Summer is the best time of the year for pool parties, vacations, barbecues and the beach; but did you know that the heat could be costing you extra money and wasting energy in your home this season?

By turning the air conditioning up just two degrees could save you about $115 per year. Additionally, installing a “smart” thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature based on times you are out of the house can translate into savings of about $180 per year.

That’s some cool cash for some hot summer fun!

Here are eight other ways to save energy – and money – this summer.

1. Keep your blinds closed.

Keeping your windows covered with light to medium colored blinds, shades or curtains helps keep the temperature down, especially on windows facing direct sunlight. Consider investing in double sided shades; the black side attracts light to help warm your house in the winter, while the white side blocks out heat in the summer.

2. Turn off unnecessary lights to reduce heat.

Remember when your parents and grandparents would remind you to turn off the lights in your room when you left? Well, they were right! Not only do lights waste energy when they aren’t being used, but they can also raise the temperature in a room. Homes with halogen or incandescent lights can be hotter by a few degrees, putting a strain on your cooling system, not to mention making it more uncomfortable. Find out what type of lights are in your house and consider replacing them with LED bulbs.

3. Use fans to spread the cooling air from your AC.

Using fans to circulate the air coming from your AC unit will keep more of the house cool, eliminating the need to keep the unit running too cold and, in the process, overworking a system. Turning the AC temp up a few degrees, to 70 instead of 68, will also save energy.

4. Turn fans off when leaving a room.

Remember fans are meant to cool people, not rooms! Although they are great for spreading cool air from an AC unit, they should be turned off when leaving a room. Don’t waste the energy if nobody’s home.

5. Cook more meals on the grill instead of inside your house.

It’s summer time, so enjoy an outdoor BBQ. Cooking inside with ovens and stoves gives off a lot of heat and increases the temperature in your home, causing your air conditioner to work harder. Take advantage of the warm weather and move your cooking outside.

6. Unplug unused electronics.

Do you know that 5-10% of your energy bill is being spent on electronics that are plugged in 24/7 even when you are not using them? Evaluate your house and start by unplugging common energy vampires: toasters, computers in sleep mode, phone chargers, lamps and DVD players. Remember: If you aren’t using it, unplug it!

7. Do laundry and run dishwashers during nonpeak energy use hours.

The best time to do laundry or run the dishwasher is early in the morning or after 8 p.m., those nonpeak hours when it is cooler outside. During the day, when everyone is awake and the temperature is at its highest, more energy is being used, especially to run air conditioners. Take turns when doing these tasks and save energy… and money!

8. Enjoy some fresh air.

When the temperature drops outside in the early evening and at night, throw open the blinds and windows. There’s nothing better than waking up to the sound of birds chirping outside!

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