Summer's here, and it's a hot one.
Forecasts from the Farmers' Almanac, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Weather Company — the IBM-owned forecasting and tech firm — all say the same thing: This summer is going to be hotter than average.
Meanwhile, U.S. consumers are also dealing with the highest inflation in 40 years, pushing up prices on everything from energy costs to food. In May, energy costs were up nearly 35% from a year earlier, with gasoline and fuel oil contributing the most to that elevated increase. Energy services costs are up 16% year over year, and electricity is 12% higher, according to the consumer price index report for last month.
That cost squeeze could make if hard for Americans looking to stay cool this summer. Here are some ways to cut down on energy use so you can keep your air conditioner running.
Tips for efficient energy use
Most cooling systems use electricity, so making sure your home is running as efficiently as possible can help you spend less to operate air conditioners and fans, according to Kelly Speakes-Backman, principal deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
First, do some general upkeep to your living space to make sure you're ready to go for the summer months. Make sure to seal any leaks in windows or doors, especially if you're using a window air-conditioning unit.
"This keeps both the hot air out and the cold air in," Speakes-Backman said. You should also clean or replace the filters in air conditioners to ensure your units are working as best they can.
When you are regularly running fans and air conditioners, you can save money by making sure they're only on or going full blast when you're at home. You can either manually adjust your thermostat between seven and 10 degrees warmer when you aren't home, or use timed electrical plugs or devices with apps that let you set when the air conditioning is running. In addition, you should keep blinds closed, especially in areas of your house that get direct sunlight.
People can also save energy by limiting the use of appliances that raise the temperature in your home and make it harder to cool in the summer. That could mean setting dishwashers to air dry, line-drying laundry, using smaller appliances to cook individual meals and even forgoing gas stoves.
"Grill out if you can," said Speakes-Backman. "The little stuff is what adds up."
Look for financial help on upgrades
Renters should check their lease before making any changes to their home or see if their landlord will help cover costs or pay for certain fixes.
Homeowners may benefit from having a home energy assessment or audit, in which a professional comes to your home and makes recommendations to improve its energy efficiency. They'll often identify the biggest problems first.
Homeowners should make sure they look at resources that can help with energy costs. There are weatherization programs such as the Energy Star home upgrade , which is available for low-income households and can reduce energy costs by an average of $500 per year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition, there are federal tax credit and utility rebates that can offset the costs of many energy-efficient updates.
Seek out cooling centers
It's important when the heat gets intense to make sure your home is safe, that you are able to maintain an indoor temperature that isn't harmful to health.
If you're not sure you can effectively cool your home or it does get too hot, Speakes-Backman recommends looking up cooling centers, which are air-conditioned places where you can cool off in the summer. People can find one closest to where they live by checking out the National Center for Healthy Housing.
"If it's super-hot, you can't control it," said Speakes-Backman. "Don't push it."
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