1. Check Your Cooling SystemGet your cooling system checked if it hasn't been serviced in awhile. While it will cost money to have someone come out and check your system, it will ensure that your system is running properly and efficiently so you aren't wasting money the entire summer. It will also greatly decrease the likelihood of having problems in the middle of the summer, when repairmen are busiest and charging the most. Take the time to ask how often you need to replace the filter (usually every month) and have them teach you how to replace it so you can do it yourself.
2. Have an Energy AuditDo you know which parts of your house are costing you the most to cool or heat? Having an energy audit done will help you determine where air is escaping, causing your system to work overtime. Many energy companies will come out free of charge or for a small fee and do an audit of your entire house. Call your local utility company or visit its Web site to see whether it offers this service. If your local utility doesn't offer an energy audit, you can do it yourself over the Internet with
3. Use FansOne of the best ways to save money is to keep your thermostat set as high as possible and use fans to keep the air in your home comfortable. If you have ceiling fans, using them in conjunction with your air conditioner can make a room feel as much as 10 degrees cooler. If you have dual-direction fans, make sure they are spinning in the correct direction -- pushing air down, and not moving it up. If you forget to switch it from the winter setting (moving air up), you can actually heat up the room because the warm air that collects near the ceiling will be bounced back down toward the living area. If you don't have ceiling fans, consider purchasing a small electric table fan for each of the rooms you spend time in. While not as effective as ceiling fans, they can still circulate air in the rooms and make it feel up to 5 degrees cooler. These can be found for as little as $10 at discount and home improvement stores and should pay for themselves in one season.
4. Limit Appliance Use to Off-Peak HoursUsing your appliances raises the temperature inside your house, causing your air conditioner to work harder and costing you more money. Use appliances during the cooler evening or early-morning hours whenever possible. Some utilities will even charge less for electricity during these off-peak hours, which can save you even more money.
5. VentsMake sure that your fireplace vent has been completely closed, so cooled air doesn't have an easy way to escape. Also be aware of your use of ventilation fans in the kitchen, bathroom and other areas. These fans can suck out cooled air and make your air conditioner work that much harder if you accidentally leave them running.