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10 tips for a cooler home

Ceiling fans allow you to keep the thermostat higher and energy usage lower by giving your central-air unit a helping hand.

About 5 percent of all the electricity produced in the United States runs air-conditioning at a cost of about $11 billion to homeowners. Each year, all that cooling releases into the air about 100 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is about two tons for each air-conditioned home.

You can help reduce your own impact on the environment — and save some money while your at it— with these 10 tips on keeping your home cooler more efficiently.

1. Tint your windows to block the sun and reduced your home's accumulated heat.

2. Wash dishes in cool water by hand or run your dishwasher at night.

3. Properly maintain your AC units for the maximum efficiency. Clean filters often.

4. Close your shades and turn off all your lights when you leave. You can even turn off the AC. Your house still will be cool when you return.

5. Keep yourself cool by staying hydrated and drinking cold and frozen beverages.

6. Keep incandescent lights off or replace them with compact fluorescent lamps. CFLs use less energy and produce less heat while still giving you the same amount of light.

7. Upgrade your insulation in your attic and on windows and doors.

8. Use white shades, blinds or drapes as window treatments to reflect heat away from the house. Dark colors absorb heat. Keeps south- and west-facing curtains closed all day.

9. Shade your outdoor AC unit. It will run more efficiently if installed on the north side of the house under trees. Be sure plants don't interfere with airflow into the house.

10. Use ceiling and box fans to circulate air. You can keep the thermostat higher and your energy usage lower by giving your central-air unit a little help.

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