Easy and breezy: 6 tips for controlling summer cooling costs

(BPT) – As Americans gear up for sun, surf, barbecues and all the other fun activities that represent summer, they’re also concerned with how to keep themselves and their homes comfortably cool this season.

Of course, they’re also concerned with controlling costs. The average homeowner spends nearly half of their yearly utility bills — an average of $900 — on heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Fortunately, we can all take steps to save energy and protect our environment, while still maintaining comfortable temperatures this summer. Think about which of the following tips might help in your home.

Brilliant breezes:. Ceiling fans create a breeze effect that makes air seem cooler than it really is, allowing you to set your thermostat slightly higher without discomfort. On hotter days, raising the thermostat by only two degrees and using a ceiling fan can reduce air conditioning costs by up to 14 percent. Remember — ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so be sure to turn it off when you leave the room!

Get with the program: Tune up your heating and cooling system annually and change filters every three months. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment. If your home has uneven temperatures between rooms, consider adding insulation to your attic. That can help you maintain a more comfortable, even temperature in your home and reduce energy bills.

It’s curtains for you: When you’re away from home or simply don’t need full sunlight, use double- or triple-layered heavy curtains backed with insulated material to keep the sun from unnecessarily heating your rooms, especially those with windows facing west. You can always switch them out for lighter-weight versions to take better advantage of sunlight when winter comes.

Thoughts on your thermostat: Optimize your heating and air conditioning use by installing a Wi-Fi enabled ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostat. They’re independently certified to deliver reliable performance and energy savings, and let you use your computer or smartphone to remotely adjust your home’s temperature on demand, schedule automatic temperature changes based on your lifestyle and receive important feedback on energy use.

Become a microwave master: You can use up to 80 percent less energy when you cook via microwave oven instead of traditional oven or stove, and because a microwave generates less heat, your home stays cooler so you can also save on air conditioning. Ultimately, switching to microwave cooking for just one meal daily could prevent up to 922 pounds of greenhouse gases per year.

Air-dry clothes: Clothes dryers are the largest energy user in the laundry room. That makes indoor or outdoor air drying an excellent alternative. Switching to a clothesline or series of drying racks for just three months of the year could conserve up to 408 pounds of greenhouse gases annually.

Summertime doesn’t have to mean astronomical air conditioning bills, and when you avoid cranking down your thermostat in hot weather, you also do your part to protect the environment. For more information on making energy-efficient choices this summer, visit EnergyStar.gov.