Angie's List: Beat the Heat on a Budget - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Angie's List: Beat the Heat on a Budget

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(WKOW) -- The sound of the air conditioner kicking on signals heat relief to some. For others, it triggers even more sweat as they feel their wallets being emptied. Your H-V-A-C system is your home’s biggest energy user, so the best way to contain the cost is to maintain the system.

“Be sure that you’re keeping the coils clean of any debris. Also, have the unit inspected twice a year and tuned up. And then, be sure that you’re changing your furnace filters every 30 to 90 days,” says Angie Hicks, Angie’s List Founder.

“As filters get dirtier, the system doesn’t want to breathe. It won’t move the air fast enough, and that can be a huge drain on your electric bill. It just won’t work right when the filter’s dirty,” says Charles Holden, an HVAC professional.  He recommends avoiding the cheapest filter on the shelf. Look instead for pleated filters. And if you really want that bill to go down, set your thermostat up.

“You only want to go up three or four degrees instead of going up seven, eight or nine degrees that you might be tempted to because when you go up that much, it takes too much energy to re-cool the whole house when you get home,” says Hicks.

Each degree you go below 78 increases your energy consumption about eight percent.

Keeping the blinds or curtains closed will also keep cooling costs down, but if you don’t like the darkness, consider adding some sheers to diffuse the sunlight.

“I’ve been shocked – just when I’ve put in light sheers – the difference in the home, and just that little bit of protection even helped,” Caryn O’Sullivan, a window treatment retailer.

Angie's List also suggests checking window seals for leaks; removing old, inefficient appliances; and unplugging devices that aren’t in use. Also, you can replace incandescent lights with LEDs, which are as much as 80 percent more energy efficient, and use ceiling fans only when you’re home.

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