19 tips to save energy and keep cool this summer

Summer's here in the San Joaquin Valley that means one thing.

It's hot. And it definitely means people will be looking to cool off by turning up their air conditioning systems. That costs money. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers this little fact: The average home spends almost 20 percent of its utility bill on cooling.

We've collected some tips on how to keep cool without paying a fortune in increased energy bills.

Here is the EPA's annual list of ideas to cut energy and cooling costs:

1) Change out incandescent light bulbs. Energy Star lighting uses less energy and produces about 75 percent less heat than incandescent, reducing cooling bills, too.

2) Install a programmable thermostat and set it to work around your family’s summer schedule -- a few degrees higher, say 78 or 80 degrees, when no one is home, so your cooling system isn’t cooling an empty house.

3) Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. But don't run them if you're not in the room.

4) Pull the curtains and shades closed or move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade.

5) Use a microwave instead of an oven to cook. Ovens take longer to cook food and can make your house warmer, requiring your AC system to work harder.

6) Check your cooling system’s air filter every month.

7) Get duct work fixed so it doesn't leak. For more information, go to http://www.energystar.gov/cooltips.

Here are some additional tips from the California Energy Commission:

1) Turn your thermostat to 78 degrees when at home and 85 degrees when away.

2) Cut your cooling costs by opening windows when it's cooler outside than inside. In the morning, close up the house to trap the coolness inside.

3) Eliminate wasted energy. Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms and unplug or recycle that spare refrigerator in the garage if you don't truly need it.

4) Use appliances efficiently. Do only full loads when using your dishwasher and clothes washer. Run your appliances during off peak hours or after the sun goes down. When replacing these appliances, buy Energy Star products. They save up to 30 percent over standard models.

5) Stop vampire power. Many new TVs, DVD players, chargers, computer peripherals and other electronics use electricity even when they are switched off. They add up to over 50 watts in a typical home that are consumed all the time. Unplug or install switchable eco-strips.

6) Operate pool filters and cleaning sweeps efficiently. Look at the operating hours for your swimming pool filter and automatic cleaning sweep if your pool has one. Shorten the operating time if possible and switch pool filter and sweeper operations to off-peak hours.

7) Keep air conditioner outside unit clear so air can circulate freely. And tune it up regularly.

8) Install low flow shower heads to cut hot water costs.

9) Install a whole house fan. These are used after sundown when the outside temperature drops below 80 degrees and in the early morning.

10) Increase ceiling insulation. Consider increasing insulation to up to R-38 to reduce heating costs by 5 percent to 25 percent.

11) Consider replacing your old air conditioner with an more efficient unit, SEER 13 or greater. New units can save up to 40 percent compared with older models.

12) Add high efficiency windows to reduce cooling costs by up to 15 percent.