Beat the Heat - Tips to Stay Cool and Save Money

Ceiling fans are efficient, stylish and powerful.

1. Ceiling fans: Ceiling fans are not only decorative, they also create a wind-chill effect that helps you keep cool while using only as much energy as a 100-watt bulb. They are efficient, stylish and more powerful than ever. Go traditional, contemporary or even Mission or Art Deco - there are choices for all tastes. Your energy savings? You can reduce your energy use by 40-60 percent.

2. Air conditioners: If you have an air conditioner, make sure the unit is in a shaded spot on the north or east side of your house. Direct sun on the unit decreases efficiency. If your unit is in the sun, try planting trees or shrubs to shade it. A shaded air conditioner uses 10 percent less electricity than one in the sun. Donít forget to clean and replace your filters; a clean filter can lower energy consumption up to 15 percent.

3. Energy-efficient refrigerators: It may be time to get a new refrigerator. New models today can be such energy misers that they use the same amount of power as a 75-watt bulb. Look for the Energy Star label for energy efficient appliances. Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are sealed tight. Replace gaskets if you can easily slide out a dollar bill when you close the fridge door on it.

4. Plantation shutters: Consider installing plantation shutters on your sun-facing windows. You can control the airflow while blocking out the sunís harsh rays. Insulating shutters are a very expensive form of window treatment, but may reduce heat exchange by as much as 80 percent.

5. Windows: Because windows let in nearly 40 percent of the unwanted heat, you might want to install high-performance windows or glass coatings. These sun-control films reduce heat and glare, but they also reduce light. Itís the same concept as tinting your car windows. Another option is double-pane thermal glass, which provides extra year-round insulation from the sun.

6. Window treatments: The right kind of window treatments can help you save 40 percent or more on your electricity bill. Honeycomb, or cellular, shades act as insulators, trapping heat. Sold in single-, double- and triple-layer pleats, they are also available with reflective coatings that block light. And honeycomb shades are elegant, too.

7. Outside shade: Go outside and see where you can add shade; outside shading is more efficient than indoor shading. Install awnings over sun-facing windows, plant trees or build a pergola covered with shade cloth or climbing plants.

8. Waterbeds: A heated waterbed can use as much energy as a large refrigerator. Keep your energy costs down with an insulated bed pad. And make sure you make the bed every morning to keep the heat inside the bed.