(BPT) - As summer temperatures rise, so can your energy and utility bills. Hotter weather can translate into higher costs if your home isn't operating efficiently while working to keep you cool and comfortable. Yet there's no need to swelter in the summer heat. There are simple things you can do throughout your home to keep cool while saving money.
Install effective window treatments. East- and west-facing windows bring in more of the summer sun and heat, so if you don't have draperies or shades in those areas of the house already, this is a good time to install them. Keep drapes and shades closed during the hottest parts of the day to keep cool air in and hot air out.
Use outdoor shade to your advantage. If you don't have shade near sunny windows, create some shade by planting a tree or installing awnings. Even creating shade for your outdoor air conditioning unit can help - keeping an outside air conditioning unit shaded can improve the unit's efficiency by up to 10 percent, according to energy.gov.
Maintain your cooling system. Change your HVAC filter regularly, as a dirty filter can restrict airflow and increase energy usage. Also, to increase home comfort and save money in the long run, consider upgrading to a system with the latest energy saving technologies and a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 20 or higher. A qualified dealer can advise you on options to best fit your home's needs. With an American Standard 21-SEER Platinum ZM air conditioner, for example, people have saved an average of 50 percent per year on energy bills compared to people who have a less efficient 10 SEER unit.
Get a handle on humidity. Humidity makes your home feel warmer, so reduce that discomfort, as well as energy usage, by minimizing the use of your washer and dryer during the hottest days. Wash only full loads of clothes. Let your laundry dry in the fresh breeze outdoors and use lower dryer temperatures indoors to reduce the feeling of humidity in your home.
Don't forget the small stuff. Even small household changes can make a difference. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs that use less energy and generate less heat. When cooking, avoid heating up the oven and choose to microwave your food instead. Or, better yet, enjoy the best days of summer by grilling more often in your backyard.
With these simple tips, you can keep your cool this summer as the temperatures go up - and your costs go down.