programmable electronic thermostat
No, it's not your imagination—it definitely is getting hotter. The eight warmest years on record occurred over the past decade. But staying cool this summer doesn't necessarily mean you have to pay a fortune to keep the air-conditioning running day and night. Here are 10 tips—most costing less than $25—that will keep you comfortable and cut the typical $1,000 cooling bill by as much as half. What's needed to get the temperature to drop? Only a little time and a few changes in your routine.

The Right Setting

Typical air-conditioning settings for a programmable thermostat at different times of day:

6 a.m. to 9 a.m. = 75 degrees
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. = 80 degrees
5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. = 75 degrees
11 p.m. to 6 a.m. = 80 degrees


Tip 1: Set the Dial Higher

If you have central air, set your thermostat above 78 degrees (all temperatures cited here are in degrees Fahrenheit). You'll save 5 to 8 percent on cooling costs with each degree above that mark. For a typical household, setting the thermostat at 80 degrees saves 10 to 15 percent; raising it to 85 degrees will save 35 to 55 percent.

When you leave home for more than one hour, set the thermostat to 85 or 90 degrees. Reset it upon your return, and the room will cool down in only 15 minutes. The system will use less energy during the cool-down period than if you had left it running at a lower setting while you were out.

Cost: $0
Benefit: 15 to 20 percent or more off your cooling bill
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