Did you know that the average U.S. household spends a whopping 20 percent of its energy bill on staying cool? With Spring temperatures already off the chart, and Summer right around the corner, the EPA has offered up 12 ways you can reduce your energy costs and stay cool this summer, all while saving yourself both sweat and money. Oh, and you'll also help fight climate change in the process. Win-win-win, right?
1. Program your thermostat to work around your family?s summer schedule?set it a few degrees higher (such as 78 degrees) when no one is home, so your cooling system isn?t cooling an empty house. With proper use, programmable thermostats can save you about $180 a year in energy costs.
2. Check your HVAC system?s air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it, but change the filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool, wasting energy.
3. Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Remember that ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so when you leave the room make sure to turn off the fan.
4. Pull the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun?s rays from overheating the interior of your home. If you can, move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade.
5. Remember to have your HVAC system serviced annually to ensure it?s running at optimum efficiency for money and energy savings.
6. Swap out incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting choices. Energy Star qualified lighting not only uses less energy, it also produces about 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting, so cooling bills will be reduced, too.
7. Seal your air ducts. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home?s duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages).
8. Make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls, and ceilings. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.
9. When buying a room air conditioner, look for one that has earned EPA?s Energy Star. If every room air conditioner in the United States were Energy Star qualified, they would prevent 900 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually?equivalent to the emissions from 80,000 cars.
10. Add insulation to your attic to keep cool air in. If every American household did so, Americans would collectively save more than $1.8 billion in yearly energy costs.
11. Hire a contractor to seal and insulate the interior ductwork in your home (the ducts you can?t reach yourself). For help on choosing the right contractor, go to http://www.energystar.gov/homeimprovement
12. If your central air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with a model that has earned EPA?s Energy Star could cut your cooling costs by 30 percent.
There you go! Oh, here's my tip # 13: turn off the air conditioner and go outside in the breeze!