowns. In fact, replacing (or cleaning) your air filter every 1-2 months may reduce your cooling costs by 5 to 15 percent, says the DOE.

Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat may help reduce air conditioning and heating costs over the course of a year by up to 10 percent, says the DOE. The agency suggests programming it to a warmer temperature (7 to 10 degrees higher) while you’re away and setting it to cool off your house two to three hours before you get home.

Other Ways to Help Keep Your Home Cool

There are other ways to lighten your air conditioner’s workload. Try these ideas to help keep your home cooler:

Use fans. Ceiling and room fans may help reduce your cooling costs — either on their own, or as a complement to air conditioners. In fact, you may be able to set your thermostat up to 4 degrees higher when you use a fan to circulate cool air in a room, according to the DOE. But, don’t forget to shut fans off when you’re away, so you aren’t paying to power them when you don’t need to.

Nix the hot stuff. Help keep your home cooler in the summer by avoiding the use of heat-generating appliances, like ovens, suggests the DOE. Microwaves and toaster ovens, on the other hand, use less energy and may be easier on your cooling bill. You can also try outdoor grilling as an alternative.

Block direct sunlight. Closing blinds and draperies in sunny rooms helps keep out solar heat in the summer, the DOE says. However, window treatments alone aren’t effective at reducing air leakage.

Get a home energy assessment. A professional technician can inspect your home to help locate air leaks and suggest ways to seal them, according to the DOE. The assessment will also help you find areas that may need more insulation.

As the heat reaches full intensity this summer, try incorporating these tips to help keep your home cooler. They may help cushion your budget, too.

This article was originally published on The Allstate Blog.