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7 rules to save money on air conditioning this summer

Follow these tips to stay comfortable while spending less.

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Running the air conditioning can make an electric bill skyrocket, but the alternative isn't pretty, either. Luckily, we have a few tips to keep you cool this summer while saving you money. Something as simple as turning on a fan or closing the blinds during the day can make a big difference. 

Quit cooling the neighborhood

If your home isn't brand new, the cold air inside it is probably seeping out into the neighborhood through doors and windows with spotty seals, a poorly insulated attic and other sneaky cracks.

To see how well your home is holding in the cold, sign up for a home energy audit with your utility provider or a local contractor. A certified home energy rater or auditor will check your home for leaks and recommend the best way to make your home more energy efficient.

Don't want to spring for an audit? Do your own audit. Stand outside your home and run your hand around the windows and doors. Can you feel the cold air escaping? If you do, caulk around leaky windows and add insulation around doors.

Make an upgrade

If you haven't upgraded to a smart thermostat -- such as Ecobee or Nest -- it might be time to make a change. Smart thermostats can regulate heating and cooling when you're not home to save money. Plus, you can adjust the settings remotely using an app on your phone or via voice commands. Here's our list of the best smart thermostats to help you make the best decision for your home.

Make sure your thermostat is on the right wall

Thermostat placement can play a big part in how well your air conditioner works. If you put it on a wall right next to a hot window, for instance, your air conditioner will kick on much more often than it needs to because it will think the room is hotter than it actually is. Here's how to pick the perfect wall for your thermostat.

Close the blinds

A window letting in the hot sun won't just heat up your thermostat, it'll heat you up too. During the warmest part of the day, close your window blinds to keep out the sun. It can also help insulate your windows, which stops the cold air from escaping.

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A fan can help save on cooling costs.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Use a fan

You don't always need to amp up the AC to feel cooler. Using a ceiling fan can make a room feel cooler, enough to increase the thermostat temperature by four degrees "with no reduction in comfort." If you want to get high-tech, you can install a smart ceiling fan that connects to an app and automatically adjusts based on schedules you create. 

Raise the temperature

Always set your thermostat to the highest temperature you can stand to save the most money. A programmable thermostat makes it easy to keep your AC at the right temperature. You can program the unit to work at higher temperatures while you're at work and cool down right before you get home.

You can save 10% a year on your cooling bills by setting your thermostat just 10 to 15 degrees higher for 8 hours each day, according to the Nebraska Energy Office. The US Department of Energy recommends aiming for an indoor temperature of 78 degrees when you're at home. But it's fine if 78 degrees isn't doable for you; even a small change in the temperature can save you big bucks.

Read more: Going on vacation this summer? Here's how to cut down on AC costs while you're away

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