thermostat costWhether it’s warm out or in the middle of a hard freeze, the energy costs for your home can easily skyrocket, making a painful dent in your budget. Heating and cooling a home can be a very costly undertaking.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nearly half of all yearly utility bills go to heating and cooling. But before those higher energy bills start to arrive in the mail, there are a few things you can do that will help lower the costs of keeping your home warmer or cooler and without sacrificing comfort.

Use a programmable thermostat

This gives you better control over the temperature inside your home. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperature to go up automatically a few degrees when you aren’t at home and then have it click back to your desired temperature before you arrive home. Moving it up a couple of degrees during the day will save a lot of energy. Thanks to smarthome technology, many cooling systems today even allow you to control the temperatures in your home using an iPhone or Internet.

Set it and forget it

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, every degree you turn your thermostat up knocks 7 percent off your electric bill. When at home, try and keep the thermostat at 78 degrees. For every degree cooler, you’re adding about 10 percent to the cost of cooling your home. A typical single-family home will save $180 a year by nudging the thermostat up seven degrees during the daytime and four degrees at night during summer.

Clean air filter

Dirt or clogged filters restrict air flow and forces your air conditioner to work harder and use more energy. Check your air filter monthly. In general, it is a good idea to replace them every three months. They are not expensive to replace.

Use ceiling fans

Ceiling fans are great energy savers. Ceiling fans help circulate the cool air from the air conditioners around the home quickly and efficiently. In fact, fans can make you feel 3 to 8 degrees cooler.

Shut the blinds

During summer, keep the shades closed during the day to block the sun’s heat. It keeps the cool air in and the hot sunlight out. Installing awnings or heavy mesh solar screens on the outside of your windows can also cut your cooling by 5 to 20 percent. Do the opposite during winter to let the heat linger.

Install a whole-house fan

This may not be an option if you live in a humid climate. But if you live in an area where the temperatures drop at night, these industrial strength fans work by pulling in the cool air from the outside and sending the hot out air up to the attic and out the vents. Whole-house fans cost $600 to $1,500 but use about 10 percent less energy than your central air. In winter, make sure you reverse the direction of ceiling fans to keep warm air circulating.

Regular tune-ups

It’s a good idea to call a heat and air technician to inspect and clean your system once a year. But don’t wait until it gets too hot. Spring is the best time to have your system checked. A professional will be able to diagnose any problems.

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