· Have your A/C Serviced - A Tune-up of your Air Conditioning system at the beginning of the season it just as important as a tune-up of your car. Take care of your A/C and your A/C will take care of you all summer long.
· Ceiling Fans - Make sure they've been dusted and turn them on! They use far less energy than air conditioning and can help you feel up to 10 degrees cooler. Be sure your fans are set to spin in a counter-clockwise position, to help circulate the air. If you still want to use the A/C, the fans will help circulate the cool air helping you save energy and stay cool at a higher setting (please try for 78 or higher).
· Ice Maker - Be sure to clean out the ice maker in your refrigerator. Get out all that caked on ice. It's going to be hot and you're going to need lots of iced beverages - make sure that ice maker is at the ready so you don't have to buy bags of ice when the ice maker goes out.
· Light bulbs - Switch to Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL's). Not only is it fantastic for the environment, but they will help keep your house cooler (90% of an incandescent bulb's energy is converted to heat!). And, yes, Dad was right, turn off lights unless you absolutely need them.
· Crockpot it - As much as we'd like to go on a cooking strike during the summer months, it's just not practical (or economical), so here's what I do... When I know it's going to be a hot day, I pop dinner into the crockpot, everything needed for fresh bread into the bread maker - take them outside to the patio and plug them in. They can cook all day long without heating up the house and we have a great dinner ready whenever we want it! Anything can be made in the crockpot, from stew and teriyaki chicken to meatloaf and cake (yes, cake). There are zillions of crockpot recipes on the web, just Google "crockpot, (whatever ingredients you want to use)" and you'll have a whole list of tasty options.
· Think about installing a whole-house fan - One that uses cool air in the evening to cool the entire house and push hot air out of the attic area. You'll see a significant difference in the temperature of your home (which means you'll use your A/C less!).
· Turn your water heater down - to 115, that is. Let's face it, how many times during the long, hot summer do you want a hot shower??? It takes less energy to hold that water at 5 degrees less and you could save up to 5% per month on your energy bill.
· Make shade your friend - Consider installing inexpensive bamboo blinds outside your windows that can be rolled down as the sun hits a particular window and then rolled back up, out of the way when the sun passes by.
· Hang your laundry out to dry - You'll use less energy and keep the house cooler if you're not running the dryer daily (plus, you'll get that "fresh air" smell on your clothes).
· Switch your sleeping arrangements - If it's just too hot in the bedrooms to sleep, consider sleeping in another room - who says you can't sleep in the basement or the family room - or you can do what we do and make it a backyard campout night (we put the tent up in the backyard and sleep there when the weather is too brutal to sleep indoors) - all the fun of camping (with a bathroom just steps away!).