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thermostat_utility_bill(MCT)—It’s getting downright hot outside these days. Don’t despair over rising utility bills as you try to keep cool inside your home. Here are my top five ways to slash summer utility bills as you Do Your Part to beat the heat.

1) Make Your Thermostat Work for You
First, program your thermostat to work around your family’s summer schedule — set it a few degrees higher when no one is home, so you’re not cooling an empty house. Contrary to popular belief, your cooling system doesn’t struggle to make up the difference. Or install and program a programmable thermostat so you won’t worry about changing the thermostat every time you leave your home.

2) Don’t Forget the Fan
A fan is another effective way to make it feel cooler in your home. One ceiling fan alone can make a room feel as much as seven degrees cooler. If you raise your thermostat by two degrees and use a ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. The fan’s blades should spin counter-clockwise during the hotter months, generating a stronger breeze directly under the fan. Of course, don’t waste energy and turn the fan off when you leave the room. In humid climates, using a dehumidifier will also make it feel cooler by lowering the relative humidity inside your home.

3) Make Your Current Windows More Efficient
Closing the blinds and curtains during the day can also help you keep cool. When you block the sunlight you can reduce the heat coming into your home by as much as 40 percent. To maximize your benefit, make sure the side of the curtain facing the window is white and sun reflecting. You can also choose curtains with a thermal lining for additional insulation.