Consumer Reports: How to save money and stay cool when it heats up

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Do your utility bills go through the roof when the temperature shoots up? Consumer Reports says smart thermostats can be a huge boon for homes with central air conditioning.

But even if you have a window or through-the-wall units, in a partnership with Consumer Reports, 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney says, there are some simple tips to help you weather summer heat without breaking the bank.

26 year old Eliza Hanson loves the summer, but dreads her utility bills when she has to use her air conditioner. "It gets swelteringly hot. To the point where I spend as little time in the apartment as possible. And I try and wait as long as I can before turning on the air-conditioning," she said.

Typically her electrical bills in the summer are two to three times what they are in the winter, occasionally reaching over 200 dollars a month in her 400 square foot apartment.

"An easy way to keep costs down is to close your shades and curtains during the day which will prevent the sun from heating up the inside of your home," said Dan Wroclawski, Consumer Reports Home Editor. "You'll also want to plug up cracks in doors and windows to prevent that cool air from leaking out," he said.

Another tip? Using your ceiling fan can make the temperature feel as much as four degrees cooler.

In the summer, the fan direction should go counter clockwise.

"If you have central air conditioning, one of the smartest investments you can make is installing a smart thermostat. Some can keep track of your preferences without any complicated programming. And you can even control them from your phone," said Wroclawski.

Smart thermostats can lower or turn off the air conditioner when no one is home, and set it to be comfortable for when you return. These adjustments can help lower your bills as much as 10 percent.

Some models also offer sensors to prevent different parts of the house from getting too warm or too cold.

Regularly maintaining your equipment is also important.

It's easy to clean the filters on a window unit. Simply vacuum off the heavy debris with an upholstery brush, rinse with soapy water, allow to dry and reinstall for optimum air flow.

A recent study shows that when it comes to selling your house, having smart technology like a smart thermostat is a big plus, more than three-fourths of potential home buyers want that feature.

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