Tip 7: Get Cooler Lights

Incandescent bulbs don't contribute as much heat as unshaded windows, but they do add heat to a house and can raise the perceived temperature, sending you to the thermostat to seek relief. To reduce this hot-light effect and save lighting costs year-round, replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. They use about 75 percent less energy and emit 90 percent less heat.

Cost: $12 to $25 per bulb
Benefit: Up to 5 percent off your cooling bill plus electricity savings

Tip 8: Snug Up the Ducts

Leaky ducts can cut into air-conditioning efficiency. Ductwork must be balanced between the supply and return sides of the system in order for it to work safely and efficiently, so making a repair in one section can cause a problem in another. Leak-prone areas include the return plenum; where branch ducts meet the trunk line; and where ducts attach to outlets. Also, insulate ducts that run through a hot attic with a blanket of R-11 fiberglass insulation. Unless the duct repairs are minor, it's wise to leave them to a HVAC pro. While the contractor is on site checking your ducts, have him tune up the air-conditioning unit by cleaning filters, unplugging coils, unblocking drains and lubing the fan. Cost: $75 to start for a service call
Benefit: Up to 40 percent off your cooling bill

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