Four Ways To Lower Cooling Costs

Cash register over a Thermometer over sun in sky
AP / CBS
Cooling costs can chill your budget in the peak summer months. Here are four tips for chilling out without going broke:

Invest in an electronic thermostat:
Most people are comfortable when temperatures range from 78 to 80 degrees in the home. Try to avoid going any cooler by installing a programmable thermostat that automatically shuts off when it reaches a specified temperature. A few degrees can make a big difference. For every degree you shave off, you save roughly 3 percent on your energy bill, according to the experts at Progress Energy.com.

Get your filters checked:
Dirty air filters can make your air conditioning unit less cost effective and shorten the equipment's lifespan. In most parts of the country, you can hire a heating and cooling technician to service your machine for $50 to $75. A thorough cleaning may significantly lower your energy bills.

Weatherproof your home:
Hire a contractor to find and fix any air leaks and add extra insulation to basements, attics and crawl spaces.

Block out the sun:
Using shades and blinds to block sunlight minimizes the amount of energy needed to cool your house. It's also worth noting that dark-colored exterior walls and roof tops can absorb up to 90 percent of the sun's radiant energy. To keep things cool, try painting your house a brighter color.

If you've tried everything to keep cooling costs down and still find yourself saddled with a sky-high electric bill, contact your energy provider. Most companies will allow you to spread your payments out evenly over the course of the year.

By Marshall Loeb