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Summer Is Here. Lower Your Electric Bill With These Air Conditioning Tips

Use these six savvy tactics to save money and stay cool during the hottest months of the year.

dog in front of a rotating fan
It's hot outside. Here's how to stay cool.
Catherine Falls Commercial/Moment/Getty Images

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Summer is the time of year for vacations and barbecue cook-outs, but it also brings sweltering temperatures that might have you running to turn down the thermostat. Because of this, you'll probably notice your electric bill beginning to skyrocket. With higher energy prices and increased concerns about blackouts in many parts of the US, this is even more of a concern. 

Luckily, we have a few tips to keep your home as comfortable as possible while minimizing the amount of electricity you use (and the money you spend on bills). Something as simple as turning on a fan or closing the blinds during the day can make a big difference. Here are six tricks to keep cool affordably this summer.

Sign up for an energy audit

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

To see how well your home is holding the cold in, 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.

Get a smart thermostat

If you haven't upgraded to a smart thermostat -- such as one by 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.

Check the placement of your thermostat

Thermostat placement can play a big part in how well your air conditioner works. If you put the thermostat 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 and the ideal temperature you should set it to

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 blinds to keep out the sun. It can also help insulate your windows, which stops the cold air from escaping.

Haiku smart ceiling fan with three wooden blades

A fan can help save on cooling costs.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Try a ceiling 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 that you can increase the thermostat temperature by 4 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. Just make sure your fan is rotating counterclockwise in the summer to get the most benefit. 

Increase the temperature

To save the most money, always set your thermostat to the highest temperature you can comfortably stand. A programmable thermostat makes it easy to keep your AC at the right temperature. You can program the unit to hold 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 Fahrenheit 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 Fahrenheit when you're at home. But it's fine if 78 F isn't doable for you; even a small change in temperature can save you big bucks.