This has been a sweltering summer all around the country. I don’t know how many communities have had record heat; way too many to count. Where I live we missed our highest temperature ever by one degree, and still had a few days over 100°; way too many for me.

by Alessandro Valli via Flickr

When it’s really hot like this, you can’t afford not to run your air conditioning if you have it. The problem, of course, is that rates go up because everyone else is running theirs as well, and sometimes the drain on the overall system is such that it can cause brown-outs. At the very least we all end up with higher summer utility bills than what we’re hoping for; at least in the northern part of the United States.

There are a few things we can do that will help us save some dollars on our cooling bills; check these out:

1. Don’t turn your AC on too low. Just because in the winter you might turn your heat to 76° doesn’t mean that’s a great temperature to run it in the summer. Definitely don’t go even lower than that because your air will always be running. Instead, try not to bring it much lower than 80° unless you’re really battling or have some other issues with heat to overcome.

2. Start running your AC earlier in the day. One thing about heat that most people don’t know is that the hottest part of the day isn’t when the sun is directly overhead, which is around noon for most people. It’s actually hottest later in the day, between 3:30 to 5PM, because even the worst initial heat takes time to really heat everything else up. If you wait until it’s already too hot you stress the system and make it harder to cool things down quick enough. Turning it on earlier, at a lower temperature like I mentioned above, will relieve some stress and actually keep your system from running all day long.

3. Unless it’s extremely hot, turn your air down in the evening, possibly off. Most places don’t consistently have 80­° temperatures overnight, and if you’re lucky enough to not have to deal with something like that then turn the air off in the evening and, if you’re lucky, open the windows for a little fresh air.

4. If you do live in a place where 80° might be as low as it gets in the evening, get a ceiling fan. Other fans will work pretty well, but ceiling fans disperse air around a room better. Not only that but they have the dual capacity of either blowing air on you or sucking it up and blowing it out away from you. Sometimes it’s nice having a choice as to which way you want the air to be going.

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