1. Improve Plantings Around Your House"Most heat that accumulates inside a house comes directly from the sun shining onto the roof or through windows, and heating the house directly," says John Krigger, owner of Saturn Resource Management, which offers energy conservation training in Helena, Mont.
Planting leafy trees around the building's exterior will stop the sun from reaching inside your home. "Even for the cost of going to the nursery and buying a 15- to 20-foot-tall tree, trees are still the best value," Krigger says.
2. Clothe Your WindowsSolar screens, or mesh-like window screens, intercept up to 70 percent of solar energy before it gets into the house, Krigger says. Window screens are particularly effective on east- and west-facing windows, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Window films are another option. They are transparent, metalized sheets that reflect heat before it can be transmitted through glass.
3. Flip a SwitchGo ahead, get comfortable. Lower your air conditioner's thermostat setting to 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you're at home. But let that number rise to a warmer temperature at night or when you're away from home. You can save 5 percent to 15 percent on your air-conditioning bills by raising the temperature setting on your thermostat when you're away and don't need cooling, according to the Department of Energy.
4. Fan ItNo need to invest in fancy fans. Krigger says the key is to circulate air inside the house. If possible, locate fans on your house's upper level and open windows on a lower level. If you live in a one-story house or apartment, you should close windows near the fan and open windows in rooms far from the fan, preferably on your home's windward side, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Moving air also helps evaporate the sweat from your skin, says Paul Scheckel, an energy efficiency consultant in Montpelier, Vt., and author of "The Home Energy Diet."