How to Cut Your Summer Electric Bill Now

Cut down your energy use without breaking a sweat.

Getty ImagesA programmable thermostat can help control the temperature in your home, allowing your air conditioner to work less, so you can pay less.
By Abby Hayes

You don't have to replace your entire air-conditioning system to lower your summer electric bills. Maybe a higher-efficiency system is in your future. But until then, take these eight steps right now to reduce your electric bill right away:

1. Install a programmable thermostat. Raising the heat a few degrees in your home is a no-brainer when it comes to saving on electricity. The warmer you let your home get, the less work your air conditioner needs to put in. But who has time to mess with the thermostat every hour?

Instead, install a programmable thermostat. Pick up a basic model at your local hardware store for 30 bucks. Or splurge on a self-regulating model, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, which learns your home-and-away patterns over time.

2. Only use ceiling fans when you're under them. Ceiling fans are more efficient than air conditioners, but leaving them on all the time won't do you much good. A ceiling fan merely circulates air. It won't actually lower the temperature.

Ceiling fans work by making you feel cooler by circulating air against your skin. So only use a ceiling fan when there's someone in the room to feel it. Otherwise, you're just wasting electricity.

3. Install air conditioners in the warmest rooms. Many houses -- especially older ones -- have that one room that just doesn't cool off as well as the other rooms. That one room can cost you a lot of money, especially if it's a bedroom or an often-occupied room. To keep it cool, you may be tempted to turn your thermostat down into the arctic range. The rest of the house will be freezing, but that room will finally be comfortable.

But this just wastes money by making your central air-conditioning system work overtime. Instead, spend $75 to $100 on a window or floor unit for that one room. Turn the unit on when you're in the room and need it to be a bit cooler, and then turn it off when you leave again.

4. Keep it clean. Cleaning the air-conditioner filters -- whether you have window units or a central unit -- is just as important as replacing your furnace filter regularly in the winter. When the filter gets dirty, the unit has to work extra hard to pull air into the system, which just costs more energy.

So figure out how to clean your unit's filter, and check it every few weeks in the summer. Many outdoor units can be hosed off regularly, and window units often come with removable filters that you can wash in the sink.

5. Close the drapes or blinds. It's nice to let a little sunshine in -- except that sunny corner the cat enjoys so much is costing you big bucks this summer. When you let the sun in, it radiates heat.

So especially on the south and west sides of your home, keep the blinds or drapes shut unless there's someone in the room actually enjoying the sun.

6. Hang out the laundry. Your dryer is probably one of your home's biggest energy suckers. It takes a lot of electricity (or gas) to generate heat that dries your clothes. Plus, some of that heat escapes the dryer and winds up heating your home unnecessarily.

Let the hot sun work for you instead of against you this summer by hanging your clothes to dry outside on a clothesline. The sun is great for bleaching stains out of white clothes and towels, too!

7. Caulk up cracks. We often talk about using caulk to seal cracks -- especially around doors and windows -- in the winter. And it's true that in the winter, it's especially easy to feel the cold air leaking in through even the tiniest of cracks and gaps.

But caulk is just as important a tool in the summertime, too. If you notice one area or doorway in your home is particularly warm, check for leaks and cracks. Then, use caulk or an expanding foam to fill up the gaps. That keeps the cold air in so that you use less energy to heat your home.

8. Keep the kitchen cool. One way to quickly heat up your home is to use your kitchen appliances to fix meals. Sure, you still need to eat in the summer, but you don't always have to heat up the whole kitchen to do it.

Instead, plan no-cook meals like salads. Or use smaller appliances, like a toaster oven, for moderate amounts of warm food. Another option is to use a slow cooker. For even better results with your slow cooker, move it outside to a shady back porch. Then it won't heat your house at all!

Even if your air conditioner is 10 years old and on its last leg, you can make it last a little longer and cost less money to run this summer with these eight simple steps.

Abby Hayes is a freelance blogger and journalist who writes for personal finance blog The Dough Roller and contributes to Dough Roller's weekly newsletter.

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How does letting your house get warmer make your a/c work less? If your house gets warmer it is going to take longer to cool down meaning your a/c is running for a longer time.

August 24 2014 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Solar panels cut my bill by 80% and I live in Palm Springs Also if you going to get an electric car which I don't have yet you'll need solar

July 23 2014 at 12:03 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to anthony.fama@aol's comment

good for you , my solar is scap metal in indiana not enugh sun

July 23 2014 at 1:25 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

I'm surprised they didn't mention the water heater.

I turn mine on in the morning when I get up, off when I go to work. On when I get home and off before I go to bed, if not before.

It takes about 10-15 minutes to get boiling hot (depending how much I used before I turned it off before). Doing this has saved $$ on my electric bill too

July 22 2014 at 6:37 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Drape visqueen down from the first top shelf in your fridge so when you open the door to get a cold beverage all of your cold air doesn't spill out onto the floor.
Attach aluminum butterflies to your fridge condenser coils to improve the cooling efficiency.
Put a nice piece of flame retarded outdoor carpet ontop of your fridge to help insulate it.

July 22 2014 at 5:02 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to alfredschrader's comment

its like using a frige for AC in the barracs with a fan , military scotch tape/ duck tape and chooing gum

July 23 2014 at 1:38 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

If Obama was truly for the middle class he would pressure the electric and gas companies to stop this outrageous practice of milking every penny out of us. What the matter Master Obama is the middle class starting to watch who you truly take care of !! Its not us

July 22 2014 at 4:43 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
A&M Pump motor

Sports: I agree, we in NY, Long Island are being hammered with the electric costs. There is litte else I can do to reduce the bill.
Why is it we all have to shoulder the cost now, when the Federal Govt. gave millions to the power company to repair the damage from the storm????

July 22 2014 at 4:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to A&M Pump motor's comment

Most modern appliances like your tv, cable boxes and cable modems, computer, digital display, DVD players, cell phone chargers, etcetera use about 2 or 3 watts each even if turned off.
Plug all of these into a switched power strip so you can turn it all off when done.
here's the math: ten items at 3 watts each = 30 watts. 30 times 24 hours times 31 days equals 22,230 watts - about $4.00 worth

July 22 2014 at 5:12 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I say if your concerned with Global warming turn off your power

July 22 2014 at 3:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I live in NY I don't give a dam what you do there going to kill you with the electric bill.

July 22 2014 at 3:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Rick Bauer

In number 8 they recommend putting your slow cooker on a porch in a shady area......wouldn't a sunny area make more sense because the heat from the sun will be absorbed allowing the slow cooker to use less electricity to maintain the set temperature?

July 22 2014 at 3:39 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Yes, you may save electricity (which is OK), but when the electric company sees less usage, it will raise your bills, just happened to me last week

July 22 2014 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply