Lower your electric bill as temps rise

Do your utility bills go through the roof when the temperature shoots up? Consumer Reports says that smart thermostats can be a huge boon for homes with central air conditioning. But even if you have window or wall units, there are some simple tips to help you weather summer heat without breaking the bank.

An easy way to keep costs down is to close your shades and curtains during the day, which will prevent the sun from heating up the inside of your home. You'll also want to plug up cracks near doors and windows to prevent cool air from leaking out.

Another tip: Using a ceiling fan can make the temperature feel as much as 4 degrees cooler. In the summer, the fan direction should go counter clockwise.

If you have central air conditioning, one of the smartest investments you can make is to buy a smart thermostat. Some can keep track of your preferences without any complicated programming. And you can even control them from your phone.

Smart thermostats can lower or turn off the A/C when no one is home and set it so your home is comfortable when you return. These adjustments can help lower your bills by as much as 10 percent. Some models also offer sensors to prevent different parts of the house from getting too warm or too cold.

Regularly maintaining your equipment is also important. It's easy to clean the filters on a window unit. Simply vacuum the heavy debris with an upholstery brush, rinse the filters with soapy water, allow them to dry, and reinstall for optimum airflow.

A recent study found that when it comes to selling a house, having smart technology like a smart thermostat is a big plus. More than three-quarters of potential home buyers say they want that feature.
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