Running the air conditioning can make an electricity bill skyrocket, but the alternative isn't very pretty, either.
Luckily, there are a few ways that you can help your air conditioner run better and save you money as the summer months progress.
1. Quit cooling the neighborhood
If your home isn't brand new, the cold air inside it is probably seeping out into the neighborhood through worn door and window seals, a poorly insulated attic and other sneaky cracks.
To see how well your home is holding in the cold, sign up for a home energy audit with your utility provider or a local contractor. A certified home energy rater or auditor will check your home for leaks and recommend the best way to make your home more energy efficient.
Don't want to spring for an audit? Do a mini-audit yourself. Stand outside your home and run your hand along windows and doors. Can you feel the cold air escaping? If you do, caulk around leaky windows and add insulation around doors.
2. Make sure your thermostat is on the right wall
Thermostat placement can play a big part in how well your air conditioner works. If you put it on a wall right next to a hot window, for instance, your air conditioner will kick on much more often than it needs to because it will think the room is hotter than it actually is.
3. Close the blinds
A window letting in the hot sun won't just heat up your thermostat, it'll heat you up too. During the warmest part of the day, close your window blinds. Closing the blinds keeps out the sun. It can also help insulate your windows, which stops the cold air from escaping.
4. Use a fan
Sometimes you don't need to amp up the thermostat to feel cooler. According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), using a ceiling fan can make a room feel 10 degrees cooler and uses 10 percent of the energy of a central air conditioner.
If you want to get high-tech, you can install smart ceiling fans that connect to an app. You can schedule the times when these fans turn on and off, and you can control their speed without standing on your tiptoes.
5. Up the temperature
Many people think that leaving the air conditioner at the same temperature when you leave the house saves money because the AC won't need to work as hard to re-cool the home. This is a myth. NRDC senior energy policy advocate Lauren Urbanek says that the most inexpensive way to use your air conditioner is to turn the thermostat up when you leave the house.
Air conditioning systems operate most efficiently at full speed during longer periods of time. So kicking it on a lower temperature when you get home will save you more money than the AC cycling on and off while you're away.