(ANGIE'S LIST) - Trying to beat the heat without breaking your budget is an annual summertime dilemma.
The sound of the air conditioner kicking on signals relief to some. For others, it may trigger even more sweat as they feel their wallets being emptied. Your HVAC system is your home's biggest energy user.
Angie's List founder Angie Hicks says the best way to contain the cost is to maintain the system.
"Be sure that you're keeping the coils clean of any debris," Hicks said. "Also, have the unit inspected twice a year and tuned up. And then, be sure that you're changing your furnace filters every 30 to 90 days."
HVAC professional Charles Holden says investing a little more in a better filter could also save you in the long run.
"As filters get dirtier, the system doesn't want to breathe," Holden said. "It won't move the air fast enough, and that can be a huge drain on your electric bill. It just won't work right when the filter's dirty."
If you really to see your bill to go down, set your thermostat up. But don't go too far.
"You only want to go up three or four degrees instead of going up seven, eight or nine degrees that you might be tempted to because when you go up that much, it takes too much energy to re-cool the whole house when you get home," Hicks said.
Each degree you go below 78 increases your energy consumption about eight percent. Keeping the blinds or curtains closed will also keep cooling costs down, but if you don't like the darkness, consider adding some sheers to diffuse the sunlight.
Hicks also suggests checking window seals for leaks; removing old, inefficient appliances; and unplugging devices that aren't in use. She also recommends replacing incandescent lights with LEDs, which are as much as 80 percent more energy efficient, and using ceiling fans only when you're home.