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How to save money on summer cooling bills as energy prices rise

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    A pedestrian uses an umbrella to get some relief from the sun as she walks past a sign displaying the temperature on June 20, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.

    Ralph Freso | Getty Images

    Tips for efficient energy use

    Most cooling systems use electricity, so making sure your home is running as efficiently as possible can help you spend less to operate air conditioners and fans in the summer, according to Kelly Speakes-Backman, principal deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

    First, do some general upkeep to your living space to make sure you’re ready to go for the summer months. Make sure to seal any leaks in windows or doors, especially if you’re using a window air-conditioning unit.

    “This keeps both the hot air out and the cold air in,” she said. You should also clean or replace the filters in air conditioners to ensure your units are working as best they can.

    When you are regularly running fans and air conditioners, you can save money by making sure they’re only on or going full blast when you’re at home. You can either manually adjust your thermostat between 7 and 10 degrees warmer when you aren’t home, or use timed electrical plugs or devices with apps that let you set when the air conditioning is running. In addition, you should keep blinds closed, especially in areas of your house that get direct sunlight.

    People can also save energy by limiting the use of appliances that raise the temperature in your home and make it harder to cool in the summer. That could mean setting dishwashers to air dry, line-drying laundry, using smaller appliances to cook individual meals and even forgoing gas stoves.

    “Grill out if you can,” said Speakes-Backman. “The little stuff is what adds up.”

    Look for financial help on upgrades

    Renters should check their lease before making any changes to their home or see if their landlord will help cover costs or pay for certain fixes.

    Homeowners may benefit from having a home energy assessment or audit, in which a professional will come look at your home and make recommendations to improve the energy efficiency. They’ll often identify the biggest problems first.

    Homeowners should make sure they look at resources that can help with energy costs. There are weatherization programs such as the Energy Star home upgrade , which is available for low-income households and can lower energy costs by an average of $500 per year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    In addition, there are federal tax credit and utility rebates that can offset the costs of many energy-efficient updates.

    Seek out cooling centers

    Something that’s important, especially during hot summers, is to make sure that your home is safe for those living there, which includes being able to maintain a healthy temperature.

    If you’re not sure you can effectively cool your home or it does get too hot, Speakes-Backman recommends looking up cooling centers, which are air-conditioned places where you can cool off in the summer. People can find one closest to where they live through the National Center for Healthy Housing.

    “If it’s super-hot, you can’t control it,” said Speakes-Backman. “Don’t push it.”

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