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Run your AC for less this summer

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MADISON, Wis. (6/15/11)--Summer doesn’t technically begin until June 21, but the heat is already on in many parts of the country. In early June, record-breaking heat swept Milwaukee; St. Louis; Memphis, Tenn.; and other cities. And in Minneapolis, temperatures in the low 100s made June 7 the second earliest 100-degree reading since 1872, according to The Weather Channel. In extreme heat, it’s important--for your comfort and your health--to stay inside and keep cool. But if you’re concerned about soaring air-conditioning costs at home, don’t sweat it. You can crank the AC and still keep your energy bill under control. Use these suggestions from U.S. News and World Report (May 11) to air-condition your home for less:
* Mind the gaps. To prevent drafts, insulate older windows with plastic film, and use foam and caulking to seal other holes where cool air can escape. * Create some shade. Close blinds and shades to keep sunlight at bay. This helps your air conditioner maintain a cool temperature more easily. * Clean your filters. Some heating and cooling experts recommend cleaning your air-conditioning filters once a month to keep your unit working properly. * Use that thermostat. Programming your thermostat to automatically raise the temperature when no one is home can help you save money. * Unplug appliances. Plugged-in devices like your television and computer still use power even if they’re turned off. Unplug them or use a power strip with energy-saving features to curb costs. * Keep the oven off. Since using the oven heats up your entire home, your air conditioner has to work even harder to keep things cool. Cook with a toaster oven or on the stovetop instead. * Turn down the water heater. Opting for cooler showers during the summer months can help trim your energy bill. * Close off empty rooms. Shut the doors and vents of rooms that aren’t being used to ease up on your air conditioner’s workload.
For more ways to save money on housing expenses, read “Home Improvement Projects: It’s Not About Being ‘Handy’ ” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.