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Experts offer tips on keeping your house cool and costs low
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Tips to save on cooling costs

• Check your HVAC system’s air filter every month.

• Swap out incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting choices.

• Seal your air ducts. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections.

• When buying a room air conditioner, look for one that has earned EPA’s Energy Star.

• Add insulation to your attic to keep cool air in.

• Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze.

• Pull the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun’s rays from overheating the interior of your home.

Energy Star

With heat indices for July and most of August hovering at or topping the 100-degree mark, air conditioners have been working overtime to keep us cool.

Now, the power bills are being dropped into mailboxes and many folks are getting an unwelcome surprise.
A big power bill.

“The cooling demand for June in Northeast Georgia was 27 percent above normal,” said David Stooksbury, state climatologist. “But compared to last year, we are 15 percent higher this year than last year.”

Stooksbury said that we won’t get much relief from the heat any time soon.

“The next couple months will be highly impacted by how much tropical weather we have,” he said. “We have a high probability that this winter will be warmer than normal and the heating demand to be much lower.”

Stooksbury says there are many things people can do to lower power bills with extreme heat outside; it just takes a little effort.

“One is paying that extra when you replace that air conditioner for a more energy efficient one,” he said. “Other things you can do — the things we do for the wintertime — make sure you have good insulation in the ceiling and flooring, particularly in the ceiling. ... that can make a huge difference. Just the basic things like weather-stripping around the doors, caulking.

“Other things in the summertime are closing the drapes during the day, particularly if nobody is there. Turn up the air during the day ... the programmable (thermostat) one will do that automatically for you.”

A programmable thermostat should be set to work around your family’s summer schedule. Set it a few degrees higher, perhaps 78 degrees, when no one is home so your system isn’t cooling an empty house. With proper use, programmable thermostats can save about $180 a year in energy costs, according to the Energy Star website.

“First of all it saves energy. Second of all, you can control your temp when you are away from home and have your air conditioning reach the comfort level before you come home,” said Johnny Eubanks, owner of Master Heating and Air in Gainesville.

A couple things to consider before installing the thermostat is to make sure the device is installed away from any heating or cooling vents. It’s also best to call a professional.

Programmable thermostats are a low-voltage wiring installation and involve anywhere from two to 10 wires, depending on your system. You should shut down your electricity during any replacement, according to Energy Star.

“They will need to call someone,” Eubanks said. “If it’s not done the right way, you could cause the existing equipment to malfunction. Or if they are putting it on and they aren’t turning the power off, they can cause the wiring to become shorted, and if it shorts, it can be dangerous.”