Summer cooling bills can be a budget buster. Running the air conditioning can add $100 a month or more to the average bill. But consumer may have an easier time this year. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com has some tips you can use to cut down on cooling costs.
The government is predicting a cooler summer than last year, and falling natural gas prices are keeping electric rates low. That combination could mean your bill will be 20% lower than last year. You might also be able to run the a/c at a higher temperature, or use a cheaper fan instead.
Sign up for utility rewards. More utilities are offering reward programs that offer cash back and other deals in exchange for cutting your energy bills. Some offer $50 cash for giving them the ability to cycle off your air conditioning for short periods of time during peak-demand days. Just keep in mind that signing up could mean the house gets a little warmer at some points during the day.
Clean up air conditioning units. Dust and dirt hinder air flow, forcing the air conditioner to work harder. Change filters at least once every three months; ideally, monthly. It's also important to clear leaves and other debris from around outside condensers, which can similarly block flow.
Replacing an older air-conditioner with one that's Energy-Star-rated could cut bills by 30%. Just make sure it's the right size for the space -- a too-powerful unit wastes energy. This time of year, there are plenty of sales on units, and utility companies may have rebates, too. Some new thermostats can also help make your older units more efficient, and save an estimated $180 a year.
Seal in cold air. Air leaks around windows, doorframes and other areas can pad energy bills. Invest in some caulk and weather-stripping to plug up drafts, and consider adding insulation to the attic. For a window air-conditioner, use inexpensive foam insulation kit to create a tighter seal and keep cold air from escaping around the accordion sides and window sash. In all, Energy Star estimates a properly insulated, sealed home can knock as much as 20% off your bill.
For more information on cutting cooling costs and other consumer tips click here.